TUESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

MAN WITH A PLAN


I don't know where the idea got started that screenwriters don't have to be organized - that it's a perfect job for people who miss deadlines or show up late for work or can't remember where they put their car keys. Writing is a job just like any other - only more so. Because we are self employed, you might think that means we don't really need to have good work skills... but being self employed means you are not only the employee, you're the boss, too. If you can't manage time well, or get to work on time and do a full day's work, there's no one to crack the whip and threaten to fire you. The kind of people who are good at being self employed are the kind of people who work hard even when the boss isn't watching. The kind of person who does extra work if it needs to be done. The kind of employee that shows up 5 minutes before his shift starts and is ready to put in a full day's work... Because if you aren't a hard worker and self-starter, you won't get anything done. Screenwriters need to have organizational skills.

SCRIPT PLANS

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First you need to be able to organize your thoughts. To be a screenwriter involves a strange contradiction - you need to have wild imaginative ideas, plus be good at structure. Creative and organized. My imagination is a wild bronco, running free... but I need to harness and saddle that bronco so that I can control the story and make sense of it. If my imagination keeps bucking me off or goes galloping off in the wrong direction I'm going to end up with a script that may be exciting but doesn't make any sense. 110 pages of random thoughts is not a story, it's a mess.

Screenplays are so structure oriented, and have to be built strong enough to hold up the entire rest of the film, that I wouldn't want to start writing a script without organizing my story ideas into a step outline that lists all of the major scenes needed to tell the story. An outline FOCUSES my story, organizing my imagination into a logical form that I can build a screenplay from. Results are all that count - nobody cares how you write a screenplay, only that the screenplay works once it is finsihed. If you can produce a screenplay that works without an outline, that's great!

I use a modified version of a step outline that breaks the script up into 5 page chunks for pacing... and help me schedule my writing. My outlines are just the basics of what happens in each scene, usually leaving *how* it happens for when I write the script. On the assignment I just turned in, I knew that a character had to die around page 60 for story reasons, and I had a basic idea of how they would die, which was tied to the story - if you are writing a murder mystery, you know it isn't going to be an accident or suicide - someone is going to kill this character, and you know who the killer is... but *how* do they do it? Gun? Knife? Bazooka? Poison? There are hundreds of ways to kill someone. My outline had an idea for the method - but that changed when I actually wrote the scene, I came up with a much better scene! So all of the details were things I hadn't thought of until I did the writing... but the guy was just as dead on page 60. Knowing how the story worked still left plenty of room for creativity. But if you don't work this way - results are all that matter. Nobody cares how you wrote the script... does it work?

My theory is: the more I know about the story and characters ahead of time, the more my writing can be about the DETAILS of the character and scenes. So organization HELPS my creativity rather than hinders it.

Another contradiction - our screenplays need to be creative but also precise. The story from our imagination has to be put on the page with such precision that dozens of people (Agent, Reader, VP Development, VP Production, Director, Star) can read it and see the same story in THEIR imagination, so that when they put it on film the audience will see the same story in THEIR imaginations. That requires precision craftsmanship! The difference between lightning and lightning bugs, as Mark Twain said.

WRITING PLANS

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Organizational skills are also necessary for meeting deadlines.

Although I've had assignments where I had to hand in a good first draft in five weeks, most only gave me three weeks, and a few years back I had to write a FILMABLE first draft in only two weeks (that was then sent out to talent! It not only had to be written fast, it had to be good enough to sign the cast!). Here's where your organizational skills and work ethic are put to the test - You have to be able to plan how any pages you need to write every day to make your deadline... then you need to actually write those pages every day. Even on days when you don't feel like working, you've got to get the work done (and done right). This is where my 5 page/minute outline plan comes in handy for scheduling. Usually I write 5 pages a day, which gives me a first draft in 3-4 weeks. I'm not perfect, and there are days when I struggle to make my 5 pages... and days when I fail. But having a plan, having a goal, gives me something to shoot for. If I don't make my five pages one day, I try to make up the difference the next day.

I always like to plan my scripts with a couple of days extra if I end up behind, plus a couple of days to do a quick read through and rewrite. On the assignment I just finsihed, my Homicide Cop had a "face lift" after I finished the script. I realized his character wasn't as dinstictive and interesting as he should have been, and came up with a better character and rewrote all of his scenes and dialogue with the new character before handing in the script. I had time to do that, because I had *planned* a couple of days for rewrites like this before my deadline. On one of my 2 week wonders, I had 2 rewrite days in my plan, and that allowed me to add some great details that weren't in the script when I typed FADE OUT.

If you DON'T have a plan, if you just try to write when you feel inspired, or write as much or as little as you feel like writing, you may end up with only half your script finished on the day you need to turn in the whole script. There may be some built in wiggle room on a feature, but if you're working in television or writing a cable feature or MOW the deadline is the deadline - there's a crew waiting to film it and an air date. You have to be able to organize your time so that you can make deadlines or the whole project gets behind and HBO may be showing a test pattern at 9pm Friday night because the film wasn't ready yet!

And whatever feature film wiggle-room there was is being phased out - A couple of months ago Warner Bros. announced a change in policy - scripts *must* be turned in on time... or the writer is in breach of contract. You really need a plan!

So I figure out how many pages I have to write a day (with one day off and one 'make-up day' every week) and start writing. I always include those couple of days to make a final pass through the script - a quick rewrite to clean up any problems. Just because a script is a first draft doesn't mean you haven't already done some rewriting and polishing to make it presentable. Remember, this is your career. If you hand in something that looks unprofessional they will not treat you as a professional. A producer is used to reading polished scripts - specs that took writers a long time to write - and they expect that script you had to write in 2 weeks to look just as good. That's crazy, but it's true.

LIFE PLANS

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But even with specs your organizational skills matter. If you've got a full time job and you're writing in your spare time, you want to maximize the time you spend writing. You don't want to waste precious time getting organized every time you sit down to write. I have these bins in my office with the titles of proposed scripts. When I get an idea for a script, and start a bin. Then, whenever I have an idea for that script (dialogue, scene, character) I write it on a card and toss it in the bin. When the bin overflows it's time to write the script. I organize the notes in the bin, outline the script, then start writing it. Because I've thought through much of the story and have all of my notes in one place, I can usually finish a first draft in 4-6 weeks. Then I set it aside, work on something else, before rewriting it until it's worth showing to anyone. When I worked at the warehouse I averaged about 3 scripts a year using the "bin method". I never wrote a script that I didn't have a whole bin full of notes on. Most of the planning part of the script had been accomplished, so that I could spend my precious time focused on the writing part.

Carve out a time and place to write every day - and then use that time to actually write. You may have a family and a day job and other responsibilities, but make *writing* one of your responsibilities, too. I always had a job where I could *think* about writing all day, so I was prepared for my hour of writing. Hey, writing while having a life is not easy, but if you have a plan to write one page or one hour a day you will get more done than if you have no plan at all.

No matter how fast or slow you write, the only thing that matters is that you write... and finish what you write. Organizing your time, organizing your projects, and organizing yourself are the keys to getting things on the page. If you don't have a plan, you're lost!



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OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!

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OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC Blue Book.

ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?

Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.


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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!

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DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.

IS HALF OF YOUR STORY IN TROUBLE?

Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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William Goldman says the most important single element of any screenplay is structure. It’s the skeleton under the flesh and blood of your story. Without it, you have a spineless, formless, mess... a slug! How do you make sure your structure is strong enough to support your story? How do you prevent your story from becoming a slug? This Blue Book explores different types of popular structures from the basic three act structure to more obscure methods like leap-frogging. We also look at structure as a verb as well as a noun, and techniques for structuring your story for maximum emotional impact. Most of the other books just look at *structure* and ignore the art of *structuring* your story. Techniques to make your story a page turner... instead of a slug!

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You MUST Have This Book!

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START STRONG!

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This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!

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I WRITE PICTURES!

*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)


Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

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BEST SELLER!

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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STORY IS CHARACTER!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

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SUBPLOTS!

*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!

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Over 400 Pages!

*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!


Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!

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TOP DIALOGUE TIPS!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!

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Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more. * * * Buy It!

copyright 2017 by William C. Martell


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