Monday, July 28, 2008

12 Things All Amateur Screenwriters Should Know

Hey guys,

This hilarious list, which was originally posted on a bulletin board on
TriggerStreet, was so good I had to share it. It was written by friend and fellow screenwriter, Doc Strange, whose scripts (mostly comedies) have earned him finalist nods in a variety of screenwriting contests. You can read his scripts here. He also participated in my Love script with a wonderful short called “Might As Well Face It,” in which he made a parallel between an unhealthy relationship and trying to give up cigarettes. You can learn more about him at his website.

I’m also sharing the photo of him and his wife below, because, I don’t know. For one thing, it’s a little known fact that screenwriters are great lovers. Plus, she makes him look good. Hehehe

Hope you enjoy it.



I've been patrolling around message boards, reading books and perusing magazine articles for many years now trying to soak up as much information as I could about the business of screenwriting.

After I had given myself some time to process this information, I have been able to put together a list of 12 hints, tips and pieces of advice that I think every struggling screenwriter should know.

This is my attempt to clear up any misconceptions about how to pursue your career as a writer:

1) Nowadays, capitalizing sounds has fallen out of favor, so make sure you CAP all of them because that is what producers like to see.

2) Chances are that you won't sell a screenplay until you've made a name for yourself by selling a screenplay.

3) Always use a standardized three-act structure or some variation of it that resembles the films you see in the theaters because you can't get something produced if it's not original.

4) Stereotypes are not funny - audiences like to see characters that are derived from real life.

5) Cliches never work and have no place in screenwriting because your audience wants to see things that they are familiar with.

6) Page count is important. You almost never want to go over 120 pages for any script. Dramas can be anywhere from 110 to 130 pages. Comedies should all be around 95 pages because anything under 100 is considered a television movie. And remember, never write less than 90 pages because if you want to write a horror for the big screen, it should be about 85 to 95 pages.

7) Don't put a number on page 1 because all screenplays must have page numbers.

8) Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and producers who are impressed with your work will contact you - so always keep the contact information of all the producers you have sent your screenplay to.

9) Since only perfect specs are the ones that are purchased, make sure your write and rewrite your script several times until it is perfect - that ensures that your manuscript is ready to be rewritten once it is sold.

10) Screenwriting is a prose technique where the only things that are written are things that can be seen and heard, which is why no well-written screenplay is ever devoid of subtext.

11) You should never direct your film through your screenplay and you should never tell the reader things that can be shown.

12) And the biggest tip of all: Since you can't sell a script without an agent and you can't get an agent without selling a script, the best way to break into Hollywood is to either sell a script or get an agent.


Anonymous said...

That's some sound advice. Lol

Don't forget number 13:
You must learn how to write like a professional screenwriter in order to sell a script. Once you've made a name for yourself, you can stop writing by the rules and start writing like the professional screenwriter you now are.

James said...


This list reminded me a lot of how George Carlin plays with words and semantics.

Good stuff.

Screenwriting Compass said...

This is a really funny post. I wonder if I can find one for reps!

Unknown said...

Doc is also about to become a daddy!

Carl S said...

It is a great list. Funny when I read it on TS and even funnier the second time around!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! Thanks...I'm still laughing.

Anonymous said...

And #14:
Your first few scripts will suck, so instead of writing one movie with 120 pages, plan on writing 5 for a total of 600 pages. And don't get writers block....

Sabina E. said...

ugh. The list may have been written out of humor, but it's so totally true.

I can't get a goddamned agent cos I have NEVER sold a script, but I want to sell my first script!!!! throw me a bone, people!!! gggrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Anonymous said...

so true!

unless you are Diablo Cody :)

Anonymous said...

There's only one screenwriting contest that matters, and there's no prize for second place.

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