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[Article] Screenwriting Tips – Establish Your Story First!


It takes organization and focus to write a screenplay. Before you begin, however, there’s one thing you should finish before you start the actual script.

If you’re a writer of any sort, then at some point in your life you’ve given serious consideration to the art of screenwriting. Every writer has! Why on earth would a person want to write screenplays? Let’s count the reasons: notoriety, fame, potential fortune, and rubbing elbows with A-list actors. Who wouldn’t want all those perks? Well, before you take up screenwriting as a career, you should realize it’s a tough road to follow. It could be years and years before you earn a single penny from your writing. The vast majority of screenwriters never make any money at their craft – they spend years upon years toiling on stories that will never get developed any further than their own mind. Does screenwriting still interest you? If it does, there’s one rule you should know: finish your story first!

If you’re a beginner screenwriter, I’ll wager you’ve scrutinized every page of information online that explains screenplay structure. Good for you. You’ve probably also considered purchasing screenwriting software. That’s certainly a personal choice, but in my opinion, you don’t need it. Screenwriting software is akin to home gym equipment for people who want to lose weight – having all the equipment in the world doesn’t make a bit of difference if you’re not willing to put in the daily work to accomplish your goals! The same can be said of screenwriting – you need to work every day! So, for the moment, put your credit card back in your wallet and open up your word processor so you can complete your storyline. That’s the first step.

A strong storyline is more important than any actor, director, or funding you can acquire to produce your film. It all begins and ends with the story. If the story sucks, guess what? Your screenplay will suck too, so don’t even bother writing it. Great acting, great direction, or even high-budget special effects can’t do a thing for a terrible storyline. Get the picture? Your storyline is everything!

So how do you craft a great storyline? Discipline! Practice! Editing! There’s no way to get around it. Some people may have an amazing imagination, but a great imagination can’t measure up to an organized approach to writing your screenplay (or any story for that matter). Imagination is great for sparking ideas, but a disciplined writing style will trump it any day.

The simplest way to craft a great story is to start writing. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Get your story down on paper first, in any format. Just type! Try to keep the descriptions to a minimum. Condense your story to 5 pages at the most. At this point, don’t worry about screenplay structure or anything else. Just write the story, from beginning to end, and then take a week or two away from it. Let it sit. Then come back and review your summarized version of your story. You’ll find flaws – fix them! You’ll get ideas for conveying information differently – add them! Get opinions from friends and relatives. They most likely won’t know what they’re talking about, but their input might produce a gem or two of information that you can use.

Once you have a complete story that is 5 pages long, start re-arranging the scenes! If you have three weak scenes strung together, cram them together into one powerful scene with plenty of storyline information for the audience to soak up! Keep editing until your story is perfect. At that point, you have what is called a treatment. Congratulations! You’re almost ready to write your script.

Before you start crafting the screenplay, you need to scrutinize every last detail of your storyline and the scene arrangement. Whatever you have, make it better! Work on it. Hammer away at it for as long as it takes. That treatment must be perfect in every sense before you take a step further!

The final step is to write the screenplay in proper screenplay format. Writing the screenplay should take very minimal time – 10 or 20 hours at most. Good luck!



This article was written by Christopher Ortiz.  For more information about Mr. Ortiz, visit

Proud wife and mom of 2 sons (1 w/DS). Award-winning writer (screenwriter, author, & playwright), producer, & advocate for acceptance through my work.

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