There's an endless amount of screenwriting advice out there, believe me, I've read a lot of it! As a writer, you're continually coming across "you must do this" and "you should NEVER do that" type of advice for screenwriting. I've made this list of the following screenwriting tips based on my own experience and what I've found to be the most helpful advice I've picked up!
- Set achievable writing goals for yourself
Don't set goals you'll never be able to meet! Try to set realistic goals that are doable and also push you a little; if that means only writing a couple of pages a day, that's fine!
Read scripts, read scripts, read scripts! I can't recommend reading screenplays enough! The best way to learn and get better at the craft is by reading the screenplays of movies and TV shows that you admire.
- Don't take anything as gospel
I was on Twitter the other day, and someone tweeted about how their screenwriting professor said they should never include dreams, flashbacks, or therapy in their scripts. I would never say never regarding anything in screenwriting. What may seem overdone to one person, maybe be able to be done in a fresh new way by another. It all depends on what works in your particular script.
- Write an outline, but don't be too married to it
It's difficult, but it can be beneficial to your writing to find a balance between having the story outlined, and also leaving room for discovery and realizations as you write. It's essential to have an idea of where you're going in your writing, but it can also be exciting when the story you're telling reveals plot points to you!
- Learn as much as you can, but don't try to hold onto everything
Read all of the screenwriting books, attend classes, and read any articles you can about the craft. Take all of the advice in, but don't try to uphold all of the beliefs of everyone out there. So many of the books and articles contradict each other. What works for some writers won't work for others. How do you know what advice to take? You, as a writer, will determine what you keep and what gets thrown away. The information conducive and useful to your voice will be the tips you follow, and anything that you struggle with or that trips you up should be left behind.
- Reach out, make connections
Writing can feel incredibly isolating, which is why it's important to reach out! Finding a mentor can be a great way to get started in the industry. Don't be afraid to reach out to other writers on Twitter and Instagram. Message folks and ask them questions!
Apply for mentorship and fellowship programs. There are quite a few for aspiring screenwriters, such as the NBC Writers on the Verge Program, Sundance Institute, and the Disney/ABC Writing Program.
- Be held accountable!
Join or start a writer's group! Needing to have pages done to present to a group can be incredibly helpful when struggling with finding the motivation to finish a script.
- Write what you want
Don't try to catch a trend; you'll almost always end up being late. Focus on writing what interests and excites you. That level of passion in your script and how you pitch your story will resonate with people and generate interest.
- Don't underestimate your audience
Audiences are savvier than ever; they don't want to be spoon-fed plot points. Let them work for ideas and plots, allow them to put things together themselves.
- Don't give up!
This may be the most critical tip that exists in this business! Persistence is key! Hang in there and stay focused on honing your craft. Make a regular list of goals you'd like to accomplish. Don't get discouraged by no's or negative feedback. Stay focused on your work and your own progress. Most important of all – just keep writing!