Plan Your Screenplay! (Don’t Make It Up as You Go Along!)

Great article on what being professional is all about, from Script Reader Pro. (See, they even have “pro” in their fecking name!)

by Stephen Stanford

Crafting and planning a screenplay can be a daunting task. Of course, any undertaking in creative writing has an intimidation factor, but screenwriting has an inherent aspect that sets it apart: a lack of freedom.

This isn’t to say that there is a lack of creative freedom—quite the contrary—but there is a definitive, regimented structure that is ingrained into the minds of producers, filmmakers, and audiences alike as to how a cinematic story needs to be told. This makes the screenplay an inherently constrictive medium.

Even after one masters the idiosyncratic formatting, gets comfortable with the present-tense, and trains themselves to “show, not tell”, they’re still going to find themselves struggling to keep their story on target.

A screenplay needs to command attention, move briskly, and not meander. Every stitch of writing needs to be in service of the plot, and the end result has to be just the right length.


For first-time writers, the typical impulse is eschew too much planning of their screenplay, take their idea, dive headfirst into a script editor, and simply wing it.

For a lucky few this method works but, for the rest of us, the result is typically a script that grinds to a halt after thirty-odd pages (or a script that is bloated beyond usability).

Both of these outcomes stem from not understanding the story that you’re trying to tell.

So, how do you blaze the trail that will eventually become your screenplay? How do you plan a screenplay effectively? The answer is committing yourself to doing most of the heavy lifting before you write that first scene heading….

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