How to Write Screenplays - Screenwriting Tips 3

This is Part 3 of the CWN series on how to write screenplays. Click here to go to Part 1 of the series. At the bottom of the page, you'll also find links to related pages on how to write a movie script and information about free screenplay software.

Developing your script

Once you know what you're screenplay's going to be about and what's going to happen, how do you turn all that into an actual script?

In a 1990 New York Times interview, film maker David Lynch talks about regular visits to Bob's Big Boy, where he would drink chocolate shakes and coffee with lots of sugar, and then on his sugar high, he would write his movie ideas on paper napkins. In the same interview, David Lynch recommended the use of index cards as a screenwriting tool, a technique he learned when he studied with the Czech film maker Frank Daniel. "If you want to make a feature film, you get ideas for 70 scenes. Put them on 3-by-5 cards," Lynch explained. "As soon as you have 70, you have a feature film."

In the book How to Write a Selling Screenplay, Christopher Keane recommends going through two steps, The Mini Treatment and The Scene Breakdown, at least twice during the screenplay-writing process. The Mini Treatment involves quickly writing out the movie's story in 3-5 pages, divided into three acts. The Mini Treatment does not go into detail -- it is just a "this happens, and then this happens" summary. Then Christopher Keane gets out the old 3-by-5 index cards to break the story into scenes. Like David Lynch, he uses one card for each scene, and he jots down the main points of the scene in just a few sentences.

Before you start to suspect that I have just invested my life savings in the 3-by-5 index card industry, I will mention that there are a number of writing softwares which reproduce the notecard thing in a virtual form, with added bells and whistles besides. Scrivener and Writer's Blocks are two such softwares which currently both offer free trials so you can have a look and see if they're for you.


Script format

It is important to use standard formatting for your screenplay to show that you're a professional. There are a number of free tools available that can help you do it. Click here to read about different types of free screenwriting software.

How to write screenplays - Next steps

Please click on one of the links below:

Go to Part 1 of the series on how to write a movie script

Learn about types of free screenplay software

See all CWN pages on how to write a screenplay

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