Hints and Tips
Like all good writing, this page is a work-in-progress, and new tips will be added from time-to-time. If you have a tip which you think would be helpful, feel free to send it in.
- Write. Write anything, write a poem, write a short story, write a blog, write a shopping list, write - ideally - a screenplay!! You aren't a writer if you don't write. Writer's block? That only means you can't write anything good. So, write something bad. You can't revise blank pages.
- Read. Read novels, magazines, newspapers, short story collections, poems, limericks, read - ideally - screenplays!! You do this for two reasons: to gather ideas and to observe techniques which work and which don't work for you, the audience. Don't slavishly copy the content which appeals to you - notice the form, the structure, what makes it work. Then apply some of those same techniques in your work.
- Get feedback. Have people who you like and whose opinion you trust read your script (you don't have to pay for this service!). Ideally, when you think your screenplay is ready, organise a rehearsed reading. If actors want to read your words, that's good feedback. If an audience hangs on the actors' every word, that's good feedback. If the feedback is not good, you need to start rewriting.
- Rewrite. One of the huge advantages of writing is you don't have to put your first thoughts on display every single time. Write, set aside, revisit and rewrite. Try out different ideas, experiment, tinker.
- Watch. Watch movies, watch TV. Notice what is getting audiences, what studios are backing. Don't waste a year of your life writing a mermaid movie, if the last mermaid movie that came out was a huge flop.
- Network. Even if you don't know people in the industry, you assuredly know people who know people who are in the industry. Ask around, send your script to agents of actors who you think might be good for the the lead roles. Chat to development execs, or assistants to find out what studios are hunting for. Get work as an extra and make friends with other people on the set - without in any way disrupting anyone's work.
- Ideas. Especially in this cash-strapped world, nothing is more important to your script than its central idea. Your talky indie script with four people stuck in a room together might have got picked up by a small studio in search of another Once or Little Miss Sunshinea year ago but not today. You come up with another Slumdog Millionaire or The American President and make that story work, and Hollywood will bite your hand off.
- Talent. Nothing - including a killer idea - gets a movie made faster than attaching the right talent to it. You are very unlikely to get Spielberg or Cruise to read your script, let alone option it, but attaching talent to a script with a strong commerical idea and its core can only help. So, when writing, consider who could play the main parts, and work extra hard to make that a part which a major name would love to play. Give them great moments to play, a strong individual voice, more than their fair share of zingers and they might just insist on making your script their next project.
- Wait. You get one chance to show your script to people like this. Do not send it before it is ready. The extra month you spend polishing and honing will be repaid to you a thousandfold if your script sells. There is rarely any hurry when you are writing on spec.
To submit a script to the Script Surgeons, click here.