Own The Writing Process

Own your story 3Take ownership of your story

 One of the most important issues that an aspirant writer has to come to terms with, and fully master, is the difference between the writing process and the film process.

Take Ownership Of Your Story And Sign Up For The Write Journey

So often writers who write for the visual medium have no desire or interest to find out what happens in the world of film and film making, television or DVD.

What it all boils down to is this: the writer writes the screenplay and the director writes the film.

The script or screenplay is a master plan for the film. It is never in itself a finished work of art like a novel or a short story.

An architect has his plans; a director has a screenplay which is his blueprint for the final film.

Film is a financially based art form.

Many factors govern the development of a screenplay from the birth of an idea to the final shooting screenplay.

It might begin as a gleam in the eye of a director; it might be written by a freelance writer as pure speculation; it could be an original screenplay; often it is an adaptation of a novel. Some screenplays are written with a particular actor in mind.

Once it has been accepted, a screenplay undergoes many changes, some minor, and some radical.

There are always compromises as film is a collaborative art form.

I think you’ve got to be schizophrenic. At one point you’re more or less the creator, and then you’re part of a group of people who are trying to bring something to life.  Robert Towne, screenwriter


You’ve got this strange art form that can’t come to life without a tremendous number of people helping you. If you are a writer you are either drawn to this kind of collaborative work, or you are not. Every time the director, or actors, or designers do something you’re not thrilled with, there’s probably one or two other times they make you look better than you really are. Everyone makes everyone else look better, which is what true collaboration is. Ted Tally, screenwriter

Screenwriters often notice a glaze coming into the eyes of the director and producer when the screenplay is finished, and you get the subtle feeling that they would not weep if a truck hit you. Sometimes it gets to be an antagonistic relationship. I think you have to understand that people feel threatened by the writer. It’s very curious, he knows something they don’t. He knows how to write. That’s a subtle, disturbing quality he has. Some filmmakers resent the writer in the same way that a comedian might resent the fact that he isn’t funny without twelve guys writing the jokes. The director knows that someone else wrote the screenplay he is carrying around on the set everyday.  Ernest Lehman, screenwriter

The Writing Process

Although the writing process seems simple and straightforward, most novice writers tend to take a step in the wrong direction by shortcutting, outsmarting or over-complicating the natural, instinctive process of communicating their story and making their voice as a writer heard.

If you shortcut the process and rush straight to the screenplay from the outline, your first draft is not a screenplay; it’s a surrogate treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at the course of action you will follow to write the first draft of your story, from inspiration to screened film, produced stageplay or televised television series.

Find an idea

The process begins with the writer who wants to write. You have an IDEA – this is your intention as a writer, there is something you want to write about, a story you need to tell, magic you need to spin. The IDEA is only an idea and nothing more; sometimes the spark of a great idea is only wishful thinking and evaporates the moment an even greater idea sparks up.

Do research

Feed your talent. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Do research. Gather your material any way you can. The hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. The only way to write is writing. All the time. Write it down. When ideas, description, dialogue, or character information comes to mind, write it down, immediately. By doing research, you acquire information. You must take time and effort to acquire knowledge. The information you collect will allow you to operate from the position of choice and responsibility.

 Explore your genre

You have to be familiar with other films that relate to, or are similar to, the screenplay you want to write. Each genre imposes certain conventions on the screenplay. The choice of genre sharply determines and limits what’s possible within a story.

Define your premise

Once you are clear about what you want to write about, you have to start developing your idea and explore the Premise. A screenplay is a blueprint, an element in the deal, a sales tool. What gets a screenplay through the gauntlet?  A Great Premise.  A premise is your central idea, what the screenplay is about.

 Define your concept

Having a premise is not enough. You don’t have enough information. You’ve got to dramatise it. What is your story about? Define it. Articulate it. If you don’t know, who does? You will define the premise or concept; your concept will either be a Low Concept (a character driven narrative), or High Concept (an event driven narrative).

Develop the story

Once the Premise and Concept are clearly defined and researched, you have to develop the idea into a story. When you start exploring your story (the what that happens), you will start looking at the theme (the why the what happens), the characters (the who the what is about), and the action or plot (how the what happens).

Explore your theme

What are you trying to say by writing your story? What is your point of view? The theme is the glue that holds your story together and resonates throughout the telling of your story. Theme leaves the reader and audience with an understanding of why the problem and the actions of the characters are relevant. Theme empowers the writer to make a conscious connection with what the story wants to communicate and opens up the story’s inner value system (INTERNAL CONTENT). THEME = MOTIF.

Explore your characters

All memorable and successful stories have one thing in common. They all have memorable characters that have become part of our culture. Character is the essential foundation of story. It is the heart, soul and nervous system of your story. Before you put a word to paper, you must know character. The actions of the characters escalate around the conflict and shape the STRUCTURE.

 Plot Your Story

The plot is how the what happens. It is the parts that make up the whole (story). It is the writer’s choice of events and their design in time.  The plot reveals what the problem is and where the action takes place.

 Structure the story

When you are starting to build your story (the whole) you have to make coherent sense of the parts (scenes, sequences) and all the disorganised information you have gathered through research and exploration (characters, setting).  In order for you to make sense of story and grasp the complexity of the whole, you will structure your story and design an exciting plot that will transport audiences and your characters on a fantastic journey. The function of structure is to have story logic.

Write a Story Outline (treatment)

Once you have made sense of the whole it is important to deconstruct your story and explore the interior world and uncover your story events (scenes and sequences), the parts that make up the whole.

Write a Top Sheet

Now that you are clear what and who you are writing about, and have a definite story in place, it will be a good idea to write a Top Sheet that features your concept, theme, synopsis, character descriptions, your own biography, the business statement (business plan), and relevant historical background.  The Top Sheet can be given to prospective investors, producers and publishers, who might want to invest in the potential script and even commission the writing if they are hooked on the story.

Do a card outline

Once you have written your story outline it is time to deconstruct the whole. This is done by doing a card outline, using an index card for each story event (scene or sequence) to explore the interior world of the event. This can be seen as the first rough draft of your script.

Writing Your First Draft

You will start writing the fist draft; a first draft is not the end, but marks the real beginning of the writing process. You have to convert treatment description to full scene description and add dialogue. This is where you put it all down. There are six steps in writing the First Draft.

The spec script

When Draft X is handed over to a studio, or sent out to be sold it is known as a spec script; if the spec script is sent out by the writer without the involvement of an agency, it is known as an unsolicited spec script. If the script is sent via an agent, it carries the guarantee that it has gone through some form of evaluation and script editing.

 The marketplace

You have to sell your screenplay and yourself. The market is a living, breathing entity that reflects the time and economic conditions of the industry and the country.  You have to have a clear understanding of the marketplace. The first step in understanding the marketplace is knowing that there are different markets that will be ideal for particular products, and specific markets that will be wrong for products that fall outside the audience that will be interested in the product.

You are now ready to leave the writing zone and step into the zone of turning words into action: The Film Process.

The Process Of Writing Your Story Is Fully Explored In The Write Journey Course

The ABC of Copyright

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