I wrote a blockbuster action adventure screenplay in 60 days. I have no special training and I’m not a professional screenwriter. I did go to film school but many years ago.
For context, that's about the amount of time pro screenwriters get to write their first draft in Hollywood, according to this question on Quora.
How'd I do it?
Here are 10 tips on how I used Wordloops to achieve my goals:
Writing is like working out, but for your brain instead of your body. Showing up is the hardest part. I showed up to Wordloops sessions 3 times a day, for 5 days a week, for 2 months, and averaged about 1-2 scenes written per day. Adding the 50 minute writing sessions to my calendar helped because it legitimized the writing process and made me feel good about scheduling consistent time to focus on my script.
That’s what Dory said to Nemo, right? I generated forward momentum during sessions by rarely rereading or re-writing scenes. I wrote down whatever idea came to me (even the “bad" ones) and fought past any self-doubt (lots!) that could disrupt the flow. I wrote the ending first (thankfully it’s stayed the same). That meant if I ever got stuck, I could work backwards from a later scene. I’d think to myself, “In two scenes from now this magical item has to change possession. I need a scene to show that. What sort of scene could compel my characters to arrive right where they needed to be?
I asked Wordloops member Melissa, who studied screenwriting at Columbia, to be my writing accountability partner. I sent her my first rough draft and we met in Wordloops for an hour to discuss ‘big notes’ for a rewrite. We emailed each other scenes each week and met every Thursday during the Afternoon Words session to workshop.
I brought scenes to almost every Feedback Friday session, as a way to get notes I could choose to use (or throw away!) for revisions. I initially feared that my writing would get ripped apart, but the reality was different. Wordloops writers show a lot of love and support and provided great ideas for how to make the jokes even funnier, the conflict between my characters more compelling. Writers who weren’t familiar with the screenplay format became my audience of listeners, and I learned what confused them about my scenes.
I shared a rejection letter from a film festival in 2018 to a Wordloops member. Their notes were exactly the same as the festival’s, so I felt that if I could address these critiques, I’d be taking baby steps toward improving my story.
Some sessions I had no idea what to write. In the five minutes at the beginning of a Morning Words session, I’d confess to the Wordloops group: “I’m stuck. I need my character to pass a trial like Indiana Jones and am looking for suggestions.” I’d get 2-3 ideas and then I was off to the races.
I think about this like playing a video game. Some players take a direct line from the start to the end of the level, while others zigzag through, exploring a mysterious alleyway on their way to scaling a distant mountain. They’re not sure where they’re going for a while - they may lose sight of the finish line, but in doing so get rewarded for their brave curiosity with a rare item or golden power star. I applied knowledge detours that inspired my writing by supplementing Wordloops sessions with Masterclass videos on dialogue and scene building from Aaron Sorkin and Rhonda Shimes.
While writing, I noticed I often came up with three potential situations for my characters that all seemed, at first glance, equally interesting. How to choose? Time after time the non-obvious, more difficult, and more uncomfortable situation won out. This might be tried and true screenwriting advice (the more difficult the obstacle, the more interesting it is to watch how a character might try to conquer it), but my reasoning for making this choice was not that smart. It just made showing up to writing sessions more fun. Every day I felt an extra oomph if I succeeded in having my characters use their wits to escape my latest and greatest diabolical traps.
Before writing a scene during sessions, I made sure I had answers to some basic questions:
[ ] what character does this scene revolve around?
[ ] what does the character want?
[ ] what does the character need?
[ ] what is the scene’s intent?
[ ] what is the scene’s major obstacle?
[ ] can you add a funny, interesting, or cool twist/reversal?
No matter what, I ended each session at the beginning of the next scene in the script. I learned this tip from Adventures in the Screen Trade :
“I think screenplays should be written with as much speed as possible - and with even more deliberation… I believe somehow, that extra energy translates itself to the page, and from there to the reader.”
After following these steps for 60 days, my story started to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. My speed increased, and I began to see where all the pieces should go. Before I knew it, I found myself writing these words:
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