In my last article I talked about the importance of making your screenplay zip along. Is it zipping down a backwoods highway with nothing but rocks and trees? Or is it flying along the main drag of a big city full of changing scenery and dangerous drivers? If the audience can always see clearly where it’s going, they may not appreciate the ride.
What makes some screenplays sell while others get rejection notices? There are many factors that can make the difference. Amateur formatting is a killer. Or your story can be one that’s already been done too many times or one that would be hard to film. None of those things are going to be covered here. Instead, I want to guide you through how the speed of your story can boost the chances of a sale.
I had mentioned I’d write something about screenplay formatting in an earlier article. I usually just set up template files for the different kinds of documents I write and forget about format as long as nothing goes wrong. Let me help you with setting up your own screenplay template.
If you have a target in mind for your script, try and get their format specifications first. There are many different ways to format a screenplay as you saw if you looked at the list in the article “Writing a Screenplay: Part 3 of 4 – Second Drafts”.
If you have no target for your script or the agent / producer doesn’t have a format in mind, here’s where you can start. Title pages are easy to change. It’s the body of your work that is of greatest concern. You wouldn’t enjoy changing the whole thing back manually if you finished it using one set of indenting and then an agent wanted different indents.
With a blog title like “Independent Film Project” I couldn’t write about manuscript synopses and not have an article on script treatments. You might think that the script synopsis would be the document to focus on here, but a script synopsis is a plot summary. The script treatment more closely resembles the manuscript synopsis in length, style and content.
(Editor: This blog was once called the Independent Film Project.)
The Purpose of the Script Treatment
The script treatment, or scriptment, is a summarization of your screenplay that defines all of the key scenes and takes the reader through the entire script using one tenth the words. One thing that makes this a little easier is that you write the treatment as prose. Instead of an open specially formatted screenplay, you write a short story.
.Marketing Synopses That Sell
A lot of writers think of the synopsis as something they get forced into writing after they’ve completed their novel or non fiction book. Here you are with a finished book and your agent or editor wants you to condense all of that material down to a few pages or paragraphs. Haven’t you already done enough work writing the book?
They aren’t asking for a synopsis to be cruel. There are 30,000 books published every day. Imagine how many submissions that implies. A synopsis gives agents and editors a way to quickly review manuscripts before reading them. This allows them to filter out books they wouldn’t buy anyway, without reading each and every one.
Writing a Screenplay: Part 4 of 4 – Final Drafts
I seem to have said everything there is to say about the multiple draft screenwriting process with the last post. Each of the steps I follow naturally leads to the next.
A completed first draft is a second draft. When the second draft is complete it’s the final draft.
My alter ego, Izo, has offered to write a guest post with his take on the screenplay writing process.
.. . Photo license
Writing a Screenplay: Part 3 of 4 – Second Drafts
The second draft is all about editing the completed first draft. Experienced writers go through the first draft looking for several types of writing mistakes. Spelling errors, grammar problems, run on sentences and paragraphs that need rewrites all get addressed in one pass. Then they set it aside for a short time, review it again and call it final.
Many writers don’t stop at one pass through the first draft. Some go through it again and again tweaking the story and making corrections. I’m one of those. I continue going over the piece until I have a pass where I can only find minor corrections and then I call it final.
Writing a Screenplay: Part 2 of 4 – First Drafts
Of all the steps in the writing process, I enjoy the first draft most. I’ve already got an idea for what I’m going to write. I have the steps outlined so I know where I’m going. I don’t have to do a perfect writing job. My mission is clear.
When you sit down to work on a first draft, you know that your day’s word count will be high and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. Every other step in the process can involve a lot of thinking and revision. In the first draft, you can fly right along.
.The Outline Revisited
I’ll assume you already read part one on outlines and that you’re working on a screenplay. If not, you can still follow along.
Writing a Screenplay: Part 1 of 4 – Outlines
This four part series will give you a brief introduction to the steps you can follow to write a quality screenplay in a minimum of time. Skipping a step makes the steps that come after more difficult or even impossible. These articles should be enough to get you started. More in depth articles will follow later.
The steps for writing a long piece are usually the following;
1. A story idea of a paragraph or two.
2. A synopsis or script treatment.
3. An outline.
4. First draft.
5. Second draft.
6. Final version.