Posted by: steveonfilm | May 28, 2009

Writing in Ernest

I’ve offically started on the first draft of Served Cold and it feels pretty good. I took some time through the weekend to tinker with my note cards for Act One, really taking a look at the pacing I was setting up, and only when I felt ready did I start typing away.

My approach to using “free screenwriting” to do my background work seems to be a step in the right direction for me. And for the first time since I started writing screenplays four years ago I really feel like I know my subject matter. Could I have gotten to that point faster? Sure, but cut me some slack, I’m trying to figure this stuff out on my own. I don’t have the benefit of formal classes or education in this stuff.

Now, in all seriousness I know I’m not going to be writing the next great American screenplay here. But for an amateur writer, each new screenplay in itself is an accomplishment. It’s like the runner that does a marathon each summer. They train all year, and then go. Sure, they know they’re not going to win. But winning isn’t the point, completing the race is. And for me, that’s where I’m at.

I’m going to take a bit of a different approach to putting together my screenplay, in a technical sense. Instead of one file, I’m going to split it into four files (Act One, Act Two-A, Act Two-B, and Act Three).

Why am I doing this?

I’m trying to bring something into my writing that has helped me in my actual job. Some people can manage a project from a really high level. They can see everything at once all the way down to the smallest detail. I am not one of those people. I need to break things down into their own components. Handle them separately. Be able to move freely between them.

So instead of one big file, I’ll have four files. And when I’m done with them I’ll put them all together into a complete draft. It also easier to use Final Drafts notecard feature this way. If you split the screenplay into it’s main movements, it’s easier to view the scenes and pacing from a notecard level. You’ve got 30 pages too look at (30-45 notecards) instead of 120 pages to look at (120-180 notecards). It’s just plain easier to move around the cards and review them when you’ve got a smaller page footprint to work with.

The reality is that I’m looking at my screenplay as I would a project at work. And I’m using some of my project management skills to help me complete it. It may or may not help, but it’s something I haven’t tried, and worst case it’s a disaster and I go back to doing it the old fashioned way. But like I’ve said before, a writer needs to figure out what works for them, and you can’t figure that out if you don’t experiment yourself.

I’m a little over 15 pages in right now and hope to have act one done by this weekend. I’ll post it up when that happens.

One of the benefits of my “free screenwriting” is that I was able to use some of the stuff I’d already written. I’m estimating that about 25% of what I’ll have in the first act is copied from my experiments, which was kinda cool. A lot of the rest is based on some of the ideas I explored too, which is also a plus.

Until then, enjoy.



  1. I am interested to see how you do with it. Breaking down the script to its smallest parts is what makes it flow easier. The daunting 2nd Act is one I’ve always disliked. If you can make it smaller in any way, then that’s a great thing. Notecards are a big help. Blake Snyder has software for doing this, and explains in his book “Saving The Cat” the best way to break down a script in smaller, more manageable parts. Check it out if you get a chance. Either way, slice it up and serve it cold!

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