At the beginning, I just read. I read probably 4 text books cover to cover to learn the basics. I also bought an old copy of Final Draft – the industry standard for formatting, as without some sort of software to do it for you, you’d go mad; it’s hugely complicated. The usual cost is however BIG and money is tight, so I bought an old edition for around £30 on EBay, which it turns out gives you the ability to update for far less than the standard price. I haven’t felt the need to as yet, but I may still.
After completing an online screenwriting course and reading much much more, I felt I had a grasp of the basics. In a bid to take the ‘coming up with a new story’ out of the equation, I adapted one of my own novels, just to get the hang of the layout and style.
Now I’ve always been a pantser. Always afraid the process of meticulous plotting would spoil the story for me. But in screenwriting, you pretty much have to. It’s hugely structural. And I can tell you, even when the story was already known to me, this proved to be a massive challenge, one I wanted to run from several times.
I discovered my weaknesses, and they were plentiful! Things I had known and been told over and over again and thought I understood suddenly made sense for the first time.
Finally, to see if I was in the right ball park, I sent a finished draft to a script consultant and got the equivalent of a C+. A ‘not bad, but could do better’. It showed me the flaws I was afraid of but didn’t want to confront, but also, happily that the weakness (structure) I had been working hard on, was now a strength.
So I got to work again.
To be continued!