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Tips for a newbie?

Printed From: NYC Midnight : Creative Writing & Screenwriting
Forum Name: Screenwriting Bar & Lounge
Forum Description: Discuss NYC Midnight Screenwriting Competitions or Screenwriting in general.
Printed Date: 01 Apr 2020 at 5:18am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 12.03 -

Topic: Tips for a newbie?
Posted By: bartelbysamsa
Subject: Tips for a newbie?
Date Posted: 05 Apr 2019 at 7:44pm
Hullo all you wonderful writers!

Next week's challenge will mark my first plunge into the murky depths of screenwriting, and I'm a lickle bit anxious.

Does anyone have any tips, hints, and/or suggestions for a greenhorn? Pretty please?


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Posted By: Suave
Date Posted: 05 Apr 2019 at 9:04pm
Mine would be, find the program you are going to use, I would recommend "Fade In" free version, and play with it so that you don't have to learn everything at the same time.

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Posted By: thesaura73
Date Posted: 05 Apr 2019 at 10:28pm
I only made it to Round 2 last year (and don't plan on participating this year as to focus on WIPs I've been procrastinating on), but I agree with Suave about using screenwriting software and familiarizing yourself with it before you have to start using it!

I also think hitting the prompts hard worked for me, especially trying to be sure to meet the genre definitions (but don't get too caught up in finding the perfect topic/story or getting mired in research!). And being really aware of what's considered realistic (I think I mainly didn't make it to Round 3 last year because everyone found my premise so unbelievable-- A modern-day couple who had been together for a year but hadn't had sex yet. Dumb! I knew it wasn't for everyone but didn't realize some people would find it so outrageous as to make the whole story suck).

I also really like the guidelines I've saved here. I do an outline along those lines and keep it up on my monitor while writing. I've also saved various genre screenwriting tips here." rel="nofollow -

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Posted By: thesaura73
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2019 at 1:24am
Oops! Here's where my genre tips are saved:" rel="nofollow -

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Posted By: cheezopath
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2019 at 3:28am
1. brevity
2. think in pictures
3. if it can't be shown, don't write it
4. use as much subtext as possible (and as little text)
5. if you have to use exposition make sure it is doing a lot of work - perhaps expressing character at the same time
6. read some screenplays of films you like while you wait to start
7. open 20 tabs about how to format different things

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Posted By: Tim G
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2019 at 8:04am
 Read your dialogue aloud. If it feels too formal, rough it up. Nobody ever says 'They are' or 'it is not'. If it feels too long, hack it down.
And have fun! 

Short Screenplay R3:" rel="nofollow - Love Is In The Air (Romcom)

Posted By: lisafox10800
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2019 at 10:30pm
If you can't see it or hear it, it doesn't belong in the screenplay. Coming over from prose, that's the hardest part. Be brief.

And... just have fun with it. Smile

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Posted By: Random
Date Posted: 06 Apr 2019 at 11:26pm
Originally posted by Tim G Tim G wrote:

 Read your dialogue aloud. If it feels too formal, rough it up. Nobody ever says 'They are' or 'it is not'. If it feels too long, hack it down.
And have fun! 

This.  Better yet, start paying attention to the conversations around you (take notes).  You might be surprised at how rough, and short, most speech is during conversations.

Then remember in story dialog is action, not a conversation.  If the character isn't solving a problem don't bother putting it on the page.

This Sig Intentionally Blank

Posted By: bartelbysamsa
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2019 at 11:13am
Thanks a lot my senseis. That's all really helpful. Cheers!

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Posted By: NilesPerry
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2019 at 12:44pm
Write what you know.
Draw from personal experience and tastes in movies.
It's hard to say, "Don't write in a genre you aren't familiar with," as you'll likely draw a genre you're not familiar with. On that note, you'll have to learn to adapt quickly.
I've been dinged on "plausibility" more times than I can count, so don't create scenes and situations that are wildly unbelievable.
Make use of our wonderful volunteer beta readers. Most of them have been around NYCM long enough to know what they're talking about, so take their feedback and advice to heart.
Avoid scene transitions, like DISSOLVE TO and CUT TO. They take up valuable page space.
Though many will disagree, you can leave FADE IN and FADE OUT off the page, too, and not incur the wrath of the judges. Again, they take up valuable page space.
Write in "active voice," not "passive voice." Your characters are DOING things... not TRYING TO DO things.
If you're running Windows, then the CELTX standalone installer is still out there, and it's free. It also does a decent job of formatting your screenplay, and it doesn't shut down after you've written three screenplays (a Mac version problem). There is no standalone free version for Mac, though.
Stay calm.
Take breaks when needed.
Don't be afraid to say, "This idea sucks," and set it aside to start in on another idea... as long as it's not the very last day and an hour away from deadline.
SHOW it, don't SAY it.
Tell a COMPLETE story.
Create REAL people on your pages (modeling characters after people you know is allowable, as long as you don't insult any of your friends in doing so).
Proofread, proofread, PROOFREAD!
Have fun.
Best of luck.

Posted By: Snarkmaiden
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2019 at 3:42pm
It's probably a bit close to the comp for this to be useful, but one of the popular screenwriting books eg David Trottier's "The Screenwriter's Bible" will be a lifesaver when you don't know how a certain thing should be formatted. It hasn't left my desk since I started writing screenplays and it's very dogeared already.

SSC Ch1:" rel="nofollow - Standerd Poodell (crime caper)

Posted By: Sapphire Within
Date Posted: 07 Apr 2019 at 4:59pm
Hello bartelbysamsa,

Thanks for the Post.  This Screenwriting Challenge will be my first as well.  Mostly wanting the experience, see how it goes and wonder if it will help me in my other writing.  It is nice to know I am not the only new one in this challenge.  

And thanks to everyone who responded with helpful information.

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Posted By: northernwriter
Date Posted: 08 Apr 2019 at 2:01am
My incredible beta readers help me every time. Get feedback early and often!

Short Screenplay R1" rel="nofollow - Little Miss 4th of July
Short Story R1" rel="nofollow - The Anti-Wedding Planner

Posted By: Suave
Date Posted: 08 Apr 2019 at 3:28am
I can never get started on the writing part till two or three days before deadline, just cooking up the idea, then it is a dash for the finish.

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Posted By: beckyrcollins
Date Posted: 08 Apr 2019 at 4:46am
Something I'm still working on: don't just concentrate on the formatting/ structure/ the technical stuff. 

At the end of the day, it's about the story. If it's good, the judges will look past technical 'faults' with minimal penalty. If the story's lacking, you'll get my most common piece of feedback: "This author has a good understanding of film writing, BUT..."

So echoing what's already been said... Have fun! Write a film you want to watch!! 

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Posted By: JeffreyHowe
Date Posted: 08 Apr 2019 at 11:54am
Think of screenplay format as a form of rhetoric, not just an obstacle to be overcome. Smile 
Create brief, distinct, visual moments.

Be aware that most screenplays you see online are production/shooting scripts by people with established track records in the industry, as opposed to spec scripts by people trying to break in. They can get away with things we can't. But read them anyway. Big smile

If your script makes perfect sense from the dialogue alone, it's not a screenplay, it's a script for a radio play/podcast series. Which is cool! Cool But not what we're doing here. 

R1 Tramps
R2" rel="nofollow - Memories and Eggplant
R3" rel="nofollow - Babi Cuts Loose

Posted By: Rainbowsockmonkey
Date Posted: 12 Apr 2019 at 11:16am
Thanks for starting this topic: it's my first time, too, so I'm bracing (and equipping) for a wild challenge. I got the screenwriting book that cheezopath recommended in his interview, and it's very helpful. Thanks cheezopath and everyone else for the great tips! Big smile

Posted By: bartelbysamsa
Date Posted: 12 Apr 2019 at 6:22pm
Thanks again to everyone for all your tips, and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one trying this out for the first time!

Good luck to you all, and may the prompt-gods be kind!

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Posted By: KevinC
Date Posted: 12 Apr 2019 at 8:40pm
This is great. Some great advice here. I'm freaking out a bit going in. I've never written a screenplay. I've had 13 plays produced ... But totally different can of worms. I keep fearing that's where I'll blow it. I have to erase what I know. I've been reading screenplays for a while now. We'll see. Thanks for all the tips!  

Posted By: NilesPerry
Date Posted: 12 Apr 2019 at 10:33pm
Originally posted by KevinC KevinC wrote:

This is great. Some great advice here. I'm freaking out a bit going in. I've never written a screenplay. I've had 13 plays produced ... But totally different can of worms. I keep fearing that's where I'll blow it. I have to erase what I know. I've been reading screenplays for a while now. We'll see. Thanks for all the tips!  
As has been stated several times, take advantage of the services of the beta readers early-on in the process. They will, of course, focus on your storytelling first, but they will also help you fix any glaring format errors they spot in your script. Keep an eye open for a thread that has the Master Spreadsheet (the list of people volunteering time to beta read and how to contact them). All you do is find out if they have room for you first (contact and book early!), as they do tend to be popular and book up open slots fast, then send them a PDF copy of your early draft(s) as soon as they're ready top be read. In a usually short turnaround time, they'll reply back with notes and thoughts, etc. You're free to take their advice to heart, disagree with them, whatever. However, the important thing to keep in mind... if they walked away from reading your work and were left with questions, then others reading the same may have the same questions... and that usually means your story isn't "there" yet. One thing that's really super about all of them is they don't mince words. They will be honest and up-front with their feedback, which you may not always like to hear, but they won't put up false smiles and say, "Gee, that was really great! Good luck." Having been privileged to beta read for some of this forum's best writers, I think this is the strongest advice I can give you. I think many of my fellow writers here will agree with everything I just said. But also keep in mind... the beta readers are also writing their own competition entries and have to devote time to their own work. If you're too demanding too many times, they won't want to read for you in the future. Best of luck to you and all the newcomers this weekend. Write some great screenplays, and just plain have some great fun!

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