I came across a link on Twitter to this article from 2009 on “Joss Whedon’s Top 10 [Screen]Writing Tips.“ I’ve only recently gotten into anything that Joss has been involved with (having missed Buffy, Angel, and Firefly when they were on TV), but with the insane levels of success that The Avengers achieved this year, Joss’s name is rising higher by the minute.
Some consider Joss one of the best writers for ensemble television and TV, and his unique brand of humor and character development shines through on almost everything he does. This article gives a few tidbits on things that might help you raise up your level of writing too. But I wanted to highlight two specifically that I found helpful.
1. FINISH IT
Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.
This really should go without saying. We all know someone who started writing a script but never finished. They haven’t yet come across the feeling of accomplishment that rushes over you when you type the words ‘Fade Out.’ And it’s a real shame, because until you finish that first script you’re not a writer, you’re just a person with an idea.
8. WRITE LIKE A MOVIE
Write the movie as much as you can. If something is lush and extensive, you can describe it glowingly ; if something isn’t that important, just get past it tersely. Let the read feel like the movie ; it does a lot of the work for you, for the director, and for the executives who go, ‘What will this be like when we put it on its feet ?’
This is something that I’ve REALLY started to do with my last two scripts. Screenwriting has it’s own sort of language and syntax, halfway between poetry and prose. When I first started I wrote detail like you would in a novel. But the more I write, the more I think about words in regard to how long the image will last on screen, and whether or not the image is important. Concentrating on this more has helped keep my writing leaner, and forced me to describe stuff more creatively and diversely.
The article itself is a short read so even if you hate it, you’re not going to waste a lot of time on it.