Jeanne’s Top 12 Screenwriting Tips

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor of Script Magazine, on Stephanie Palmer’s list of “Top 10 Most Influential Screenwriting Bloggers,” and co-founder of Twitter’s #Scriptchat. Her narrative adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, was selected for the Tracking Board’s Top 25 Launch Pad Competition. Follow Jeanne on Twitter @jeannevb

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screenwriting tips

I’m a learning junkie, picking the brains of my mentors for any little nugget of knowledge to help not only my writing but also my overall career. Over the past year I shared some of those screenwriting tips, but for those who missed them, here are my favorite dozen.

Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: 7 Brainstorming Techniques

Nothing opens up your story more to limitless potential than using brainstorming techniques. But when we imagine how long it can take to do that, we often get overwhelmed. What if I told you it’s possible to create a great foundation for your story in 15-minute blasts of time. My favorite brainstorming technique is literally pulling out a ticking clock – my kitchen timer.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Writer’s Survival – Trust Your Gut

You don’t get to be my age without having your heart ripped out a few dozen times, professionally and personally. I used to put on those rose-colored glasses and believe the best in people and in my projects. How’d that work for me? *insert hysterical laughter*

Because I’m a Spidey-sense girl, I now live by one rule above all others – trust your gut.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Outlining a Script

To outline or not to outline a script? That is the eternal question for writers. At least it is for some, but not for me. (Well, maybe the real eternal question is how do I get paid to write, but we’ll leave that for another day.) Because I am the kind of chick who needs a plan, outlines are always the foundations of my projects.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Writing the First Draft

Writing the first draft should be a pure vomit-fest – wordy prose, on-the-nose dialogue, overwriting, and anything and everything your gut wants to explore in the story. Let the characters have some fun, and see where they take you. As Stephen King puts it, “Write with the door shut.” Don’t worry about what anyone thinks, because no one, and I mean NO ONE, should ever see your first draft but you.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Writing Character Descriptors

Imagine you’re whispering John Doe’s details to the Queen in line, but this time, the Queen is an A-list actor you want to attach to your script. You need to introduce your character like a movie star.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Character Evolution – Finding Your Character’s Wound

Most people take character evolution at face value, creating a wound within their main character that has to be overcome in order for them to achieve their outer goal. A very simplistic example would be the hero searches for a treasure that’s discovered to be in a dark cave, but they’re afraid of the dark. They have to get over that fear and go deep into that ominous cave to get their mitts on the golden nuggets and live happily ever after. OK, I told you it was a simplistic example. Hopefully your screenplay is a little more complex and interesting than that.

Bottom-line: Inner goal is getting past the wound. Outer goal is whatever the big picture of the film is about.

So how do you figure out what a character’s inner wound is, and how can you use that wound to its full advantage? Oh yeah, I’m bringing back the therapy couch.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: 2 Tips for Finishing Screenplays

You have a project you’re in love with and aching to write, but sitting yourself in the seat to push the words out is daunting – oftentimes, even more so than staring at the blank page.

I’m right there with you. I hate starting new projects, I have two secret weapons I use when I need to get cracking: Creating a deadline and turning to my support group for help.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Screenplay Notes for an ‘Emotional Read’

I write to make people feel. So when I ask people to give me feedback on my scripts or novels, the number one concern I have is how they feel while they’re reading it.

When I give feedback to my writer friends, I always print their scripts out and arm myself with a pen, not to slash their words, but simply to write down my feelings in the margins. Am I hating the character? Am I shocked at what they just did? Did they lose my interest? Am I bored? Did I look at my watch? I want to share with the writer everything I’m feeling while I read.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Polishing a Screenplay

I’ve discussed rewriting a screenplay many times, but today, I want to give you tips for polishing a screenplay that I’ve learned from Unknown Screenwriter. This isn’t rewriting or fixing typos. This is tried and true techniques to make your script read fast and furious… and slash pages like a serial killer.

After you’ve gone through the basic rewrite and your story is solid (a check on structure, character development and making sure all the unnecessary scenes are cut), it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: 7 Reasons to Shut Up and Listen

Do you ever notice people are always interrupting each other? While one person is talking, the other’s wheels are spinning with what their response will be, often blurting it out before the person they’re conversing with is able to finish their sentence.

Have I been guilty of it? Absolutely. I have a horrible short-term memory, so I used to use the excuse if I didn’t spit out my thought immediately, I’d lose it. But I’ve learned the value of zipping my lips.
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Sure-Fire Way to Nail a Pitch

As I stood in his line, I eavesdropped on the pitches coming his way, trying to get a read on him. The woman directly in front of me had his undivided attention. He was on the edge of his seat and enthusiastically invited her to send him her script.

Cool. This guy was great. I could do this. He loved her, why not me?
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Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Selling a Screenplay

If I had a dime for every time someone emailed me asking, “How do I sell my screenplay?” I’d be so wealthy I wouldn’t even need to sell my own scripts. I wrote a whole article going into the magic trick to selling your screenplay, so let’s talk about something else today — the one thing that could keep you from ever selling a screenplay. Your attitude.
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