How to Write a Screenplay: 8 Steps to Turn Your Idea into a Finished Script

You have just watched the most amazing movie. Or maybe the worst you’ve ever seen. Either way, you feel inspired. Great! The only problem: You aren’t totally sure how to go about writing a screenplay. Don’t worry. These eight steps will help you stride confidently through the entire writing process, from initial spark to final product. Paired with WriterDuet, the ultimate writing software, you won’t ever feel lost again!

  1. Have an idea. Before you begin writing a script, you need to have an idea. Take time to brainstorm several ideas that tell a story, preferably one that you are itching to tell. Look for inspiration in your everyday life, politics, and other creative works. 
  2. Flesh out your idea.Is there a specific message that you want the audience to take away from your story? Think about who your characters are, where they live, and what their relationships are with each other. Conduct research about specific characters, settings, and any historical context. Further develop your ideas by outlining every scene, which will allow you to visualize your story. With our tool, Outliner & Scratchpad (located in the Tools menu), you can easily outline your story, rearrange scenes, and develop characters.

  3. Understand the anatomy of a script. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, knowing the format of a script before you start writing is essential. Scripts are comprised of scene headings, action lines, character lines, parentheticals, dialogue, transitions, and shots. By using WriterDuet, you won’t have to worry about manually formatting your script. Sign up for free to access our formatting guide, which can be found under Help > Script Examples > Formatting Guide.
  4. Write and don’t look back…at least for now.Now that you have a well-thought-out idea and a solid outline, all you need to do is write your story! This can sometimes be the hardest part. Writer’s block is no joke. To prevent procrastination and to overcome writer’s block, just write. Write and don’t look back, until you’re completely finished. The first draft is not going to be your last, so write what you can, and edit later. 
  5. Take a vacation. Or maybe even several. Congrats, you’ve finished a script! Now take a vacation and celebrate. No seriously, taking a break will allow your mind to rest, igniting new ideas. After writing your first draft, don’t look at your script for at least two weeks. Don’t even think about looking at it! When the two weeks are up, take a look at your script. You’ll be surprised how some lines, the ones you thought were of absolute genius, don’t make sense. Taking breaks is really important, but don’t take too many, or you may find yourself on a permanent vacation. 
  6. Know that writing is revising.If writers stopped after the first draft, your favorite movies never would have made it to theaters. After your first draft, go through your script, and make thorough and necessary revisions. If you filter to a single character’s dialogue, is their voice consistent and distinct? Do the actions they take make sense in the world they live in? Use script statistics to view the balance of screen time and action dialogue. Is it what you expect? Utilize the Graveyard (Drafts > Graveyard) to save ideas that you might use later on. Make a third, fourth, and fifth draft. Changes are always being made, so as a writer, be flexible. 
  7. Share your script.Acknowledge feedback, even if you don’t end up implementing what others suggest. You’re writing a story that you presumably would like people to read, and eventually maybe watch on the silver screen. Ask for feedback, both positive and negative. And don’t just ask your friends; consult total strangers. It sounds scary, but some of the best feedback you will receive can come from complete strangers. And who knows, those same people might end up in the theater with a bucket of salty popcorn ready to watch the movie that YOU wrote. 
  8. Apply the finishing touches. You’ve revised your script several times, and may have taken too many breaks, but you have a well-written script in your hands. Go through once more and edit it. Make sure that you use proper punctuation and grammar. Do an automatic check for any common script formatting issues. Present progressive is not a common verb tense in screenplays, so be sure to scan for that as well!

And there you go! You’re now ready to start writing your story. And when you go into production, whether it is slated for the big screen or filmed for fun, you can utilize the Production menu as you rewrite your script some more. Now get back to writing!

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