The Road to Becoming a Professional Screenwriter and Screen
Plays Online Class Provides Expert Advice by James Bonnet
Oh how that silver screen beckons! The “great American screenplay” has in many ways replaced “the
great American novel” as the literary status symbol. How did this happen?
The same way most things happen. Money. And lots of it. Essentially, screenwriting payouts for first time
works has grown to the point that it far exceeds the payouts for all but the most exceptional first time
novel. Thus, in many ways screenwriting is now the choice artistic expression for young aspiring writers
(and us old ones too!). This article is designed to help you realize your screenwriting goals.
Many debate that writing is something that can be taught. The truth is that there is much that can be learned
in life if we use habit and persistence to help us along the road. The best analogy for writing is to remember
back to when and how we learned how to speak. All of us did so through a process of mimicry. Just like parrots
we learned how to speak by first copying our parents and other adults and then before long we found that
we too were able to form our own words and sentences. Of course the process took time and it required a great
deal of information processing. Writing is no different. For the man or woman who wants to write, it would
be wise to study the process by which you originally acquired language to begin with.
So given that writing can be taught, we can also assume writing in screenplay form can be taught. Given those
two what else is there? Plenty. What can’t be taught is rather hard to define but I will try.
You can’t teach passion and pain. You can’t teach sensitivity to what makes life important – or even to what
makes life worthless. You can’t teach inquisitiveness and a desire to understand and to know and to ask questions
and to imagine answers. You can’t teach someone to cry when their heart is touched deeply and you can’t teach
someone to know love as more than a word. But is writing all of this? Yes, it is this and more.
Writing has a dark side too. What about death and betrayal and incest and what it feels like to lose hope,
meaning and everything you love? What does it mean to be in a dark tunnel without a light to see with no
hope for a change? Writers try to communicate all these things. More than anything writing takes a strong
desire to experience life and not shy away from the things that make you cry for better or for worse.
Many will say writers hide from life but this is far from the truth. The true writer finds life so overwhelming
that he or she can’t help but record everything seen and experienced. For what reason? Perhaps for no reason.
Perhaps for nothing at all. That is what it means to be a writer and none of that can be taught.
The Ten Laws of Becoming a Writer
- One bite at a time. Writing is a process of small, incremental steps and the
key to learning how is to analyze and understand the underlying steps.
- Habit is one of the first keys to success. By simply practicing day in and
day out you will improve regardless of your beginning level of talent and experience.
- Tracking is another key facet of learning that must be utilized in order to
become a better writer. It is not enough to simply write. You must also begin to track your results and
analyze your output in order to gain skill.
- Volume. One law rules all – the more words you write the better you will become.
If you simply write day in and day out you will gain skill. Nothing else can replace this. Writing is
the only thing that can improve writing.
- Modeling is the process by which you analyze and understand the writing of
others and in so doing learn how to craft your own. As you gain skill in doing this you will eventually
be able to follow the process without a model and becoming a master of the process yourself.
- Risk is another important element of success. Risk implies that you give free
reign to your unconscious at times and let it assume the drivers seat. You have to learn to trust the
fact that your intuitive side has already learned things that consciously you may not understand.
- Excitement. One of the biggest keys is to have enthusiasm and excitement about
what you are writing. Without this necessary element, most of your writing will fall flat despite talent,
skill and work ethic. Learn what excites you and then pursue writing about that subject and you are sure
to find success.
- Reading is just as important as writing. If you are to become a writer then
you must read just as often as you write and it should be of the same type of material, which you decide
to write. You will learn things regardless of whether you intend to or not. Simply making the material
available to your mind will result in benefits and understanding beyond the scope of your conscious mind.
- Fun. More than anything else you have to learn how to have fun with this despite
any outward objectives or goals. If you can do this then you will succeed despite other obstacles.
- Completion. The last key is to simply complete things. There is something to
be said for completing something even if it is below your objective level of talent and professionalism.
By completing you finish the process and build the habit of finishing things up and moving on to something
else, which is the key element in making a professional living as a writer.
By Roger Zeitman
Learn how script writer, James Lamberg has written (and ghost-written) over fifty screenplays in the last ten years which have been produced both in the United States and the UK.
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