So you are an aspiring writer, and you have a compulsion towards screenplays? Well, you are not alone, and if I must say, you are on the right part. Screenplay writing is a very satisfying venture, especially if your project finally makes it onto the big screen. The feeling is indescribable!
That said, even though many aspiring screenwriters are trying to make a breakthrough, a significant percentage do not go on to make that transition to becoming a celebrated screenwriter. It would be a bit harsh to put all the blame on the screenwriters and their apparent unpreparedness or lack of creativity, but those possibilities cannot be entirely ruled out either. The journey towards being a successful screenwriter starts way before you put pen to paper, and goes way back to your preliminary preparations before you commence your screenwriting.
If you want that script to be a success, here are some crucial points to keep in mind before you get started:
Get yourself acquainted with the screenwriting process — format, structure, technicalities, and marketability. You need to first know what works in a movie script, and what doesn’t. An excellent point to remember here is that you are showing, and not telling unlike in books. Therefore, your script has to be practical and reproducible on a screen.
Decide on a niche, and research on the exciting topics without getting too cliché. You should be extremely familiar with the niche you are writing about for you to tell a compelling story. You cannot decide to write a dystopian, sci-fi movie just because the buzz is much if you don’t have the necessary skills. You need to make sure that your story can sell and actually attract an audience. Hollywood these days is all about marketability, and you should always keep that in mind.
If you are devoid of ideas but convinced of your abilities as a prospective screenwriter, adapt a book. There are some procedures for this, depending on the type of book you are adapting. Some real-life stories might require that you acquire what is termed “life rights” before you can proceed with the adaptation to avoid legal issues. However, you can make sample adaptations which you can send to studio execs and directors for consideration.
Write an absorbing treatment for the movie. This is likely the first thing that any potential collaborator will read to have an overview of the story and to determine if it is worth the time, even before they get to the script proper. The treatment is like a skeleton of the movie, containing a logline (usually one or two sentences), a character description, and the three-act summary. This vital aspect of your screenwriting should be taken seriously as it will serve as the selling point for your script in the long run.
Take time-off after writing the treatment, then come back and reread it again, to see if it still makes as much sense. There is no sense in rushing on with the script writing immediately after writing your treatment. Taking time off and coming back to the treatment after some days will give you a fresh perspective, and you will end up making meaningful changes that you may have overlooked after the first draft.
Even though writing your first movie script might appear daunting, it gets better with practice. Write, proofread, and rewrite if necessary. You can only get better with each attempt.