Script Secrets FAQ

1) TOOLS NOT RULES! These Script Tips are not some rule that must be followed at all times, they are tools to help you write your screenplay. There is no screenwriting formula, no connect-the-dots or paint-by-number method for writing a screenplay. It's mostly a lot of paperwork!

The purpose of the tips is to share techniques that I have used or that I see used in other movies, and point out things that do not seem to work, and common flaws in screenplays and films (and usually what to do to avoid them). I try to give multiple examples if possible (though, some tips do focus on only one film) so that you can see the tool in action. I learned screenwriting by trial and error... lots of error. I hope that by showing you these tools and how to use them, or showing you these common flaws and how to avoid them, I can help you shave some of that trial and error time off your career. Or maybe just open your eyes to some things that you may not have noticed in a screenplay.

Instead of rules or formula, think of these Script Tips as a tool box. Some of the tools you may never use, other tools you may end up using constantly.

There is only one rule in screenwriting: the script has to work. No one cares what method you used to create the script or how many "rules" you followed or broke, they only care that the script is so exciting that they can't put it down... and they can't wait to buy it and put it on screen. Skip the rules, use the tools to write the best script possible.

2) Bad things in good films, good things in bad films. Hey, Bill, you trashed my favorite film! Or maybe an Oscar nominated script. What's up with that? A Script Tip might be about a flaw in a great film - and for me, that is often where flaws are most noticeable. In a really awful film, so much is awful it's often hard to pinpoint just what the problem is because there are so many. But in a good film, flaws are often pretty easy to see. So Script Tips often focus on the flaws in a good film and the little bits of greatness in a bad film. They are often easier to see. I am not trashing a whole film, I am usually looking at an element that does not work.

One of the strange things I've discovered is that even professional writers sometimes make rookie mistakes (or have those mistakes forced on them in development). So my favorite screenwriters have written flawed scripts. Hell, *I* have written my share of scripts that just did not work. A screenplay has so many different elements that all have to come together to tell the story, that it's almost a miracle when you get them all right in the same script.

And if I trash some script you love, it's just my opinion... but check out the reasoning behind it and the technique or flaw explained in the Script Tip. You might disagree with me on the film, but still learn something that will help you with your script. And it's possible that I like (or even love) the film, and am just pointing out the flaws. Everyone seems to think that I hate FIGHT CLUB because I often use it as an example of a major flop (it almost broke 20th Century Fox and resulted in the firing of the Production Head who greenlit it) - but when they did a special screening of it at the Arclight a year ago, I was there. I can love a film and still acknowledge its flaws.

3) Why no index? Most common question I get! People want there to be an index to the Script Tips so they can read them all, or find the ones they need now. Well, these are Script Tip Of The Day - every day there is a different Script Tip. That is how the website is set up, that is how it works. If there were an index of Script Tips, people would come here, read them all in one Script Tip Orgy and then never come here again. The *concept* of the website is that people check it out every day. It would defeat the concept of a Script Tip Of The Day if you could read those tips every day.

4) Hey, I missed Monday's Script Tip! Another common question. Though I have been known to answer e-mails with "I Missed Monday's Script Tip" as the subject, I am a busy guy and sometimes don't have the time. Basically, if you missed the Script Tip, it will run again in between a year and a year and a half. Just keep reading them!

5) Why no book of tips? About ten times a year someone asks me why I don't publish a book of all of the Script Tips, hey, I could make money. First, it wouldn't be one book, at this point in time it would be about 13 books. Add up all of the tips so far and you have around 13 *FREE* Screenwriting books worth of material. Second, that FREE part - the Script Tips are FREE - no cost to you. I do not want to make money from these Script Tips. Third, um see #3 - the concept of the website is for people to come here every day and read the Tip Of The Day, not buy a book and read them.

6) How many danged tips are there? There are currently 380 Script Tips, and when I reach 500 Script Tips, I'm putting this whole damned website on automatic and going to the beach. 500 Script Tips means two years without a rerun. Right now, the tips run completely out of order (Tip #24 might be followed by Tip #315), when I hit 500 they go in order from that point on. Just for those of you keeping score, that would be like 20 *FREE* screenwriting books.

7) New tips and tips in the garage? Throughout the year I add new Script Tips, but the first couple of weeks of January are usually all new Script Tips. While you are enjoying the holidays, I am writing new Script Tips for the new year (which usually requires going to the movies, which I love). Early in the year and late in the year are usually when new Script Tips get posted - in the middle of the year I'm usually working on some script.

But often during the year a Script Tip is sent to the "garage" for a tune up or major repairs. Often I will add some new examples or find a film that is a good illustration of the technique or flaw and add it to the Tip. That means a tip you've read before may be different and better when you read it again. There are other tips that need major repairs - a complete rewrite. Many of these get rewritten early in the year, but some have been out of circulation for years. There are many Script Tips from 2000-2002 that were originally one or two paragraphs that need a serious rewrite and expansion. I try to rewrite a few of those every year. Other Script Tips are pulled from circulation because I do a rewrite of them for a booklet or audio class and it would not be fair for the people who paid for the class to have that info on the website for free. And sometimes a fairly recent Script Tip goes to the garage because I re-read it and it needs a new or different example, or I don't think I did a good job of explaining what I was going for. I am always trying to keep the Script Tips up to date and the best that they can be.

8) How come there are so many typos? Um, sorry. The Script Tips are originally composed in a word processing program with a spell check... but when I do last minute additions to them, that is usually on the HTML editor which has no spell check at all. Also, it is often at the tail end of the day (sometimes at 2am) and there have been times when I have already had a beer or two. Um, sorry. I do try to fix the typos when I spot them, and am often amazed when a Tip has been running for a couple of years with an obvious typo I seem to be blind to. I'm trying to do more major additions in the word processing program which red underlines the screw ups and then paste that into the HTML editor, but often what begins as adding one sentence to an existing tip, ends up being four new paragraphs.

9) I can't read your website! Hate the black background! Um, sorry. But white letters on black background is fairly common online, is one of the 3 original styles on Blogger, and is now the color scheme for Starbucks' website. And only a handful of people complain to me - so I suspect it is a monitor or eyesight issue. Whatever the case, if it is good enough for Starbucks it is good enough for me - so I am not changing it. Sorry.

10) When will your book be back in print? My long out of print book Secrets Of Action Screenwriting is now completely updated as an ebook - and a paper version is on the horizon sometime. For a *long time* I have been talking with an interested publishing house, but these days the cost of print is so high that their profits come from ebooks... and I am not willing to give up those rights.

A) The Blue Books contain different material than the Action book.
B) There is no book version of the Audio CD classes - the reason for the CDs is that they are smaller and lighter to carry, and I can easy take them to a film fest or event. Books and booklets are bulky and heavy and I have to carry that luggage at the airport!
C) I am in the process of rewriting some of the Hitchcock articles from the blog into some screenwriting books... then those Hitchcock blog entries will be deleted.
D) In addition to the Action Book, I have over 6 more books worth of articles on my hard drive... just the Script Magazine articles alone would produce 5 books!

11) Will you read my script? Answer my personal question? People always want me to read their scripts. Sorry - I am too busy writing my own scripts. I also can't answer your questions about your script. We used to have a nice message board section here where you could ask questions, but few people used it and some of the people abused it. So I had to close it down. Sorry!

12) Do you do consulting? No. Sorry. I don't do Script Consulting at all, I am a *screenwriter*.

13) Do you like Gladiator Movies? I am Spartatcus!

14) What's the catch? No catch - the tips are free, (more soon)

15) Exceptions to everything. (more soon)

16) Use your judgement. (more soon)

17) What is the *real* Secrets to Screenwriting? Hard work! There is no formula or magic method or secret handshake. It's just working hard and staying positive.


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WRITING HORROR - The essentials of a horror screenplay - what do ROSEMARY'S BABY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OTHERS and OPEN WATER have in common? This class will tell you! All of the critical elements necessary to write a script that scares the pants off the audience. Writing Horror is $10.00 (plus $5 S&H).

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SCR(I)PT MAGAZINE subscription

Okay, I'm the West Coast Editor, so I'm biased - but this is the best screenwriting magazine out there. Other magazines have articles *about* screenwriters, Scr(i)pt has articles *by* screenwriters. Justin Theroux on writing IRON MAN 2 is the cover story for the new issue. There are a couple of articles on DIY filmmaking, including one from MOvie Maker Magazine editor Jennifer Woods. Interviews with the A-TEAM writers (by me) and the TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE writer (how come I didn't interview her?) and WINTER'S BONE, article by the writer of JUST WRIGHT and the terror of WGA Arbitration, To Hell With Structure from Mystery Man, Contests, and an article by me on Method Screenwriting. Real nuts-and-bolts stuff! Oh, and I have at least one article in every issue. SUBSCRIBE!

copyright 2010 by William C. Martell


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