Script Coverage Chronicles – December 2016: Ten Easy Things You Can Do To Improve Your Screenplay

You’ve been working for months on your latest script, and it’s almost ready to market. Frankly, you’re just about out of steam.  Of course you are.  Screenwriting is hard work – at least if you’re trying to do it well.  But it’s not all so damn laborious.  Here are ten easy-peasy things you can do that each have a high probability of improving your masterpiece:

1.    Scan through your script and pick the weakest/least necessary scene and cut that out.  It’s not hard, just highlight it and press delete.  All of your scenes are equally powerful you say?  Funny, I’ve never found that to be the case in any script I’ve read (professional or amateur, produced or unproduced).  Well, in any event, what you are certain of is that all of your scenes are absolutely necessary for the story to make sense.  My reply to that assertion is the same: I’ve never seen it, and I’ve read a whole lot of drafts.

2.    Along the same lines, go through your first page and find a few words you don’t need.  Cut those out.  Again, this is easy, and unless you’re the most merciless self-editor ever to attempt a screenplay, there are at least several page-one words you don’t need at all.

3.    Scan through your script and cut ten lines of action. 

4.    As you’re doing this, find three lines of dialogue to remove.

5.    And while you’re at it, think about all the humorous moments in your story.  Be honest with yourself about which is the weakest and trim that clunker out.  (By now you may be seeing a pattern to this list. It’s all deletion, which is what makes each of these tasks so eminently manageable.)

6.    Think about your characters.  Is there a minor character you don’t need at all?  Simply delete that character’s action and dialogue. If you do actually NEED any of that action and dialogue for your story to make sense, take one of your more prominent characters and allow this other character to serve in that capacity.  A substitution like this almost always works.  And with almost no effort you’ve just lowered the budget of your movie and improved its sense of efficiency and coherence.

7.    Do you have a bunch of slug lines that are going across the entire page?  Do they really need to be that long?  I bet you can cut them back.  It makes the page look leaner and cleaner.

8.    Is any character telling any other character something we’ve already seen or heard?  If so, out it goes.  A line like this is by definition something you don’t need.

9.     Are any characters saying goodbye at the end of a scene?  Unless it’s an intentionally emotional parting of ways, you can probably do without it.

10.  [I had a tenth thought, but it really wasn’t necessary, so I took it out.]

There you go.  While your life as a whole – like so many – may be difficult, this part of it at least should be painless.