So You Want to Plan a Screenplay?

Ok, don’t get the idea that I know what the hell I’m talking about because I don’t. At all. As I’ve mentioned before, a goal of mine for the year is to write a screenplay. Ideally, I’d like to submit it and see if it’s salable, but my main focus is just learning the nuts and bolts of the format, which has always seemed so mysterious to me.

In preparation for the goal I’ve read both “Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” (Blake Snyder) and the third book “Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of” (Blake Snyder). I have the second book as well, but I’ve been using that as a reference as I watch the different movies it covers, rather than reading it from front to back.

The books really make it seem pretty doable. They don’t cover formatting at all, but luckily for me Scrivener has a screenplay template so I’ll let that handle the basics for now. Since I don’t know any better, I decided to just trust Mr. Snyder’s system for structuring a script. Why not? I’ve got to start somewhere.

He suggests in the book using “The Board” to arrange your 40 index cards, which he seems to think is the magic number of scenes a screenplay needs. I’ve decided not to question it until I’ve had at least one or two tries using his methods.

I don’t have a literal corkboard (although I have made a habit of sticking post it notes to the wall behind my computer area) so I decided that software is a good route for me to go. There is software available based on his books (“Save the Cat!® Story Structure Software 3.0” (Blake Snyder Enterprises, LLC)) which seems pretty cool, but the price is prohibitive. I’m willing to give most stuff a try if it’s $25 or less, but $100 is higher than I’m willing to go. Time to figure out how to make this work with something I’ve already got.

I’ve seen people use notecards with Scrivener, but I’m pretty much awful at using that program for anything than the basic word processing functions. If you know me at all then you probably guessed that I turned to my new favorite planning software, Curio. It worked great.

Screen Shot 2012-01-08 at 1.17.38 PM.png

I set up the 10×4 structure that Blake Snyder recommends and filled in some of the cards with the different beats he recommends in his books. That still leaves quite a few cards blank, but it’s a good start.

Screen Shot 2012-01-08 at 1.17.13 PM.png

I filled in the first one with the information he says to put on each card. It’s my little reminder of what I need to include as I fill them all in.

I will keep a copy just like this and just copy it for every project I start and fill it in with scenes that are relevant to those projects. Since I do all my work on my computer, this is a handy way to have that information available no matter where I go.

I do realize that there are probably a dozen programs that do something similar. It would actually be more useful to do it in Scrivener and then shuffle them around in there where it will actually affect my script, but this is actually perfect for my needs since I use Curio to keep track of everything that goes on in my life. I can keep The Board right next to my character sketches and brainstorming mind maps.

And how is my screenplay project going? I’ve got a pretty well developed idea, I think. I came up with a log-line and have a decent concept of the major scenes (plot points, midpoint, and final scene). I’m hoping to come up with a rough outline today and see how workable I think it is at that point. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a surprise novel. It started out as a naughty story, but ended up being way too funny to be truly sexy. So now it’s on it’s way to becoming an erotic comedy. I’ve got a pretty good start written. I’m curious to see how it works out since I’ve never started a project that I thought would be a short story only to realize that there was a lot more potential there than I thought there was.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “So You Want to Plan a Screenplay?

  1. Good luck and I am looking forward to your progress. I have been looking at writer’s software and know that yWriter5 has free software for screenplay – I think…I looked at so many but this seems like a good one.

    • As far as I can tell from my research, at some point along the road to production, you have to be able to come up with a script that is compatible with Final Draft, which seems to be the industry standard. When looking at options, I’d try to find something that will allow you to convert your script. Scrivener appears to do that and since I already own it, that’s what I’m playing with. That’s fine for right now. If I do come up with something that I think might be salable, then I’ll go ahead and invest the $200 for a copy of Final Draft.

      I’ll keep track of my expenses as I go along. I wonder how much it really costs to go from amateur writer to sold script? $200 for a copy of Final Draft, plus however much to register a script with WGA, and for postage, and possibly to pay for some sort of contract representation (I’m not sure how agents/managers/lawyers are paid so it might not be until after you make a commission). I’m not going to count Curio or the books I’ve bought for reference, but it already seems like it’s going to be a fairly good chunk of pocket money.

  2. Jack Campbell, Jr.

    I use CeltX for screenwriting. It’s free, unless you want the add-ons, which are only around 10 bucks. I believe it will export to the same format as Final Draft.

    Short story or novella idea are great for screenwriting. Most screenplays fall somewhere between long short story and novella in concept complexity. Good luck.

  3. Every time you mention Curio, I drool a just a tiny bit. I go over, look at the splash page, then back away slowly – because I am notorious for taking on a new X-project instead of WRITING. (Witness the internet saturation I’ve been working on for the last couple of months.) Curio looks so shiny and pretty though – what’s the learning curve?

    • You can use it within minutes of purchase (there is a demo available). The basic functions are pretty easy to figure out, but I still haven’t learned everything it can do. I was pretty pleased with myself when I figured out how to link my index cards to another page so that I could make detailed scene notes.

      It’s pricey, but oh my gosh, I use it for EVERYTHING. I haven’t had a single regret about buying it.

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