Screenwriting : Writing your screenplay! by Gavin D Walsh

Gavin D Walsh

Writing your screenplay!

Hey guys, I am just curious about how you guys write yours. Tony Gilroy says that he always writes the dialogue first. How many of you can relate to this? And what is your reason behind it? Do you find this technique easier for some reason? Or... Do any of you guys write all the action first, and then go back to the dialogue? I am interested to learn whether it is common to write in either fashion! Thanks in advance :)

Shawn Speake

I write action first and go back to dialogue… Don't forget about RB's STAGE32 Monthly Webinar TODAY at 1P- PDT. Check your time zone! https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6421921230309722113...

Shawn Speake

You'll learn a lot about S32, and share some laughs with RB along the way! It's a great networking day here. We hope you join us!

Fiona Faith Ross

How interesting you should bring this up now! I am in the process of learning how to write the beats first, and then doing as @Shawn does, and adding the dialogue in later. In hindsight, I think I shall get to first draft much faster by this method.

Shawn Speake

Back to WRITING YOUR SCREENPLAY… I have samples of complete spec script stories posted on my page. If you like what you read, I'd be happy to share more techniques with you.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you :) I will take a look at them, Shawn. I am registered for the webinar. How do I log on to it later? It will be 9pm UK time.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, CJ. Appreciate your input :)

Shawn Speake

Check your EMAIL inbox. You should have an E with the link. It starts in an hour!

Mark Allen

I find myself doing this on my current script. The actions of my ghosts is driven by the dialogue of my human characters and their emotions. Never done it this way before, but it is working for me this time.

Shawn Speake

In my experience, focusing on the action first allows us to show and not tell our story. I try to do as much as I can with action, writing the entire scene without a word - just faces and eyes talking. And go from there…

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Mark. I am going to use one of these techniques for my third draft I think! Shawn. Do you do this scene by scene? Or do you write the whole screenplay action, and then go back to the dialogue?

Gavin D Walsh

I have the link, too :) thanks mate.

Shawn Speake

That's a big 10-4, Gavin! I try to beat out the entire story first. Sometimes I have some cool lines here and there for reference, but that dialogue is always subject to change, and chances are it will.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Shawn. I am going to try this for my third draft :) Oh, just a quickie. I don't have to go on webcam as well do I? Lol.

Shawn Speake

That's RB's department, my man! You're all good!

Gavin D Walsh

Ooof. I was in panic mode for a minute there!! :) Looking forward to this!

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Dan.

John Garrett

I come from writing books. So I write it all in order. During revision I address action first and then worry about all the dialog corrections.

Eoin O'Sullivan

I pick an idea first, something I think will make a good film, something that people will want to see and something a producer will want to invest in.Then I talk it out, bounce the idea off of a few people and test it for weaknesses, where to improve it etc. If it passes that test, I write a logline, then flesh out the story into a paragraph and then a spend about a week working on the outline. After that, it's down to writing the first draft.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, John. And thank you, Eoin. I appreciate your input :)

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Dialogue is usually the last pass in a screenplay rewrite.

Mark Sanderson

I come from the assignment world so we write the script from a solid story treatment that is locked before any pages are written.

Chas Franko Fisher

I do as much prep as I can so that I'm not figuring out where scenes are heading or why they are in the script. Then I dive in and write scenes (action, dialogue, the whole thing) in the order that they appeal to me. When I get stuck, I move on to another scene in the story that I want to write. By the time I've finished a large number of scenes, I usually have figured out what was holding me back in the scenes that I skipped.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Gee, this is such an interesting conversation. I daydream, envisioning scenes, moments, crises, until the plot is pretty much all mapped out in my head. When I start to get clear dialogue, I know it's time to start writing things down (don't want to forget a good dialogue!). When I'm in full-bore writing mode (now it takes me about a month of 5-8 hour days / 4 days per week, to finish a spec)....when I'm in that 'stream' mode, I think I focus scene development around dialogues, and the action and scene description elements flow along with that as back-up, because they're already fully developed from the 'daydream' days that came before. Does that make any sense?

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Wow Sarah... you keep it in your head???... that's amazing! I write everything down and still change it a dozen times in the rewrite. :-))

Vince Jeffers

I'll write a logline, fill in some character profile sheets to get to know my characters, outline my story, think of some good affordable locations, and what is going to happen there, write the first and last scene. Write it, then re-write it, get it table read and re-write it again. I use the location to write the action and dialogue with who needs to be in the scene to move the story in the direction I want it to go. Then when it's completed I re-write the logline and synopsis.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Oooh, Vince. You are so lucky. What I wouldn't give for a 'table read'.

Helen Beacham

Once an idea for a TV script or movie pops into mind, then the wheels in my head don't stop turning until I have the main scenes down on paper. I carry a pen and pad everywhere I go so that I can jot down the scenes as I imagine them. Thereafter I put them all down on a Final Draft blank page and I shuffle them, adding or deleting some as I go along. It's like trying on pieces of puzzle. When they all fit, then I put the meat on the skeleton, meaning dialogues, sluglines and scenic descriptions, after which I go over and over the entire script, skimming here and there. Final touch is the polishing where I shave off some dialogues or scenes or rewrite them. Then comes the proofreading that I can do ten times over and still, some typos manage to slip by, which can really be frustrating. Depending on the nature of the project this process can take me between 4 to 12 weeks but once finished, the concept and its characters become a part of me and they stick to me even if another idea comes to mind.

Scott Kushman

I write a rough outline of the scene rundown and then write the script trying to make sure to ask myself in every character's situation "what would I do next" if I were them. Some times I end up writing the first two scenes then I go back to the outline and make mods. I keep it fluid because in terms of time you don't want to put a lot of time in then wake up the next day realizing a better angle for a character. Sometimes I may even move a scene around later as well or keep a scene floating until it is needed. Then once it's finished I'll write the logline and pitch to sync with the script. I used to work in TV news so I think that's why I'm anti structure and all over the place. I think you kinda really have to "see" your characters and who they are in an emo way and get who they really are and then let the actions and dia-louge come naturally. Almost like your a cop or Journalist where you say ok, if I were him where do I go from here given what I have? I don't like to start with a pitch because then I stereotype each character to a pitch in a corporate sense and then the characters become dull. I think everyone has their own of doing it and not one is right or wrong. Sometimes just getting the motivation to write something you know is hard.

Gavin D Walsh

Wow. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone.. Lots of different takes on how it can be done. I really appreciate all your input. I have an app on my phones for notes. So whenever something pops into my head I'll write it down. I also have actors in mind when I write for my lead characters. Maybe that's a bad idea, but I find it helps with my process. I guess we all need to find that process that works best for us. Does everyone go by a beat sheet? Making sure all major inciting incidents and turning points are in the right place for the length of your script.... And finally act timing. Do you all make sure that your acts, especially your first two, end on the right page for the length of your script? And do you stick by a certain amount of scenes per act?? Sorry for all the questions. I like to learn about other writers, too. :)

Kevin J. Howard

I always start my screenplay with an outline, each scene is about a paragraph long. The outline is usually about 20 pages. From there I just let the dialogue flow! Each paragraph is set up with a scene heading. It's an awesome roadmap for the screenplay.

Scott Kushman

Well I go by story arcs and the outline. I went to Upright Citizen's Brigade for Comedy writing and I was turned off by an imitate need for structure in everything. I'm not bashing the school, but I just think in comedy if it's right it's right organically. The UCB is nationally accredited so they have a lesson plan called the game with beats etc. and the problem is and you see this across TV, is that it becomes this processed food of script writing. So if anyone came in with these really great ideas, they would have to be watered down to fit within "The Game" or standardized structure. But if you ever watched Mad Men for example there's allowance for story to play out as needed, which makes it great. So I'm just anti structure personally, and the reality is that whoever buys your script will most likely water it down and hire other people to form it to what they want. So I think it's important to let the story go where it needs to but also mindful of what budget it would take to produce to keep them from watering it down. Mad Men is good to study because every episode is built around supporting the story. Some beats are important, others are feeder to move story on. Sometimes there's long, long scenes that a major network would never stand behind, then sometimes just 30 second clips. Everything just needs to feel right, not produced.

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks, Kevin. I appreciate your reply.

Kevin J. Howard

Any time, Gavin. It's always so interesting to see a dozen different ways to do the same thing, but it works. That's what makes us so unique. :)

Parameswaran Nair

Gavin, I found the best way is to first write the treatment with all the twists and turns (in a narrative movie) and then expand it to make it into scenes. After that you start to write the script, according to the number of scenes. You can also control the film duration if you decided the the length of each scene. Otherwise a film meant to be 14-minutes long will have a 100-page script. Dialogues are very important to make the film stand out, so finally get that done at the end, because that might require equal number of rewrites.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Anil. :)

Essence Laurel Jones

I write the major scenes I want in the movie and then I write scenes that build up to those scenes. After that I fill in the dialogue and storyline of each character. I do find that the some changes will occur but the story itself will remain the same.

Ace Cheverez

Gosh, it depends. If I have an idea that I'm not going to get to right away, I'll write a very short treatment not to forget. But if it's a story/idea that's dug its teeth in me and I'm going to commit to? I plan as much as I can in my head first (because I'm thinking about it everyday and see it playing out), as well as write notes. As soon as I get a sense of who the characters are and their story, from the very start, I write from beginning to end in Three Act Form, scene description, dialog, scene description, dialog......etc....of course edit or rewrite along the way.....it works for me.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, CJ. Thank you, Ace. Yes bullet points were covered by RB in the great webinar last night. This is something I like to use as well.. I also plan as much as I can in my head while taking notes, Ace. I find this works well, too. I'm always thinking about how the story unfolds or how it can improve. In fact, I struggle to concentrate on anything else.... Thanks, guys :)

Ace Cheverez

Right, Gavin?! My brain is always on too.... And It never fails. If I hit a dead zone or try to figure a part out? Taking a walk or hiking frees my mind and I ALWAYS find the answer....it's crazy.

Vince Jeffers

Sarah, there are several services on the internet that will have your script table read and filmed. It does cost money but it may be worth the investment. I haven't used their services.

Gavin D Walsh

I'm very similar, Ace. If I reach a block, I will leave it for a day or two, and usually it will come to me within this time. Or at least an idea to expand from later on. I also get new ideas for other future scripts all the time.. I have a nice list growing, lol. My mind is on overdrive 24/7. It can be very frustrating at times.

Mike Romoth

I start with a pack of note cards and a binder clip. I jot down ideas when they come and try to arrange them on the notecards into some semblance of order. Once I have a solid idea of the backstory and the general story arc, I begin. Even when I'm writing, I keep the pack of notecards for updates and ideas for future scenes.

Boomer Murrhee

I agree with John. It's truly an individual thing. I first think about the ending, then outline various plot point and go from there. I don't worry much about dialogue until towards the end. As I develop characters, often the dialogue will almost write itself. If I write dialogue too early, I might fall in love with a line and then be faced with changing the whole story just to make it fit. (been there done that!) Thanks for posting.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Gavin: I say God bless Tony and do whatever works for you. I definitely have a process, which is write a one page synopsis for my story idea. And though many disagree, before I begin, I like to have a logline summarizing my film idea. These two things provide me with clear focus for what I’m trying to achieve. I want to give myself enough material to get the script going. A couple of weeks back, I found myself thirty pages short for ideas. I started brainstorming additional scene ideas for about twenty minutes and came up with the missing pieces. This short process really got my creative juices flowing and allowed me to enhance and improve my overall plotline. For my Salinger script, which has placed well in seven film festivals and competitions, I did that for the whole script. I wrote down about 50 ideas for scenes while researching the topic. I didn’t use many of the ideas, because I came up with better ones during the writing process. So for me, I allow myself a lot of room to let ideas and character conversations spring up during the writing process. I try to let my characters lead me to certain things. Therefore, I would never try to write all my dialogue up front. I create those conversations in an organic way.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you all for your replies. It is good to know there are so many variations out there. I usually come up with an idea, and then write the logline. After this I will write the first and last scenes. With my current project my first scene actually becomes my last scene. Then I write bullet points in between to drive the story forward. My story also has several flashbacks, which I hope does not damage it in any way, as they do help with the progress of the overall story. God I'm tired today - after that webinar last night. But it was worth it!!

Ivana Tucak

Usually I develop the plot and the characters first. Then I write the action and the dialogues. I need to meet my characters before I start to tell their story.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Ivana. :)

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Okay, gotta say, CJ is using his script software to the extent it was meant for! I have no idea how to properly use movie magic's 'notes' and 'scene outline' and other bells and whistles. I just write the thing (yeah, and sometimes break out the crayola markers and chart paper to map it out ...or the coloured cue cards...). Now that I've done a few, I remember to try to ensure the inciting incident is on or near page 10, then stick to pages 30, 60, 90 for main movements of the plot/character arc. In the end it often shakes out different, but to have a clear 3 act structure does help when pitching, I know they like to see it. Plus, it's really hard to cut up a story once it's finished, to try to MAKE it fit into a 3 act structure after the fact (yeah, learned that one the hard way...my favourite story is still in pieces on the floor!). It's so cool to see how we experience the creative process so differently, 'eh? Looking into each other's heads this way is sort of surreal. Some phd student would love this thread!

Craig D Griffiths

I normally start with a single scene or idea. I'll flesh it out. If it grows to a story then I write a scene or two. I'll find new ideas and challenges, or discover the story is something different. I then go through and remove dialogue and collapse scenes. I then make sure the stories theme is strong and consistent. I then read each character to make sure they are true to who they are and finally. I'll then do a transition pass. This is my cinematic pass. This is when I can add feel and tone. Before I get told I am not the director, I am conveying what I see. So people can get the context for the words. I don't do treatments or breakdowns because I can't stick to them. I'll find some character dialogue that changes everything, making the treatment out of date.

Cherie Grant

I'm a bit like Craig above. My method is organic to begin with then I start formalising the story with outlines and treatments and then, honestly, dialogue is the last thing I write.

Elisabeth Meier

I agree to Boomer, it's a very personal and individual decision and to CJ because it changes the more you write and to Shawn, because this is how I am doing it at the moment. :) Am I a mixture then?

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, everyone! It is quite fascinating reading all the different methods we use. It makes me want to try them all to see which works best for me. But I'll wait for my next project for that, lol.

Kevin Ryan

Actually I am converting an audio play script to feature so I have the dialogue written first. I think writing only the dialogue has made the comedy better but I'll have to see how it goes.

Erica Benedikty

I like to write the endings first. Even if it's just a rough idea. Then I work out some characters and who they are. Usually I have a basic concept of my main characters when I write the ending. Next it's outline in very rough notes the story that leads to the ending. Kind of like write all the action first as some have said. After this I start the script. Of course I'm no expert at this and this is just the way I like to write my scripts. It would seem that it all has to do with personal style and what works for you to get your story on paper. Now a lot of research I've done suggest writing the logline first. I think I'm going to try this next time as see what happens.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Kevin. Thank you, Erica. I think I'm going to experiment a little on my next, too. :)

Owen Mowatt

One great tip I got for writing thrillers, is to write backwards from the end

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks, Owen. Thanks, Steven. I have just spent a few hours checking if all my beats line up to a 90 page beat sheet. They all seem to be out by a few pages :( Is this something I really need to worry about? It is quite frustrating thinking that I have to cut things out to make it fit! I have never checked against a proper beat sheet before. I see some say that the 'Save the cat' method is flawed. But some also swear by it for a marketable screenplay. My beat sheet is usually just bullet points, but I am starting to worry whether it will be any good without them lining up as is suggested on the beat sheet calculator. Sorry if this makes me seem a little dumb. I really want to make sure I get this right! What is everyone's thoughts on this?

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

A 90 page beat sheet Gavin? That's almost a completed screenplay, me thinks.

Bill Costantini

One of the importances of a Beat Sheet is in understanding that audiences are psychologically conditioned to having things happen by certain time points. They can be consciously aware of this ("like, this movie is soooo slow...when is the ghost going to enter?") and certainly are subconsciously affected by it's successful implimentation, too. I don't think being a few pages off is going to affect things. HOWEVER, comma, I have heard stories about readers in the profession who go to those certain pages to see if things are implemented properly. IF your story is very evocative , relevant and marketable as a movie, and IF it's the type of story that they are looking for, then I don't think a few pages makes a difference. Good luck.

Gavin D Walsh

I mean I have calculated where all the beats should be in a 90 page screenplay using a beat sheet calculator. But when I try and marry all the main beats up with my screenplay, they seem to be a few pages out.

Gavin D Walsh

For example: The Catalyst is revealed on page 14 instead of page 10.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Bill! I appreciate your response.

Bill Costantini

I would personally fix that. In fact, I was in the same boat you were in last week, except mine was on page 13, and I got it to page 10. I had put that script down for a while, and had some fresh eyes and mind when I did that. I feel I was able to condense and edit those first 13 pages without sacrificing necessary elements to get it done successfully. Set that as a goal - "I will condense and edit those first 14 pages without sacrificing necessary elements to get my Catalyst on page 10 successfully." I bet you can do it. Good luck.

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Gavin, first comes the Hook... then comes the Inciting Incident (you call Catalyst) ... if this is your first draft I wouldn't worry too much about the page count... depending on your genre, screenplays these days tend to be shorter... between 90 & 110 pages. i.e. comedies are usually shorter then dramas. Don't let your creativity be restricted by the page count. :-))

Erica Benedikty

Steven - lol Well it does mean I love the Sci-Fi genre! Glad you picked up on that. I just got it recently at a Comic Con for $300. It's my favorite thing right now! Great discussion on Story Beats! I need to go back and check mine now.

Erica Benedikty

Okay, so I just checked the beats in my old story I wrote in 1995. Every beat point lines up to the page. I don't know how I did that. Back then I knew nothing about writing or beats. Now I'm afraid to change the script as it might change the beat points. Sometimes I think that writing back in the day when I didn't have information overload and not worrying about everything was the best of times... Steve, I didn't know about it. I will check it out, thank you for the heads up on that.

Dru Holley

I start with outline and feel that shit in...

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks, Bill. And thanks, Sylvia. I think I was thinking too deep into it there. I am hoping for between 90 and 110 pages for this when complete, which is an Action/Crime/Drama. Can you really set yourself a page target and then stick to it? If so, I now have a target of 110, lol! I am currently coming to the end of my second draft, which is why I was a little worried. But it has changed considerably from the first, with quite a lot of additional scenes. I think I will wait until I have completed this second draft, and then go back and check the beats. I have just managed to edit and condense the beginning as Bill suggested, and now the Catalyst is revealed on page 12. I believe the Catalyst in my story is when my main character has a visit from a Marine NO, informing him that the convoy his son was travelling in was ambushed, and that his son is now missing, and presumably held captive by Al-Qaeda. This is where everything changes for him in the story. I just worry when cutting parts of scenes, or whole scenes. I don't want the story to become too pacey. I really want to do this story the justice it has in my mind!

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks, Dru. :)

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

That sounds terrific... so Act I is the set up...so what's your plot point that drives your story into Act II?

Gavin D Walsh

I won't go into too much detail, but That is where my main character meets with the CGS of the British Army. He initially asks for his help to get back onto the front-line to help save his son and other hostages. My main character is one of the best Royal Marines the UK ever produced. And for everything he ever did for his queen and country, he asks for just one thing back. Matt knows what is possible and what's not. And he knows what certain people of the British army are capable of, too. But the CGS still refuses to help, claiming there is nothing he can do. The Al-Qaeda captors are demanding the release of a recently captured terrorist from a UK prison. But of course, this goes against every policy they have. Matt, wants him released into his custody so he can get close enough to the captors in Kabul. When the CGS refuses to help, Matt then reveals his 'Trump Card'. While serving with the now CDS and CGS in Northern Ireland back in 96, and following an end of tour dinner evening held for the Brigade Commander, where Matt had worked the service for the evening, along with several other soldiers, chefs and clerks. Two highly ranked officers had stashed alcohol to hold their own little party later on that night. When leaving the dinner evening, the highly ranked officers invited two of the females, a chef and a clerk, as well as Matt back to the Lieutenant's room for a drink. But Matt declined. To cut it a little short, one of the females had a bit too much to drink, and ended up leaving the other female alone with the two highly ranked officers.... I think you can guess what came of that? Matt took a little walk later on while having a smoke, and curiosity took him across to the Lieutenant's room, thinking that he would see them having a laugh and a joke together. He passes the female clerk on his way over there. But when he gets there, what he see's has stayed with him ever since. The chef didn't come forward at the time, not only because of their ranks, and the fact it would be her word against theirs. But not long before this, another woman had written in the Army's daily occurrence book that a similar incident had happened to her with a highly ranked officer. And nothing was done about it. But now, after learning that these animals had made it to the top of the British Army, and that Matt needed something to use against them to get onto the front-line, she has decided to come forward to help him. Sorry for waffling on. I thought I'd best give as much detail as possible, without giving too much away. I know this looks messy, lol. So basically this is his 'Trump Card' to help get him back onto the front-line. And of course, their careers are over now. He does make sure of that at the end.. I hope you understood all that? I am very tired so probably don't even make sense.. I apologise!

Andrew Martin Smith

I put two months aside for screen writing every year. Those months are for the express purpose of chunking out a screenplay. Over the rest of the year - I plan out two or three story ideas, working them up to a logline and an outline. I then pitch them and if the response is favorable, I then begin work on a detailed beat sheet - and as I primarily write political thrillers that may entail a fair amount of background research. Once the beat sheet is completed - I go back to my producer and we sit and kick around the story and I take on board any suggestions that are forthcoming. Clipped to the beat sheet is a detailed character profile of all of the lead characters. Then begins the process of writing. As Owen has said of thriller writers - I write the ending first - and the scenes leading up to the ending. I then begin at the beginning and try to chunk out 10 pages day. I may reread and edit in the evening after dinner - but never during the day. The daylight hours are all about moving the first draft on. In the morning I sit hugging my tea - as my bath is running - day dreaming the scenes that have been targeted that day. If a choice bit of dialogue should come my way - it is popped onto a sticky yellow postit that eventually ends up on my monitor. The day dreaming continues in the bath and then after breakfast - I write. I tend to stick closely to the beat sheet - writing both the action and the dialogue simultaneously - which, in truth, tends to write itself. If you should ever ask me to analyze the source of my dialogue - I would have to reply that I don't like to enquire to closely just in case it should dry up. It just flows out of my imagination as I am writing that particular scene. I used to go to bed dreaming the story - but I now try to clear my mind and read or watch a movie that has nothing to do with what I am working on. And then an early bed night. Eight hours. Unfortunately my days of writing late into the night, fueled by coffee and a line are long gone. Four weeks later - the first draft will have been completed and the first edits in place. If there is any art in screenwriting - it will mew in that moment in space and time. After that - I will meet up with the director and the producer, take copious notes and begin the process of taking on board the changes that are being dictated - repeating softly to myself a mantra that was drummed into me 40 years ago. You never get precious over a screenplay.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Andrew. :)

Marc Sigoloff

After I have a storyline in my head I jot down dialogue in note form. Then I start typing away, and I fill in the action details as I am typing. I do not outline anything, nor do I use that beat concept. To me using beats creates an artificial structure, and I would rather my screenplays flow naturally and be more lifelike. I cringe when I see the word beats.

Vince Conside

Hey Gavin... First I write my log-line, then action, dialogue last...But remember, you might be different.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Vincent. Thank you, Marc. But how do you make sure the main story beats are on the correct pages when it is complete? Do you go back and edit to make sure they are?

Marc Sigoloff

I don't use beats. I hate the concept. As I said I want my script to flow naturally, and not adhere to an artificial structure.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

great suggestions here. really like Phillip's

Scott Finnegan

For me outlines and notes just don't work. Trying to do an outline to me feels like I have to cram my ideas into a structured document that I'm just going to end up throwing away. It does not help me organize my thoughts any more than I already have in my head when I'm ready to start writing things down. I open a Final Draft document and just start writing. I write everything - action, dialogue, description - as I go. I start at the beginning of the story and I write it straight through to the end. Now that way does mean a lot of adding subtracting editing and rewriting. And I tend to end up with a lot of versions in my document folder with different dates. But trying to summarize plot out or diagram a script for me just isn't as effective as just sitting down and writing it.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

@Peter: Yes, I need a map for my trip to Storyville. Otherwise, I forget things. It's okay that the route changes along the way.

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks again, guys. I really appreciate all the replies. It certainly gives me plenty of food for thought for the future. I always take lots of notes on my phone or in word, depending on where I am at the time an idea comes to me. My main concern is having all the main beats on the correct pages, for the exact reasons Bill outlined in his post. I want to make sure I stimulate the mind of any producer etc that reads it. The last thing I want is for them to get to a page where they are expecting one of the main beats, and end up throwing it to one side cause it's not there.....

Jenny Masterton

I like the way FURY ROAD was "written" (interview with writer director at http://www.theqandapodcast.com/ ) - pictures first.

Marc Sigoloff

I really think readers are looking for good and compelling stories. I can't imagine they would actually be concerned if a beat doesn't occur at the designated spot. If your screenplay grabs them they probably aren't going to be thinking about those details.. I read an essay from a top screenwriter who completely rejects the beat concept. If your screenplay is not good hitting the supposed right beats won't make any difference. Personally I think something should happen in your screenplay when it actually fits the story, not when it fits everyone else's story.

Vince Jeffers

Gavin, No I wouldn't re-write if things didn't happen on a certain page. I realize the audience has certain expectations or they will be disappointed if they are not met. It is hard to gain an audience and easy to lose them. Create quality content that gets to the audience's logic or emotions, then bring them to where they need/want to be and keep them happy or craving more with good writing decisions.

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks for the advice, guys. And thanks, Jenny. I am going to take a look at that now. I appreciate all this feedback. It has all really helped me a great deal. I think I need to stop worrying so much about certain aspects of my screenplay and concentrate more on telling my story! Much appreciated! :)

Gavin D Walsh

It is a sheet that outlines the correct pages for each turning point and inciting incident. The backbone of a screenplay that helps drive the screenplay on through each of the three acts. Here is an example:- https://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/ Hope I'm allowed to post link like this :o

Gavin D Walsh

Thanks, Sylvester! :) I like your way of thinking, lol.

D.R. Pedraza

I flow with the story that is pouring out of my head, actually...I always have an outline a point a to point b etc, but it all flows out together

Vincent Ivory

Yeah I agree with D.R. Go with the flow you will have to revise later anyway.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, guys. Much appreciated :)

Michael Eddy

I read once a long time ago - that Neil Simon said that he begins with his characters - and he fleshes them out and once he knows who they are - he's ready to write - because the characters will say what they're meant to say and do what they're meant to do. I always thought this was a little crazy - but you can't argue with success. Then again - he is a character driven writer and known more for the stage than the screen. I don't know anyone who would hire Simon to do a Die Hard sequel. For myself - as pertains to this discussion - I don't know how one would go about separating the dialogue from the action as if they were two different entities. It is all of a piece. I start with an idea - characters - plotline. All in my head. Never been concerned with mapping anything out so that Act One ends on page 34 the way certain books instruct you. The story is everything. The flow. Solid characters. A great villain if that's the type of thing you're writing. Dialogue has always come easily for me. The trick there is to make sure you're not being too clever or that you're characters all begin to sound alike. Each must have a distinctive rhythm and POV. Their own "voice". That being said - once that idea has gestated in my head long enough - and is begging to be exorcised onto the page - I start to write. Everything. Location, scene description, action, dialogue - the works. First drafts are good for everything and the kitchen sink. Get it all down on paper. Don't stop for revisions - or you'll never finish. It can ALWAYS get better. Write straight on through to FADE OUT. Stick it in a drawer and let it marinate for 2-3 weeks. Then go back - read it all with a "fresh" eye - read the dialogue aloud to yourself to see how it sounds - and start to rewrite. No matter how clever it seemed at first - if it doesn't advance the plot, if it repeats a beat you've already made, if it doesn't tell you something new about a character - cut. Keep everything that works and nothing that doesn't. Then do it all again. The work becomes less precious - you become more detached and objective. And as a writer friend of mine has said in the past (very successful BTW - in features and as a show runner on various TV series) - "after the 3rd draft - it ain't necessarily getting better. It's just getting different".

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Enjoyed your post Michael.... years ago Neil Simon wrote a play titled The Gingerbread Lady which later became a movie entitled Only When I Laugh, I played the role of Toby in the stage version here in Toronto... I don't know if he also wrote the screenplay... or not. But like all his writings he most definitely flushed out the characters and they were all great characters. And your very successful writer friend is absolutely correct.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Gavin...your movie sounds so awesome! At first it seems to be a vendetta-style political action movie, but then you bring in the feminist element (hurrah!). Brilliant! (and timely!). So, Michael, I have a question wrt the 're-write' process. For me, this is usually just a very meticulous editing (and sometimes slashing) process, basically 'trimming the fat'. I need an outside reader's feed-back to see the real holes (underdeveloped characters, holes in plotline) and then the 're-write' becomes a true re-write: whole scenes slashed, new scenes take their place, even major changes to plot formation. Then it's almost a new screenplay and the 'trim the fat' version of the process happens all over again. My question is: what do YOU mean when you say 'rewrite'. Do you actually do the whole thing again? PS, I totally agree with Michael E: DON'T edit during the first draft....just follow the flow and let your creative genius be itself, from FADE IN to FADE OUT. And screw strictly sticking to page numbers for certain 'plot points'. Let your creative flow dictate the story...it's the divine source of everything we do as creatives....honour that!

Craig D Griffiths

@Sarah Gabrielle Baron I agree with you. I would go further and say page count is the enemy of creativity. If your story has a point to make it should be made when it needs to be made. No doubt people are snickering at my comment. Or about to rage against me saying "it shows I don't know what I am talking about... blah blah blah". What I am about to say is my heart felt belief. "It is impossible to stand out when you spend all your time trying to look like everyone else." This is normally met with "Just write a great story and you'll stand out". It is impossible to write a great story without the freedom to write the beats you want when you want them to occur. Yes, there is a start, middle and end. Yes, the middle is always going to be the interesting bit, hence it being about as big as everything else added together (or even longer). But having to hit a particular beat on page 15 or your story is crap is incorrect. I have just finished a script, it is far from perfect. Not even sure if it is good (I can't objectively measure myself). But the antagonist doesn't appear till page 60 of a 105 page script. I was thinking of putting a scene at the front to introduce him. But it feels wrong and "pushed in" every time I do it. The story is complete and works, so I'll leave it. Plus it is a female driven story. Mum and Daughter action/survival/ sci-fi thing. Love write female characters, they have a greater emotional range (I probably deserve an ass kick for that one). Anyhow, I believe in creativity without constraint. It may increase failure, but the successes are spectacular.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Sarah. That really does mean a lot. I have more than one antagonist in my story as you have probably already noticed, Lol. It is the first set of antagonists that are the properller for my protagonist to reach the main antagonist in the story. So that he can try and save his son.

Fleurette M Van Gulden

Gavin you've given so much today. Your question on screenwriting , brought out approach that varied and worked for the contributors. I dare not give advice, I'm a pup. I'll share my method that I'm using. II play the dialogues in my head and it throws out a scene I didn't intend using. It fits so I edit edit rewrite. Thanks all.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Fleurette. I apprectiate your contribution to the thread. I have been overwhelmed by the response and variations. I hope this thread is able to help many an asiring screenwriter. You have all been amazing!

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Craig, I love your comments. I do outline, tend to think a lot before writing, work on character, and all the other prep. But it's turned into a very organic process where the "beats" seem to come naturally in a story. I haven't sold a script so maybe it's a crap way to do it, but it gives me results and stories I love.

Michael Eddy

Sylvia - yes, Neil Simon indeed adapted Gingerbread Lady into the screenplay for the movie "Only When I Laugh" (with Marsha Mason). I don't think anyone BUT Neil Simon ever adapted any of his plays into movies. I saw him in person once at a Broadway play (that he didn't write). I was star struck. More by him than Billy Crystal - who was also in the audience - but against whom I had played softball in LA. Simon is a terrific writer - who honed his skills on Your Show of Shows writing for Sid Caesar. And picked up the moniker "Doc" as a behind the scenes rewriter of other Broadway shows before he started to crank out his own (starting I believe with "Come Blow Your Horn"). Sarah - when I say "rewrite" it can mean anything from a "page one" overhaul to revisions as you describe to anything short of a "polish" - which is defined by the WGA as "changes to dialogue only" - or anything in between. I've done most of that - but don't recall ever doing a page one on any original I've ever written. usually - before I put pen to paper (yeah - I still write first drafts in longhand in spiral notebooks with a ballpoint pen - then transcribe it onto Final Draft - editing/changing as I go - and then do subsequent rewrites on the computer) - I know the story I want to tell and the characters I want to tell it - so my drafts leave room for some creative inventiveness as I'm writing - but I've never gone so far off track that I felt the need to go back and re-do it from scratch. Once, I had a clever idea for a story - but no ending - and started to write anyway. I would NOT recommend that. Have your beginning and ending. I got 60 pages in - and had nowhere to go. The script went into a drawer until years later - in the middle of writing something else - the ending came to me and I eventually went back and completed it. Also - rewriting for page count can be done surgically. I once wrote an action script. Had a producer who loved every word - and then said - now cut it by 15 pages. I went line by line - cutting a word here and there. A line of dialogue. Bit of scene description. From page one to the end. And without a single major edit or losing any scene - I cut 15 pages. Then - he said now cut 10 more. He had an arbitrary number in mind. I did it again. Never felt as if I lost anything I couldn't live without and didn't change the tone a bit. But it worked. Craig - well said. "Impossible to stand out when you spend all your time trying to look like someone else". That dovetails into write what you know (leaving room for embellishment of course. I once read an action script by a buddy with terrific detailed description of weaponry and stuff and asked him how much time it took him doing research. He said, "None. Made it all up". ) And good point on the middle being the interesting bit. VERY important NOT to forget about that 2nd act. Some can write a great opening and a slam bang finish - but you need that bridge from one to the other. Don't let Act 2 drag. Oftentimes - that's the one that needs the most work/tightening up to keep the forward momentum going from one to three. "Creativity Without Constraint" - words to live by. You make up some tee shirts with that on it and sell them on Stage 32 - and I'm buying. And Patricia - to each his or her own. Find a process that works for you - and stick with it. For me - outlining is a waste of time. For ME. I tend to overwrite the outline or synopsis and figure I might as well just go to a full blown first draft and get it all on paper. But if that's your process - do it. It all comes down to the individual - when you write, how you write (complete silence or with music), longhand or on a computer. Alone at home or in some coffee shop with WiFi. Do your own thing and dance (and write) to your own drum.

Nkosi Guduza

Hi Mr. Walsh, I can safely say I write dialogue first. This dialogue is a culmination of deep investigation. Sometimes I’ll have little sprints of sequences, just to build the overall theme and direction. The dialogue is what should allow congruency with action. You see I write like this to keep me entertained, such and so an audience knows not what they will encounter, and as a writer, I should always be surprised with what goes on page. I want to be continually surprised and impressed and shocked, and in disbelief. Leaving the main themes set and growing around the dialogue. :) p.s. you look like a thoughtful (wondering) guy as by your profile picture… I go aggressively by instinct, and virtue by what life is… chopped up pieces, merging brilliantly. ;) Salute.

Gavin D Walsh

Hi there, Nkosi. Thank you very much for your response to my thread. I am a very thoughtful guy. Although I believe this does bring issues at times, lol. All I do, no matter what I'm doing, is think. I find it very hard to concentrate on things a lot of the time as my mind is constantly ticking over. At the same time I think it can also be a gift. :) But what I'm really hoping is that it aids me along my journey to one day write a screenplay, that will be good enough to be brought to life on the big screen. I also hope to be able to one day bring one of my own screenplays to life myself on the big screen. I have a lot of dreams to work within this industry, and I'm hoping I haven't left it too late in life. I would want nothing more than to be even a small part of something, that would bring pleasure and entertainment to those who see it! :) I think I was born on the wrong side of the pond, lol.

Andrew Martin Smith

Wrong side of the pond Gavin - wash your mouth out with soap. But seriously guys there is a lot more to film making than Hollywood. Out there is a whole world of cinema and it's a damn sight easier to have a film made in Africa or India than in mainstream Hollywood. World cinema is like Hollywood in the 20's - it's a wild west crewed, with often first class technicians and ambitious young directors and producers - and they want good stories. It's a world where screenwriters do not feel that have to walk about with Blake stuffed up their backsides - and where film making is a damn sight more ambitious than the norm in mainstream Hollywood. Take time to explore world cinema and when you do so - note down the names of the directors and producers who catch your eye. Later when you have developed suitable material send them a pitch. Operate out of your comfort zone. You won't make any money - but - if you are any good - you will see your screenplays kicked around and if you are lucky - be part of a team that brings them to fruition. And when you start to actually make films - that's when you will really learn how to develop your art. Only when the characters that you dreamed up strut their stuff on the big screen - do you really begin to understand the dark art of storytelling.

Gavin D Walsh

My apologies, Andrew, lol. I know there is more to the world of film making. It is just something I have always thought. Very little opportunity in Wales while having to work a full time job and do this in my spare time. I really want to do this full time, and eventually start making my own films. I just need to win the Euromillions. Although with my luck, I couldn't win a competition if I were the only person to enter. :)

Michael Eddy

Gavin - good luck with the lottery. That said - cardinal rule: Never put your own money in the movie. That's what the studios are for. And Andrew - agree with you wholeheartedly on world cinema. Just saw a beautiful British film yesterday ("Testament of Youth") and I've seen a few Irish and French films lately that I've enjoyed far more than the recent Hollywood output ("Terminator Genisys" anyone? Save your dough). And as far as that goes - TV is doing far more fascinating projects on a regular basis of late than anything the movies (domestic) have to offer. Showtime and HBO originals. Game of Thrones. the Walking Dead. Justified. The Americans. House of Cards. Orange is the New Black. Transparent. Mr. Robot. Boardwalk Empire. The list is a long one. THAT's ehere the creativity and ground breaking stuff is happening. The movies? They claim to be looking for originality and fresh voices - but all they crank out are sequels and remakes and reboots and movies based on graphic novels/comic books.

Gavin D Walsh

Thank you, Leon! :)

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