People I have been speaking to recently seem to be surprised at how quickly I am able to churn out the first draft of a screenplay. This, in turn, seems a little odd to me – I just sit down and write. So, I thought that I would write my tutorial on how to write a screenplay quickly – well, in four days to be precise.
- This is NOT an overly healthy way of spending your time – if you are ill at the time, then don’t attempt.
- The polishing of a screenplay takes much longer, this is only about the first draft.
I always start by ‘blocking’ (not a technical term 😛 ). I look at my schedule, and block out four days. Completely and totally – there can be no distractions. Ideally these days would be four in a row, but they can be spread out over two weekends, if necessary.
Once this is done, I then prepare the list of things I am going to need for the project. For me this is:
- The WILL TO DO IT! This method, and writing long scripts in general is HAAARD, you need to really want it, if you are not quite ready to commit, then this probably isn’t for you (Just Do It!)!
- A well developed idea/treatment – THIS IS ESSENTIAL! This is probably an obvious point, but if you have no idea what you are going to write about, then all you are going to do is load stress onto yourself, so always come into the project well prepared!
- Get your food supplies. 3 meals a day are very important! If you let your health slip when you are putting pressure on to yourself, then you’re at the start of a nasty, slippery slope.
- Get your drinks sorted! Everyone of course has their own drink of choice. For me, I am currently getting really into fruit squash. You are going to need to reward yourself, and a delicious tasting drink will do just that!
- Gather your snacks! Mine is strawberry laces…can’t get enough of the darn things… These will be important to keep you going – while you are not going to be physically tired, you are going to be mentally tired, so plan ahead!
- Get Netflix. ‘Netflix?’, you say… why on earth would you do that? I will explain that later, but choose a TV Program on Netflix (or however you choose to watch TV on your Computer) – make sure the plot/genre/tone is different to that of your screenplay.
- Get plenty of post-it notes.
- Make sure you have -plenty of music to play (or not – I feel it soothes me, others, no doubt, hate it!).
Now we get to the fun part! The start!
I am going to assume that most are going to be using Final Draft (or at least are writing in Courier 12). Given that, from my writing experiences, I can write between 3 and 4 pages per hour – 3 pages for ‘business heavy’ action/description scenes, and 4 for dialogue heavy scenes (when I am not feeling especially inspired, so just normal, standard writing).
So if we consider a full length screenplay to be roughly 100 pages (and more or less, then the method can simply be adapted) that leaves us 25 pages to write per day.
So that means we need to be writing for a minimum of 7 hours a day (four pages an hour, rounded to the next hour) and a maximum of 9 (3 pages an hour). Thus, here is how I structure a ‘normal’ day.
08:00 – Wake up.
08:00-09:00 – Shower, breakfast, read, prepare yourself for the day ahead.
09:00-10:00 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
10:00-10:20 – Watch episode of TV show.
10:20-11:20 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
11:20-11:40 – Watch episode of TV show.
11:40 -12:40 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
12:40-13:00 – Lunch.
13:00 -14:00 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
14:00-14:20 – Watch episode of TV show.
14:20-15:20 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay
15:20 – 15:40 – Watch episode of TV show.
15:40-16:40 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
16:40 – 17:00 – Watch episode of TV show.
17:00-18:00 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
18:00-18:20 – Watch episode of TV show.
18:20-19:20 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
19:20-19:40 – Supper/Dinner/tea/whatever you want to call it!
19:40 – 20:40 – Write 3/4 pages of screenplay.
20:40-21:00 – Watch episode of TV show.
21:00-23:50 – Free-time! Go wild, try and switch off entirely from your work. I normally go for a walk about now, just to stretch my legs and relax.
23:50 – Bed. Sleep.
Phewph! As I said, it is a long day, it is intensive, it is pressurized, but hey, at the end of the day (literally in this case 😛 ) you can look back on your work and really have a great sense of achievement of what you have accomplished!
Some questions I expect to be raised!
- Again, why the TV show? Well, research (and, for most of us, personal experience as well) suggests that after studying/working hard for an hour, our concentration and performance levels tend to dip significantly. So it is important to take a break. Very important. The TV show (just my method, could be anything) takes my mind off my work and allows me to be transported to a different world (I normally choose Futurama for just that reason!).
- Why did you mention post-it notes? Aah! Well, I write with my desk in front of a wall. When I’m writing and I get an idea about my screenplay, I scribble it down and stick it on the wall. Usually in a break, or at the end of the day, I will spend a little time organizing them and often, they will add new light on the direction of my screenplay.
- Is this really necessary? No. Absolutely not. This method is for insane people like me who want to be able to be able to produce drafts of screenplays very, very quickly, and who are prepared to put their sanity on the line. It is probably the furthest thing from necessary.
The last thing to say is that, screenwriting is an art, and it shouldn’t be rushed or disrespected. What I am suggesting here is not rushing, it is just stringing the hours you would spend writing into the space of four days.
So, there you have it – a vague guide on how to write a screenplay in four days. It works for me, will it work for you? Why don’t you give it a go sometime 😛
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, or simply think I’m wrong then please do feel free to ask!
Hope everyone is having a good day!