So You Want To Be Among The Screenwriting Masters?

September 8, 2014

If your dream is to become a successful screenwriter, you’re going to have to be made of stern stuff. Becoming a working and respected screenwriter certainly doesn’t happen overnight. As with most creative disciplines, it takes years of hard work, of learning your craft, and believing in yourself to follow this dream You’ve got to have staying power, determination and faith in your own abilities.

So you want to be among the screenwriting masters? Good. Put that fire and passion to use — read on to discover what you can do to help your chances, and what resources there are out there to help you on the journey.

In the spirit of standing on the shoulders of giants, learning from the screenwriting masters is heartily encouraged. If it’s screenwriting for film that drives you, there are a few notable books that you really should read. They are:

–       Save The Cat, Blake Snyder

–       Story, Robert McKee

–       How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days, Viki King

Of course, there are countless others, but these titles are consistently rated highly by screenwriting students. And if you need a structure of working to get your idea out of your head and on to the page, then Viki King’s book is superb. Doubtless you won’t have an amazing script by the end of it, but you’ll have a first draft and that’s a whole lot more to show than a blank piece of paper.

As well as books there are blogs and websites which are stuffed with information and advice. Try these for starters:

Mandy: The very first port of call for most screenwriters in the industry. For jobs, ads and a noticeboard of things going on in the industry, Mandy is the place to go. You can search for people wanting scripts and screenwriters and post casting adverts once you’re in the process of making your film. Easy to use and a good way to see what’s going on.

Go Into The Story: There are hundreds (if not thousands) of screenwriting blogs out there, but Scott Myers’ regular musings on the intricacies of screenwriting and the business itself is among the best. Within the virtual pages of Go Into The Story, you’ll find some insider’s tips and deep insight, all of which can help you take your screenwriting game to the next level.

Simply Scripts: Another great database of free scripts, but its real usefulness lies in its collation of screenwriting contests and fairly comprehensive glossary of industry terms.

Screenwriting Software: If you’re puzzled at the array of software on the market to help you craft your script, here’s our rundown of the best. We separated the wheat from the chaff in both the paid and free categories, so check it out.

At university level, modules in screenwriting are becoming more and more popular, however if you want to truly specialize you’re probably best off opting for an screenwriting masters degree once you’ve finished your bachelor’s. Time spent completing an MFA degree at screenwriting school will pay dividends further down the line, and one of the big plus points to studying screenwriting in a formal setting is the contacts you will make with your peers and with people already working in the industry.

Writing is more often than not a solitary way of working so it’s best to forge partnerships and contacts when you can.

Finally, there’s no better way to get to grips with how scripts work than to watch as many films as possible. However, don’t watch so many that you end up doing nothing but watch movies. It’s important to maintain a balance of watching TV and films and actually writing your own scripts.

If you’ve already read Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat you’ll be aware of his beat sheet, vital points that you need to hit at certain moments in your film. If you don’t think these rules apply to you, sit down with the beat sheet and watch movies in the genre you want to write in. You’ll soon see how Blake’s very nearly always right. And once you’ve gotten to grips with this, your writing should start to flow. In addition, don’t just watch movies. We can’t understate the importance of reading scripts, which is essential for getting the hang of formatting, flow, and structural best practices.

Good luck, and godspeed in your journey to becoming one of this generation’s screenwriting masters!