No announcement yet.

The Screenwriting Process: Where to begin, and how to proceed.

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    The Screenwriting Process: Where to begin, and how to proceed.

    I thought it’d be useful and enlightening to talk about the writing process. Feel free to add your own process to this list. Here’s mine.

    1. I'll usually get an idea and write it down first as a short summary. Sometimes I'll break it down into three acts, I'll talk it out with a friend, ask myself what's interesting about the idea. Usually I'll try and see if the idea has legs before I progress.

    2. Then I'll write out the script as a rough short story. Sometimes I'll even put in lines of dialogue.

    3. Sometimes I'll start writing, and try to bang out ten pages or until I run out of steam. I find it necessary to go right in to get excited about the project. I also find that immediately starting gets me to that wall, that point when I need to go back and figure out all the background information.

    4. I'll usually do character bios at this point, going moderately deep with the main characters. I don't like to spend too much time on bios since I find they tend to sap my excitement for a project.

    5. Then I'll do a rough outline of the first draft. If I have the energy I tend to figure out the ending at this point, the point I'm trying to make, etc.

    6. Writing. At this point the writing tends to go in spurts. Some days are good with about 5-7 pages, other days are 1-3 page days.

    7. About a month into the writing I start to get lost in the forest and I'll have to read everything up to that point. Rereading the beginning tends to reignite the fire and helps focus things more.

    8. The "This script is a piece of poo poo stage" I'm tempted to rewrite things but I force myself to keep going until it's finished.

    9. Rough draft finished. I give myself a few days. Sense of elation.

    10. Restless Stage. Time to clean up that rough draft. Fix spelling mistakes, grammar, do some rough trims and general cleaning.

    11. Copyright the work.

    12. Send it out to get feedback from close friends and readers.

    13. 2nd, 3rd, wash, rinse, repeat, a serviceable draft. The work is never perfect, but it's good enough at this stage.

    For me, logline, research, outline & bios, 1st draft, 2nd, 3rd, etc...



      That seems like a pretty good process. Much like many people I follow much of the same progression. Though poo poo part comes earlier for me and I ususally have to fight through that to get to the rough outline.
      Last edited by Alex DePew; 06-27-2006, 12:33 PM.


        From my springboard (character, what if, line of dialogue, etc.) I figure out the ending and work backwards. I am a firm believer that the ending is 75% of the story. The audience is far more forgiving if your movie ends well after starting slow, rather than awesome 80 minutes and a crap ending.
        Write story out in prose (sorta treatment, but more artsy) as fast as I can. Gets the tone and story beats out. You can find real gems this way b/c you're writing subconsciously, paying less attention to 'rules and logic'...just letting everything tell you what to write (more organic).
        Put it away for a bit to get distance, objectivity, sharpen sword to kill yer babies.
        Go over it in passes: story, structure, story holes, etc.
        Have a rough outline of scenes, lines of dialogue, sequences, etc. on notecards put in order of where they "belong" in your story. I like notecards b/c they give you a map when you get lost, but can be reshuffled if you want to zig where you had planned to zag in the orginal. Always good to let yourself the freedom to explore in the actual writing of the story if it feels right.
        Finally, purchase hours of music and a pair of good studio monitor headphones. I recommend Sennheiser HD 25-1 (Europe model) or some other type that shuts off all outside noise. I know others need to work differently, but I can't write anything without music of some sort going.


          I get the story idea and write out the premise so I can come back to it when I have time. I figure out the opening and ending then give myself a few key points. I then start making bullet points (which will later become scenes) to move along the path to my key points and ultimately the ending. 80-150 bullets later, I write the screenplay. I basically have all the scenes and then I get the characters talking to each other.

          This may sound simplistic but after a lot of writing I have found that this is a method that works for me. It allows me to write very quickly, once I have it laid out. I've tried outlining...doesn't really work (although you could probably say that what I'm doing IS outlining) for me. Hate the 3 x 5 cards. I've done the treatment thing and only use it now when someone demands one of me. It's all a matter of finding what works for you...this works for me.


            For me cards donīt work neither. Having made up the basic idea I going from scene to scene in Microsoft Words. Each scene represented just by few words. At that point everything is very flexible, still, 99% is happening in my imagination and is not fixed on paper, yet. So I can swap scenes, change them, skip them very easily. When Iīm in the right mood itīs like the story is finding itīs path by itself. When everything is fixed, the scenes, the plotpoints, the main events and characters, Iīll go in the details until I have got a complete and well working treatment. I only start to write dialogues when Iīm sure the story is well, but VERY WELL fixed.


              The way I usually like to write is to get a full story outline down. Characters/Backgrounds/Motivations/Events and then flesh those out, filling in gaps along the way.
              Please subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL to see all of my projects.

              New short film THE APPOINTMENT now available to see!


                What I do is develope my characters first, actually I write down the subject, you know the tagline of what the story is about in one sentence, then I do my character bios, I find when I do the bios it let's my story stretch.. after I do the bios, I go into the treament, then begin writing the actually screenplay, ACt 1 2 ect.. then clean up the first draft, second draft and the final product... it's a long process but worth it..

                And Isaac great idea about the copyright first than have friends read it, I usually have friends read it for feedback incase I need to fix any small things, but I think the copyright is the way to go first...


                  Originally posted by capitalP
                  but I think the copyright is the way to go first...
                  How are you guys copyrighting your scripts? poorman's copyright?


                    LoC & WGA(e).

                    Do only them. Either or both are fine (although LoC is MUCH better, but slower)

                    Do not do the 'poormans' thing.



                      Originally posted by omar_
                      How are you guys copyrighting your scripts? poorman's copyright?
                      I could have some unsealed envelopes stashed around which I had previously sent to myself, which now have a postage seal on them. I see your script. I like it. I replace your coverpage with mine, put the script in one of my envelopes and seal it. Now my envelope seal pre-dates yours. I make a movie using this script, you sue. In court I will win. In the unlikely event that you win, all you get to say is "I WON".

                      Copyright is now 45$ (just went up from 30$ at the beginning of July). Should you have it copyrighted, and I steal it then the balance is all the way in your favor. I will almost definitely lose and since you have copyrighted it, I will have to pay damages. Always copyright. It's there to protect you.
                      When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk. (Tuco-The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

                      IMDb Green Eyed Monster // Waiting 2 Die:A Veteran Affair // Bail Out

                      DVX100b / T3i / HMC150 / C100 / Atomos Ninja Blade
                      50mm 1.8 / 24mm 2.8 / 18-55 5.6 / 75-300mm 5.6 / Rokinon Cine DS 85mm


                        i perfer WGA it way better then LoC


                          Wow, y'all are organized....I like to just come up with some characters I like and let them create the situations. It's easier if I've worked the characters out a bit beforehand, of course--that's why I like writing series or re-using characters.

                          I admit this "method" takes a while, but I'm not a high-volume writer in the first place.

                          DEMO REEL


                            Organize everything.
                            Ive gotten through 4-5 feature length scripts. My problem is I've thrown them all away/deleted them all because I didnt like how they turned out.


                              I suck at writing stories from scratch ... by far my biggest weakness... I probably don't give myself enough time to hash things out and try and make it work before scrapping the idea...

                              I need to start making a real effort to write just for the sake of writing, even if it's crap ...

                              Thanks for sharing your workflows... it's good to see how others work through the process
                              FiftySeven3rd Productions
                              <span style="font-size:12px"></span>

                              "Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don't know what to do." - Art Costa