5 Tips on How to Finish a Screenplay in Quarantine

You're stuck inside until there's a vaccine. Why not write a screenplay? 

While we're all inside or outside wandering around wearing our masks, I think it's time to buckle down and write that screenplay you've always wanted to chase. Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned vet, I wrote a book that will have you well on your way to getting your masterpiece out onto the page. 

But this post isn't just about the book, it's about the 5 tips I have to get you to that writing stage. 

So, check out my video below, and let's talk after the jump. 

Video is no longer available: youtu.be/NIath1FCRAc 

One of my pet peeves is when I visit home for the holidays and everyone tries to corner me to tell me their great movie and TV ideas. They are usually bad or impossible or just weird, but I secretly do love hearing them because every once in a while they'll knock something loose in my own head and set me off on that fun and dangerous path of writing. 

5 Tips on How to Finish a Screenplay in Quarantine 

Plenty of great screenplays start out but never finish. They just die after 30 pages and exist as PDFs deep in the annuls of the cloud. But not your screenplay. You're going to finish it because you have all the tools in front of you. 

Let's go through 5 steps to building a screenplay idea you can finish. 

Step One: Logline 

A logline is a one-sentence summary of the story put forward in your movie screenplay or television pilot. Yup, that's all that it is. But a whole bunch of work goes into creating a one, so let's go over some logline formulas to help you get your idea out on paper. 

It's the jumping-off point that helps you build excitement for the idea in yourself and in others. 

Step Two: Beat Sheet

What's a beat sheet? A list of emotional moments in a feature film screenplay that helps a writer outline their story. 

Your screenplay is built up of individual story beats that create emotional reactions in the reader and viewer. These beats are based on classic screenplay structure. They help guide the character arcs, story structure, and even your elevator pitch. So where do the beats come from?

They're the things that happen in your story. 

Step Three: Outline 

A screenplay outline helps you organize your thoughts and the beats of the story. It's a way to also entice yourself and the reader of the outline. When I think about screenplays, I think about all the beats you hit to take your audience from the opening scene to the closing credits. 

It takes the pressure off of page goals and formulaic outlines. Just tell me a great story!

Step Four: Write the Screenplay

There are plenty of cures for writer's block out there, but I am guessing you're just dealing with imposter syndrome or the fake feeling that you don't deserve to succeed or belong. 

That's all horse shit. 

It's time to get writing. So, print out the outline and beat sheet and open your screenwriting software. Get writing! 

Step Five: Get our free screenwriting eBook

So much of what we're talking about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps guide you through a 10-week writing plan that will get your script actually finished.     

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1 Comment

Or you could just make art and not rely on cliche formulas.

July 23, 2020 at 10:05AM, Edited July 23, 10:05AM

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Especially beginner screenwriters it is useful to use the classic beat sheet, save the cat structure, without it, most people see a blinking cursor and feel overwhelmed that they need to write 90+ pages with zero direction.

I'm on my third feature screenplay (after several dozen shorts) eventually structure becomes ingrained and you can break the rules but it's always best to start with the formulas that work.

July 23, 2020 at 12:46PM

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Joshua Mangrum
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