Writing a screenplay (process)

I took my first stab at a feature screenplay in 2009. It was a comedy that would never work as an actual movie, just too many issues with it. But it had its moments.

This was my process back then:

Come up with an idea, write the first 15 pages, realize that I didn’t know where the thing was going, write an outline to figure that out, then freak out and get insecure and buy three screenwriting books and compile all the rules, ideas, and notes from those books into a big document that I probably titled something like “How to write a screenplay,” then rewriting my outline based on all the ‘rules’ I learned.

This time around, I’m doing it differently. No books. I am taking a class though. I’m still skeptical about how much I’m really getting from this class, but one thing I can say about writing classes in general is that they force you to write on a schedule. I tend to get sidetracked a lot with side projects and so having the weekly deadline of a 1-page treatment, then 5-, 10-, and 20-page treatments has helped me keep things moving.

And instead of worrying so much about ‘rules’ this time around, I’m just trying my best to write a simple and compelling story that doesn’t require a lot of plot engineering.

The process of starting with a 1-page treatment, then fleshing it out more and more every week works. It works in that the story is there and now that I have a full outline, the fun part of writing the scenes will not be fraught with the mechanics of getting from A to B.

I don’t know if it will work in the sense of creating something excellent–that’s sort of hard to judge. I’m in love with the story but who knows if anyone else will be.