After six weeks of planning we are ready to start writing your screenplay? Are you excited? I truly hope so as this is the moment we’ve been working towards for the last 6 weeks. 42 days of planning and of note taking has brought us to this point in time. By the end of this week we’re going to have a completed First Act. We’re not going to worry about pages or even on which page a specific story point happens on. We’re just going to write our screenplay two beats at a time.
Week Seven – Writing Your First Draft in Scrivener
If you’re like me, you’re not a professional screenwriter and this might be your very first screenplay, therefore you (like me) probably don’t own a copy of the big name (and big priced) screenwriting software. All of my writing is done in Scrivener, a piece of software available to both Windows and Apple OS users. It is very reasonably priced and I recommend it for anyone who is serious about their writing. To help with writing your screenplay using this 70 Day Project I offer you a free project file to download to use within Scrivener (download it here). While your assignment today (and for the next 27 days) is to write two beats of your screenplay each day based on your beat cards.
Using the Project’s Beat Sheets
Rather than using paper cue cards for the beats I’ve started using beat pages as the additional space allows be to build the beat in much greater detail. These beat sheets are found in Scrivener’s Binder in the Research folder under week’s four, five and six. You could also move these into a folder of their own and create a custom collection with them.
One of the best features of Scrivener is the ability to pull existing files and folders into unique custom collection. In the case to the left I pulled the 56 beats sheets into a separate collection. I’ve also collection the nine Story Flags into a separate collection to make it easy to see these key scenes together. If you’re a novelist whose writing often uses multiple points of view you could create different collections bringing together the different chapters that share the same point of view allowing you to follow the point of view story without interruption from the other POV characters. I’ve pulled different plot threads together into different collations so that I can edit the plots separately, making sure that each plot has a solid beginning, middle and end.
Once I have filled out my 56 beats sheets I move the beats up to the screenplay folder (or copy the folders into an empty Scrivener file). Once in the screenplay folder I then compile them into a PDF or an .epub file and move it over to my iPad (using iBooks) so I can review them at any time. The file could also be compiled into a Word document so that it can be modified if needed. The 70 Day project requires that you know and understand your beats as best as you can. You will be writing your screenplay based on those 56 beats and very little else and if you don’t know you’re beats your screenplay will show it.
Within the 70 Days Scrivener file are detailed beat sheet templates. If you haven’t used the Beat Sheet templates included in the file, I suggest taking the time to move your beats to the template. These templates include information that will help you understand each of your beats much better. These beat pages are designed to help you develop the different parts of the beat before writing a single word of your screenplay. We start with listing the characters involved in the beat, both the characters who speak as well as background characters. Your first goal is to keep the character count per beat as low as possible. Can you combine two characters into a single character and still get the same work done in the scene? The Hero sits with his mother and father to talk, but could the scene work with just the mother or the father? That leads to the next point on the beat sheet, Purpose of the Beat. Maybe in this beat the Hero needs to tell his parents that he is leaving college to backpack through western Europe. This purpose means we would need both the mother and the father as well as the Hero. The next header is the Conflict of the Beat. This one is obvious, the Hero is quitting college and his parents don’t think it’s a good idea. What if we shift the odds to pair the Hero and his mother against his father. His father opposes the Hero’s plan while his mother doesn’t see any problem with spending a couple of years exploring the world. What is the Emotion of your beat? True life is full of emotion and so should your screenplay. What is the Hero’s emotion? What about his parents? His father could be angry? Or maybe disappointed in his son. His mother could feel sympathy because this is something she wishes she had done when she was younger. Describe the Action of the Beat. I like to write this in prose form complete with dialogue. The scene starts as a conversation but quickly swells to a full blown argument where is father leaves in an huff. Finally, the Outcome will describe where the characters go from here. The Hero is leaving for Europe with his mother’s approval, but his father now refuses to talk to him.
Writing Two Beats per Day
There are 14 beats in the First Act and 7 days in the week, so it’s obvious that we’ll be writing two beats each day. While most people will start with beats one and two, it is possible to write any two beats that interest you. Maybe you want to write the first and last beat, bookending your screenplay in the first day. Scrivener makes writing non-linear very easy. Myself, I am a linear writer and prefer to start with the first beat and work my way to the final beat, 28 days later. The final four weeks of my 70 Day project is allotted to writing the screenplay.
The one thing that is not on my beat sheet template is a single sentence recap of the beat. “Son sits down with parents to tell them he’s going to backpack to across Europe.” This was done on purpose because in Scrivener you can write your cue card description right on your screenplay’s pages. It’s been described as paper clipping your beat’s cue card onto the completed script pages. The image below shows how this looks in Scrivener.
Then when you click the page file (called Beat 1 – Opening) it displays a blank page and waits for you to start writing your screenplay. Under the Format menu option is the Screenplay Format option that allows you to easily jump around the page to place the different elements. In my 70 Days Scrivener file I’ve already set each of the 56 screenplay elements to Screenplay format for you. Below is an example of Scrivener’s screenplay format. The wider your screen the more white space appears on the side of your screenplay page, but don’t worry it doesn’t affect your screenplay’s margins the scene descriptions wrap correctly at the right margin.
If you haven’t use Scrivener to write a screenplay then you’re in for a treat. The bottom of the screen you can see two different options for the next line, either use TAB to add Parenthesis or use ENTER to add action (description). You quickly will learn the keystrokes to jump around the page to write your screenplay. When writing screenplays within Scrivener there are no pages, it’s just a long continuous document which helps with our 70 Days mentality. We’re not writing pages, we’re writing beats, whether the beat is half a page long or four pages long.
Next week we’ll talk further about writing our screenplay, but for now let’s start writing. Remember there’s no minimum when writing your beats. This beat might just be half a page but beat 27 may end up being three pages long. It will all work out and you’ll have a 90 to 110 page screenplay. Get your first 14 beats and start writing.