Screenwriting Tips From Top Screenwriters

Screenwriting Tips From Top Screenwriters

Screenwriting tips about the writing process are usually little nuggets of helpful advice.

This list of screenwriting tips is different – it’s comprised of 6 GIANT nuggets.

My goal is for you to find one tip you can use to help you write a screenplay you can sell.

Screenwriting Tips – Overview

The screenwriting tips in this article focus on the screenwriting process – the actual methods used by top screenwriters to create their screenplays.

While it’s true that the screenwriting process is different for every screenwriter, there are some best practices and common themes.

So, rather than deluge you in a sea of hundreds of little screenwriting tips, I’ve selected the top six that may make the biggest difference to your screenwriting process, your ability to create great material, and your overall screenwriting career.

Inside The Screenwriting Process

I’ve selected six short films (produced by Academy Originals) so you can see the screenwriting tips I’ve selected come to life.

Each video showcases the screenwriting process and inner-workings of successful screenwriters.

Not only will you see inside the offices, bedrooms, dining rooms, yoga rooms, backyards, and other spaces where these writers work, you’ll see that they still struggle each day to make incremental progress.

Screenwriting Process Tip #1: Extensive Research and Detailed Note Cards

Dustin Lance Black won the Academy Award and two WGA Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Milk. He also wrote J. Edgar, Pedro, and directed Virginia.

Here are his top screenwriting tips for using notecards:

“I boil down the moments that I think are cinematic, the moments that I think are necessary for the story. I start to put them onto notecards. Each notecard should be as pure and singular an idea as possible because I want to be able to move all the pieces around and be able to create a film. It’s about then taking these cards and for me, over the course of weeks to months, laying them out and distilling down what is necessary to tell the story.”

— Dustin Lance Black



Screenwriting Process Tip #2: Write In Long-Hand In Notebooks

Tina Gordon Chism wrote Drumline, ATL and wrote and directed Peeples. Her thriller Inheritance was purchased by Sony and HBO is developing Crushed.

Here are her screenwriting tips for writing long-hand:

“It’s always a spark. It could be a world, it could be a character, it could be a situation, a question I might be asking myself about human behavior. That will happen in an instant, but the slow burn is the details. Some people use notecards to do this, I use notebooks. It’s something about how I’m thinking about the details when I’m writing in long-hand that makes it flesh out a little easier for me.

— Tina Gordon Chism



Screenwriting Process Tip #3: Outline On Both Sides Of A Sheet Of Paper

Aline Brosh McKenna wrote The Devil Wears Prada, We Bought A Zoo, 27 Dresses, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Morning Glory, Laws of Attraction, and Three To Tango.

Here are her screenwriting tips for using paper instead of notecards:

“I can fold it up and then take it to a meeting. I can lay them out for people and sort of show them how I think the whole movie goes. I started doing that instead of cards because the cards, to me, started to feel like it was really defuse and all over the place. I started doing it more that way and it felt more organic to me.”

— Aline Brosh McKenna

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