Student Resources, Writing Advice

Editing From the Bottom Up

One of the most important pieces of writing advice I heard from a fellow student at Full Sail: Edit from the bottom up. 

This means scrolling down to the bottom of the document and reading it, essentially, backwards, looking for grammar mistakes along the way. 

We all think that our scripts and prose just flow from our brains with perfect clarity, but that isn’t always true. When reading through a piece of writing in the usual way our brains can fill in what might be missing, because we know what the words are supposed to say, even if they don’t actually say them. 

When we read these sentences out of order, we can’t get lost in the genius of our own writing. We’re able to see when things may be unclear, missing important pieces of information, or sections that aren’t properly formatted.

Taking the time to go through your work like this requires you to actually do your work in advance though. So, perhaps consider not putting your assignments off until 11:01 pm on Saturday?

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Life, Student Resources

Graduation: The End is Nigh

This is a sad blog post to write, but my time as a student at Full Sail is coming to an end. In a month I’ll be walking across the stage. So I must begin a project that I have been meaning to put into motion for a while…

I have said month after month that I was going to put down on my blog the resources, knowledge and advice that I have to repeat every month to the class I help tutor, Writing Workshop I: Film. So, in my last weeks and beyond, I’m going to be writing blog posts about my experiences and what I’ve learned, so that I can continue to help my fellow students, even after I’m gone. 

I am going to be grouping all of these posts under the Student Resources category, so they will all be in one place. If you have any specific questions, or have a specific topic related to a class, you can send me a message through the contact page. 

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Screenwriting, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Resources

Prepare Thyself: Plotting to Dominate the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge

Zero Draft Thirty is a fun, rewarding experience… until it isn’t.

The easiest way to ensure that your ZD30 is a success is to plot everything out in advance. When you’re writing a large chunk of text over a long period, the burnout comes swift and it comes hard. Don’t try and make it more difficult on yourself by going in without a plan.

Pantsing vs Plotting

In the great debate of “flying by the seat of your pants” versus “plotting it all out in advance,” I am what is known as a reformed pantser. I believed wholeheartedly in going with the flow and letting the characters tell me what to do.

NO MORE!

When it comes down to it, you need to plan out longer work. When I was writing my feature The Patron Saint of Spies, the first draft was done intuitively. I let the story flow through me and went with my gut. I only worked when the Muse was talking, and it took me forever. When I finished, I read through the draft, and I did not like what I saw.

Knowing that, I plotted out my next script (a ridiculous chase movie called Certified Public Accountant) pretty extensively. Even though it was a silly thing designed to boost my confidence, I was amazed at how much faster my second script went to my first. I was able to put out a seventy page draft in a matter of weeks instead of months, and the plot problems I had with Patron Saint just weren’t there.

So learn from my mistakes! Plot out your script before you start writing. When you have a map to go by, you’re much less likely to get lost.

How to Plot

I’m not going to tell you that my way is the only way. Every writer has a way of plotting out story that works best for them.

Some people like being more free. You could keep a notebook and jot down ideas, connecting them in a mind map. You could storyboard major set pieces. You could also put together a loose narrative story. You could also go the tried and true route of putting each scene on an index card and carrying them with you.

Some people work best with a more rigid system. They use bullet points and go through each scene, putting loose notes what’s happening in each place. You could also put together a whole story bible, with every bit of information that you’re going to use for your screenplay.

Personally, I like Post-it notes. I use a pad of little two-by-two Post-its, and put each beat of the story on a note. I then put all the notes on the table so I have a literal bird’s eye view of my story. I can look at the progression of the story, where there might be holes, and rearrange beats as required. If I want to carry them around, I have a folded up piece of poster board that fits in my bag. I just stick my story on the poster board, and then every table becomes a desk.

However you do it, make yourself a map of your story so that you don’t have to rely on that fickle Muse to get you through. You’re going to be busy, so you can’t rely on her.

Screenwriting, Writing, Writing Advice

The 1, 2, 7, 14 Formula

On the Go Into the Story blog, I found a really good bit of advice that I’m going to work on folding into my writing habits.

It’s called the 1, 2, 7, 14 Formula and it’s split into four parts: read one script a week, watch two movies a week, write seven pages a week, and put in fourteen hours of story prep a week. When you put it that way, you have a clear setup for long term success.

Scott Myers did the math:

If you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

You will have read 52 screenplays.

You will have watched 104 movies

You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

Spread that out over 5 years: 260 screenplays, 520 movies, 10 original screenplays.

That means you could have read every one of the top 101 screenplays as voted by the WGA, plus 159 more.

That means you could have seen every one of the IMDB Top 250 movies, plus 270 more.

That means you could have written the exact number of original screenplays Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Bodyguard, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) wrote before he sold his first one.

All by setting these simple goals: 1, 2, 7, 14.

So I am going to actively do this. I’ve already set up a slate of screenplays that I have in my collection that I’m going to read in the next couple of weeks, and I might do blog posts about them. As an screenwriter, I really need to analyze as many screenplays as I can. This is a good way to actually turn it into a long term habit that can only benefit me and my career long term.