What the Bitter Script Reader’s Writing Journey has Taught Him

The Bitter Script Reader takes us on a very personal trip from his own life. Our takeaway – yeppers, this is personal AF…but so universal as well. This definitely is worthwhile reading, friends.

by The Bitter Script Reader

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journey as a writer and what I can take from it to apply as lessons to some of you who are just starting out.

My first feature script began as an assignment for a screenwriting class in 2002. By that point I’d made a number of short films and had even run a campus TV series, where 7 of the scripts were mine. So I already had some experience translating my ideas to the page before this screenwriting assignment. I remember this was a story idea I’d had ever since my senior year of high school. At the time, I thought I had enough for a 30 minute short film (I had no idea the shorts I’d be making in school were to be closer to 5-10 min at most.) Over the next four years I kept expanding the idea with red herrings and twists until my treatment became longer and longer.

I vividly recall that I had that document in front of me one day as my professor started lecturing about the three-act structure and how most narratives we knew fit into that paradigm. I quite clearly remember scanning the document until I found the moment that would be my INCITING INCIDENT. I put a star next to that beat. Then I drew a line across the page where the division between Act One and Act Two would fit. Then another line at the midpoint, and a third line at the climax of Act Two. Just from eyeballing it, I could see that in terms of pacing, those moments were landing more or less precisely where they would in a basic three-act film.

I hadn’t used any kind of Save the Cat template when I broke the story. I wasn’t thinking about three acts or plot points – but I had internalized so much about films that I essentially did it on instinct. Recalling several of the other stories that came out of that class, I know that isn’t always a given.

In this post, I talk about the script I had under my arm when I moved to LA, and just so you don’t think I’m saying I had it all figured out: It was written on Microsoft Word and was in Times New Roman. Fortunately on my first internship a fellow aspiring took me aside and explained how I needed to fix it so that it matched industry standards….

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader’s Blog

Marty Scorsese on What Makes a Great Screenplay?

THE BIG SHAVE by Scorsese AKA the best student film ever made

Let’s face it, “What makes a great screenplay?” is flat out the question all writers need answered. (Not the same as “want answered” because that question would be, “How do I get an agent?”

For the record, our answer to the agent question is, “Talk to your friends who are agented and see if they recommend theirs…and make sure their reason is that, “They’re selling me and my work!”

As for the great screenplay answer, well, who better to hear from on this matter than the writer/director/critic who has given us so many of them? Take it away, Mr. Scorsese:

Thirteen minutes of video that are worth more than their weight in gold.

From Yellow King Film Boy.

22 lessons from Stephen King on how to be a great writer

Everything you need to know about great writing. Especially if you’re Stephen King (“Stop watching television?” Oh noooooooo):

Renowned author Stephen King writes stories that captivate millions of people around the world and earn him an estimated $17 million a year.

In his memoir, On Writing, King shares valuable insights into how to be a better writer. And he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He writes, “I can’t lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.”

Don’t want to be one of them? Here are 22 great pieces of advice from King’s book on how to be an amazing writer:

1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.

If you’re just starting out as a writer, your television should be the first thing to go. It’s “poisonous to creativity,” he says. Writers need to look into themselves and turn toward the life of the imagination.

To do so, they should read as much as they can. King takes a book with him everywhere he goes, and even reads during meals. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” he says. Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.

2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.

King compares writing fiction to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub, because in both, “there’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.” Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all,” writes King.

Oftentimes, you have to continue writing even when you don’t feel like it. “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea,” he writes. And when you fail, King suggests that you remain positive. “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”

3. Don’t waste time trying to please people.

According to King, rudeness should be the least of your concerns. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway,” he writes. King used to be ashamed of what he wrote, especially after receiving angry letters accusing him of being bigoted, homophobic, murderous, and even psychopathic.

By the age of 40, he realised that every  decent writer has been accused of being a waste of talent. King has definitely come to terms with it. He writes, “If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.” You can’t please all of your readers all the time, so King advises that you stop worrying.

 

 

The Bitter Script Reader’s Guide to Writing a Spec TV Episode

Here it is, gang. Just what you’ve been waiting for. Or should’ve been waiting for: The most complete guide to writing a spec episode of a TV series this TVWriter™ minion has ever seen.

Um, LB…why haven’t you done this? (Uh-oh. Am I in trouble now?)

by The Bitter Script Reader

For years, I’ve toyed with posting one of my scripts on this site and using it to explain my process of breaking a script. In all cases, I ran into the same problems: I couldn’t use something that I was still sending around as a sample with my own name on it, and anything older I was no longer using as a sample was probably such a sub-par example of my work that it seemed foolish to put it out there publicly. Every now and then I thought of writing one of those “gimmick” specs, like the infamous FRIENDS spec where they all get AIDS, but was often confronted by a lack of either time or inspiration.

A couple months back, after season two of 13 Reasons Why had dropped, but before it had been renewed, I saw a lot of speculation about where season three would go. On Twitter, I made a joke that season three should be a tribute to the short-lived NBC series Awake(which also featured 13 Reasons Why‘s lead Dylan Minnette) and have Clay suddenly finding himself moving between two worlds – the one we’ve lived in for two seasons and another one where Hannah survived her suicide attempt.

For those not in the know, Awake was about a police detective whose reality fractured after a car crash. In one reality, his son died and wife survived. In the other, the reverse happened. Each time he goes to sleep, he wakes up in the other world and he doesn’t want to figure out which one is real, as the experience lets him maintain contact with both his wife and son. The series was cancelled before any kind of story resolution was reached, and honestly, that might have been for the best because it’s hard to imagine the explanation that would be as satisfying as the concept itself.

It was a stupid joke, but I also happened to make it at a point where the show I’m working on had sent all the writers off to script and I had days with very little to do. The idea kept buzzing in the back of my brain as I saw the potential in a story about Clay getting a second chance with Hannah, a Hannah still being treated for her suicidal depression. I had a particular image in my head, figuring that Clay’s first encounter with Hannah could happen in his room, just as his first scene with the imagined Hannah in season 2. She’d reach out to touch him, he’d instinctively grab her forearm and get a double shock… she’s solid… and she still bears the deep wrist scars of her suicide attempt.

If that visual hadn’t popped into my head, it’s unlikely you’d be reading this post. But pop it did. And it lingered….

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader’s Blog

EDITOR’S NOTE: When we saids this was “complete” we meant it. This is only Part 1 of – wait for it – 10. Here’s the complete list (which also is available via The Bitter Script Reader, of course):

Part 2: Character
Part 3: Story and Theme Development
Part 4: The Break
Part 5: Act One Scenes
Part 6: Act Two Scenes
Part 7: Act Three Scenes
Part 8: Act Four Scenes
Part 9: When your lead character demands a rewrite
Part 10: Act Five Scenes