Writing a screenplay is tough. It’s easy to get discouraged when your screenplay just feels like well, crap. You’ll feel the stress of spending so much time, research and thought into your writing, only to be disappointed in the end because you feel it’s not good enough.
While it takes a bit of experience to write better screenplays, it can be a daunting task. For times when you feel your screenplay is just not up to par and you want to chuck it in the bin, stop. There is a way you can salvage it, no matter how awful you think it could be.
The Key to a Great Screenplay
Truth is, no writer creates a masterpiece on the first go. In fact, masterpieces and amazing screenplays are the product of revisions and rewrites. So to salvage your screenplay and transform it into a gem, you need to get to revising and rewriting. Here are some tips on how you can approach it.
1. Know What Your Strongest Points Are
Take a look at your script with an objective point of view. Identify the parts, scenes, dialogues you feel is the best and elevate the rest of the script to match it. Also be ruthless in killing your darlings and discard all the things that are just “good enough” but you know deep down won’t cut it.
Doing this will help you identify the good points you’ve written and the strengths you have. As long as you take all this strength and improve upon, you should be able to elevate your screenplay.
2. Make Adjustments To Your Characters
Chances are because you created your characters, you’ve likely thought about them, how they act, behave, etc., way before you’ve even written about them. While imagining your characters in every possible way is helpful especially during the ideation phase, it can be detrimental later on.
One way you can improve your script is to ask yourself, what would happen if your lead character changed? How would your story change? What avenues or potential storylines, arcs would that open up? How would it affect the stories of the other main character or the general plot in all?
3. Add Something New to the Mix
Test out by adding new elements to the story. This is a fun and exciting way to add something different to your screenplay. It’s also great for testing your narrative to see if it would stick or would work. You can add new characters, highlight current flaws, add a surprise conflict and see how your characters will handle it.
4. Keep Your Stakes High
Every story requires a good three-act structure. Normally, as your story progresses, you need to keep raising your stakes to make sure it’s engaging enough for your audience. Many new screenwriters amp up the stakes towards the third act, but a good story and movie would benefit from having the stakes amped up throughout the film.
Take a look at your screenplay and ask yourself if it’s dragging at the onset. If it is, figure out a way to add something or introduce a resolution sooner. Figure out how high the stakes need to be and how much higher it could go on after that? Knowing this will give you a new direction to take your screenplay and ultimately improve it.
5. Figure Out a Tone and Voice for Your Screenplay
Sometimes writing a screenplay can make you look at things as an outsider, you’re simply directing characters to go here, go there, say this or say that. And you end up forgetting the tone and voice your screenplay has to communicate so it can reach your audience with ease.
If your screenplay feels lifeless, work out how to add your tone and voice to it. Make it yours instead of simply creating sequences or scenes in your mind’s eye and immerse yourself in it. Above all, have fun with the work you’re doing.
Creating a screenplay is tough, no doubt about that. But you have to understand, like anything, it won’t immediately become a polished gem unless you actually do the polishing. So get to rewriting and take the tips above into consideration. Soon, you’ll have a great screenplay worth reading over and over.