I am so excited that one of my private students finished his screenplay. It’s a gripping true story based on his experiences in the military.
What does “finished” actually mean? It means that the content and revision work is done. Still, there’s a further series of steps that must be done to “complete” the work for presentation to agents, producers, contests, and fellowships.
The finished script must be checked for format, spelling, grammar, and continuity issues. This is tedious, mechanical work, and the part writers tend to try to skip or skimp on. Keep in mind that a screenplay that’s not presented properly signals to potential buyers that you didn’t care enough to get it right. And who would want to work with a first-time writer who’s sloppy?
The writer was in despair. He’d gone over the script and made many passes, used Grammarly and Spellcheck, but there were still typos and formatting mistakes. To his credit, only one word was misspelled, and that was Spellcheck’s fault. There’s no screenplay formatting program for editing after the fact that I know.
When I received the script, I realized that unless I edited it, it wouldn’t ever get to that polished place.
My fortune cookie that lay on the floor mysteriously next to my cat’s food dish yesterday morning read, ”To be helped, be helpful.” I took this as a sign that I had to roll up my sleeves and help get this baby born!
I spent over five hours getting him to the final showable draft. Once he puts in the changes, I will reread it, and based on my experience, it will take two more rounds to catch everything.
Here is my basic recipe for getting a completed script ready to show:
1. Reread the formatting manual in How To Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks.
2. Reread Strunk and White’s Manual of Style.
3. Print a hard copy.
3. Read the entire script from beginning to end aloud in one sitting and with feeling.
4. Make notes, but resist the temptation to edit.
5. Put in your notes on the script from the end backward.
6. Use grammar and spellcheck.
7. Check for periods, dashes, etc.
8. Make sure that your slug lines are uniform.
9. Read through to make sure that the action matches the slugline. If the character’s in the car, it’s INT. CAR, if they are outside of the car, it’s EXT. CAR, etc.
10. Print another hard copy, and read through it again.
11. Repeat until you can’t find any mistakes (do a final check for periods at the end of sentences.)
Join Our Scripter’s Writing Room
The scripting webinars have been so successful we’ve decided to hold bi-weekly workshops for attendees who want to keep their momentum going. These effective techniques can solve story problems in a flowingly creative way.
We can work on two story problems in each session, so please send me an email in advance containing a one-paragraph summary of the story and your problem.
Having a deadline to present is the ultimate motivator for writers. So join us on Wednesday, February 9, from 7:00-8:30 pm EST to get started.
Other dates for future webinars:
Wednesday, February 16
Wednesday, February 23
Wednesday, March 2
Wednesday, March 9
See you there!
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz