Writing a screenplay is not easy but will definitely be rewarding! You might be overwhelmed by many things – the formatting, the rules, the characters and the list goes on. That is totally normal, writing a screenplay is a heavy task. However, follow these 7 steps and select an appropriate Screenwriting Software to make the entire writing process easier.
7 Simple Steps:
- Have a logline
- Write a treatment
- Develop the characters
- Plot and outline
- Write your first draft
- Read, edit, rewrite
- Format your screenplay
These steps are just a guide for you to follow as you write your screenplay, you don’t have to stick to it if you have a totally different method or process to write your screenplay!
1. Have a Logline
A logline is a simple, one-sentence summary of your story. The main purpose of a logline is to bring across the essence of your story to whoever is reading your screenplay.
A logline usually has three components:
- A protagonist, the hero or main character of the story
- An antagonist, the villain or opposing force of the story
- A goal of the story
Additionally, loglines help you to focus on the essential parts of your story so that you won’t stray away while writing your screenplay.
2. Write a Treatment
A treatment tends to be a 2-5 page summary of the story with three components as well. The three components are:
- Title of the film
The title of the film is pretty self-explanatory, and the logline has been covered in the previous section.
A synopsis should contain the main and any turning points in your story. It should give the reader an opportunity to see and understand the entire story in just one page. Additionally, with a synopsis, the reader will be able to get an idea of how the story, characters and plot is like.
Similar to the logline, a treatment will help you, as the writer, to stay on task and help you understand what can be improved on when you start writing.
A treatment can also include parts of dialogues and descriptions.
3. Develop the Characters
Characters are integral to your screenplay, so it is important to develop your characters well for your story to flow smoothly.
Write characters that are likeable (especially for protagonists) and ensure that they are relatable to those who read your screenplay.
Be detailed and realistic when you develop your characters. This is to ensure that they are prominent in the screenplay and that readers won’t forget about them so easily.
One way you can develop your characters and use them to their full potential is to write down whatever that comes to your mind when you think of them on paper, giving them more meaning and life instead of being stale.
Having strong characters will go a long way for a successful and well-written screenplay.
4. Plot and Outline
Before writing, it’s important to plot and craft an outline for the structure of the story. This step is important as the more detailed your outline is, the less time you will waste when you start writing. A good outline will also help you check the flow of your screenplay and make changes where necessary.
How to outline is totally up to you but here is a suggested way:
You can split and craft an outline based on story arcs; include the characters, settings and any plot twists or narrative that belongs to a particular arc. You can also include any major dialogue or any scene you feel is important to include in that particular arc.
Essentially, the outline will act as a guide as you write your screenplay.
5. Write your First Draft
This is the part you’ve been waiting for!
When writing your first draft, use your outline to guide you through each scene and arc. Remember to write everything that is of descriptive action in present tense, and to describe something that can be seen or heard by the audience, instead of simply stating it.
At this stage, there is no need for you to worry about any format errors nor should you edit. The main point of having a first draft is for you to read through once you are done, and take note of what can be improved, and what can be kept for the final version.
However, if you are uncomfortable with writing a first draft without proper formatting and structures put in place, you should use JotterPad, a minimalist writing tool that can help you streamline your writing process with Fountain, and also format your screenplay for you as you write so that you can focus on writing. More details will be in the 7th step.
6. Read, Edit, Rewrite
After you are done writing your first draft, take a break and then read what you have written. Take note of how you can further improve on your screenplay – are there any missing dialogues? Are there plot holes? Did you describe instead of stating?
Once you are done noting down areas to improve on for your next draft, it’s time to edit! Make the necessary changes – deepen characters, rewrite certain scenes, remove any gaping holes etc.
After you have finished editing and rewriting, read through the screenplay again and check if there’s anything else you need to edit. Polish it and pay extra attention to make your dialogue stand out!
It is totally up to you to decide on how many times you want to edit and rewrite, as long as you are satisfied with the final screenplay.
7. Format your Screenplay
Before you can send your screenplay out to studios, you should ensure that your screenplays follow the industry standards in terms of format.
While that might not have been a priority as you were writing your screenplay, it is extremely important to have a properly formatted screenplay sent out to studios and directors.
If you are unaware of how to format a screenplay, or are unsure of how to do so, you can use JotterPad which has a dual function in this case – it helps you to format your screenplay and is also a screenwriting software which helps make writing a screenplay less of a hassle.
Essentially, JotterPad will format your entire screenplay for you as you write, and once you print it out, your screenplay would have been properly formatted according to industry standards, so you don’t have to worry!
These 7 steps are a simple guide to help get you started on writing your screenplay. Remember to outline your story and use a good screenwriting software to help you out.