The art of writing a script, whether it be a feature, spec, pilot, etc., is incredibly tricky to succeed at, but can also be an eternally satisfying experience. Plenty of aspiring screenwriters get lost in the precarious weaving of all the story elements—characters, plot, dialogue, etc.—that they can grow discouraged. In this article, we at LACS want to give a handful of important tips to any aspiring screenwriter struggling to keep writing or needing inspiration.
Once you start writing, it’s easy to psyche yourself out and get overwhelmed. Perhaps you didn’t like what you just wrote; maybe you’re realizing as you go just how much time and effort it will take to make your script live up to your high standards; or you simply just can’t get past the fact that there is always more work to be done. Whatever your concern, it’s best to keep it at bay. Screenwriting is a long and arduous journey, but taken step-by-step, it can be very rewarding. Once you get over the initial wave of overwhelming thoughts that are sure to crash on your shores, the writing process gets less stressful.
They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at what you’re passionate about. That’s years of work. Michael Jordan used to practice shooting after his high school games to reach that mark as soon as he could. Thankfully, screenwriters are not athletes: instead of your talent declining in your 30s, you can improve as time goes along. There’s a reason most films are written by someone over the age of 35. Working every day is an essential aspect of mastering any craft you work towards. With screenwriting, that work comes from more than just hacking away at the keyboard. Working every day can mean taking notes, doing research (more on that in a bit), outlining certain scenes or just re-reading your own written material. By putting in time and effort on a daily basis, the process of completion will be more fluid.
They say to write what you know, so know what you’re writing about. If you live in Idaho and are writing a story taking place in Paris, read up on the River Seine. If you are a teenager writing a period piece about the Vietnam War, reach out to people who were alive during that period of time. These steps may seem inconsequential at times, but they are necessary if you are really trying to nail the subject you are writing about. Thankfully, in the Internet age research is just a google search away, so you’ve got no excuses to do that research now!
Having your script criticized is a dreaded fear for many aspiring screenwriters. But, if done constructively, can help re-direct your efforts towards a better script. With this in mind, consider who you would like to critique your work. The best people are often those you know well and that will be brutally honest with you if your writing needs work. Without honest evaluation, you are bound to hear the answers you want, not the answers you need.
If there is a common theme with all successful screenwriters, it’s this: they didn’t give up. This is the most obvious yet difficult tip to follow through on. In creative fields, it can be easy to get yourself down. This is especially true with screenwriting, where hours and hours of time and effort can lead to zero recognition. With this grim reality in mind, it is essential to not give up, to stay optimistic, and to truly believe in your vision. Besides, if you don’t believe in yourself or your vision… who will?