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Screenplay Writing Tips For The Novice Screenwriter
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The very first thing you must have in your head before you get started is a story. It can be about anything, but the concept must be attention getting or emotional, or action-packed. It can be fiction or non-fiction. After you have your story, write it down. Expand on it until it feels like the people in your screenplay are real. If your story is about an actual event or real people or celebrities, copyright must be cleared. For a new screenwriter, perhaps the best thing is to create an entirely fictional story. Get your title if you can. Now you will have your synopsis or small treatment. This is not set in stone and will surely evolve as you get going.
Secondly, pick a genre. This is important to producers and directors. A genre is a story that is mainly drama, or comedy, or Sci-Fi, etc. There are standard combo genres such as Romantic Comedies, known as RomComs. Decide right away what rating your screenplay will be -- G, PG, PG-13 or R. The pool of buyers for your screenplay will be the largest for a PG-13, so a first time screenwriter may choose that one. A genre and rating have to be picked before a writer puts a word onto the computer. You can change scenes as you go along put the general theme and genre cannot be changed, or else you've put yourself through a heck of a lot of work. Look up what the ratings mean and what can be included in a screenplay with a certain rating.
Thirdly, decide on your length. A drama or comedy are usually ninety pages to one hundred pages. A period piece or action/dramas can be up to one hundred and twenty pages. A screenplay by first time screenwriter should be between ninety and one hundred and twenty pages. A rule of thumb for a screenplay is one minute per page (as opposed to play scripts or musicals which are two minutes a page). If produced in Courier New 12 point type, producers can then judge the length of the screenplay, hence ninety pages is ninety minutes and one hundred and twenty pages is one hundred and twenty minutes. And the margins for a screenplay are 1.5 inches on the left and all others 1 inch. There is a very specific format for a screenplay and this is easy to find if you search around for a few minutes on the WWW.
Fourthly, you may find scenes popping into your head at the oddest moments, so keep an easy to use voice recorder handy and use it safely to record notes. It's also a good idea to carry a notebook and pen around or a small computer that you can jot down ideas on.
Lastly, when the bulk of your screenplay is done be sure and register it (you can do it online) at the Writers' Guild of America website. When you have completed it to your satisfaction, write a one page synopsis of the story, topped by a one sentence logline. If you feel that you have a wonderful story but are lacking in some areas of screenwriting such as scene structure etc., there are a lot of writers out there who may be able to help bring your "baby" to life. And after putting your heart and soul into it, you will truly feel like it's your baby.
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