After entering numerous contests, getting different professional feedback for the same script and editing according to what I’ve learned from studying other screenplays, screenplay writing resources and the notes from professionals, I’m a lot more confident in my editing and rewriting skills. That’s not to say I feel I’m done, far from it. But I know a lot more than when I started out.
Currently, I’m in the process of editing my screenplay for the BlueCat competition according to my reader’s notes, and I wanted to share which resources I’ve also perused for further help:
1) Not Screwing Up Characters
Bang2Write is the popular screenwriting blog run by screenwriter, blogger, script editor and teacher Lucy V Hay. She often provides funny, practical and blunt tips on how to improve your script and your screenwriting career.
I like a lot of her posts, but I chose this post in particular because you definitely wouldn’t want to disappoint your reader(s) in the characters department.
You’ve witnessed this in a lot of novels and movies, where characters keep doing out-of-character things so that the plot will move forward.
Well, consistency matters. But it is only one of your problems. You need to introduce your characters well, make their motivations count and more:
2) Introducing a Character
One of the ways writers screw up their characters is their introduction, as the linked article above points out. So it’s only appropriate to include the same writer’s tips on: How to Best Introduce a Character
3) Writing Good Scene Description
One of the aspects of screenwriting I struggle with is writing great scene
descriptions. I’m not saying I’m bad; I’ve some great moments. But I find it increasingly difficult to sustain those moments in every scene. Nagging questions fill my mind, such as:
“Have I written too much?”
“Maybe I haven’t said enough?”
And guess what? It’s exactly one of the things one reader mentioned in his comments: I have included too much in certain scenes, and not enough in several others. While I keep studying other screenplays and getting better hang of it, these two articles below definitely helped:
Also, John August (Go, Big Fish) offers video tutorials on his YouTube channel:
4) Formatting Properly
Obviously, you can’t ignore standard formatting expectations. You don’t want to be overlooked just because you failed to apply some basic rules.
I don’t have to worry about this because I already use Final Draft (aff. link below), a screenwriting software that readily formats everything; I just have to choose which element (action, scene, dialogue…etc.) I’m working on.
But if you don’t own such a software, do check out Lucy V Hay’s Screenplay Format: One Stop Shop. I also recommend Chuck Sambuchino’s Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript (aff. link below), which includes formatting guidelines for whatever manuscript you might be working on, be it a short story, novel, screenplay or article.
5) Using Feedback Effectively
OK, so you got your feedback. How do you use it? Do you accept every suggested change? Well, the answer depends on what changes were offered, and how you feel about them.
You don’t have to accept every change. After all, this is your story. I pay very close attention to suggestions to make the script read better, and to suggestions on how to improve aspects like scene descriptions, action writing and dialogue. However I’m not suddenly going to change my protagonist dramatically because one reader thought he was unlikable or hard to relate to.
Even though your readers are industry professionals, they are still human, with their own tastes. At the end of the day, you have to be proud of your story. One piece of advice most screenwriting blogs agree on is that you need to tell the story you want to tell; and not the story you think the industry expects you to tell. Because then you won’t be able tell the story the way it’s meant to be told anyway.
So pay close attention, and don’t make the changes that make it an entirely different story – unless you are comfortable with that direction.
Oh, and I should mention, that one reader’s least favorite character can be another’s favorite. I’m not generalizing; this happened to with one of protagonists. So keep that in mind as well.
Without any further ado, I present Lucy’s tips:
There you are: an epic collection of resources on how to make your next draft better. If you find this article useful, please spread the word. And don’t forget to share your own tips and favorite resources in the comments.