How To Become A Screenwriter
There is one simple solution to learning how to become a screenwriter--write a screenplay. Being a screenwriter isn't about drinking coffee and wearing trendy reading glasses; it is about the compulsion to tell an enthralling story. While there is only one way to become a screenwriter, there are some steps that you can take to help you get there.
To learn how to become a screenwriter, you will need:
- A computer or typewriter
- Screenplay formatting software (not essential, but convenient)
- A great story
- Willpower (in abundance)
- Write, write, and write. When you feel like you never want to write again, write some more. The only way to become a distinguished writer is to practice. All other aspects of screenwriting come second to the actual writing. All other steps are for when you absolutely can't write anymore. (Note: Invest in some sort of screenwriting software. Read reviews and find one that fits your needs. Screenwriting follows a specific formatting structure, and if you want anyone to read your screenplay, follow it. Your screenplay will never make it to the desk of any studio if it is handwritten or unformatted.)
- Study the craft. Screenwriting is a freelance business, so it isn't necessary to be trained, but knowing your craft is the only way to succeed as a screenwriter. Taking a screenwriting class will not only give you the basics, but provide you a chance to practice writing. If you opt not to take a class, pick up a book on screenwriting. There are many titles that will promise to sell your script with little effort for a top-dollar option price; avoid these titles like the plague. Syd Field has written several books on the art of screenwriting and his titles are usually written into the curriculum of screenwriting courses. Reading about screenwriting will help you develop the habits that go into the most successful screenplays like three-act dramatic structure, use of plot points, and how to develop strong characters.
- Don't spend too much time trying to be a screenwriter. It's easy to get wrapped up in the idea that screenwriting is a glorious career filled with glamour, hot coffee and cool clothes. Don't misconstrue the personal habits of writers as part of being a writer. If you want to be a screenwriter, fight through the distractions and come up with a great story. Being a screenwriter comes with writing, not acting.
- Rewrite. "Writing is rewriting." It's been said by everyone and no one and it's one of the sacred commandments of writing. Once you think you have the best screenplay you can write, step away from it for a few days. Come back with a clear mind and tear your script apart. Writing is a journey and once you complete a story and go back to the beginning, you will know all of the shortcuts since you have seen the trail. Re-writing will tighten up the loose ends of the story by using details that come in later, details that you may not have had in the first draft.
- Get a copyright. Before you ever show your screenplay to anyone, get a copyright. If you feel that your script could actually make it to the screen, it is imperative that you get a copyright.
- Shop your screenplay around. Once you have a finalized script that has a copyright, a character breakdown and treatment, shop the script around.
- Rinse and repeat. Congratulations, you have finished a screenplay! Now forget about it and start a new one. Being a screenwriter is different than having a screenplay turned into a film. Don't bask in the glory of finishing one. Instead, focus that positive energy towards another script.
The key to being a screenwriter is writing screenplays. Finding the structure, style and vice of your work may take time, but keep on writing. Chances are that your first script won't make it to Hollywood, but every Oscar-winning writer had to start with a blank page and an idea, just like everyone else.