A Primer For New Screenwriters

This is the outline I used for a presentation I gave at a writer’s organization in early July. I’ve added some notes. I hope that you find it useful.

Note: You can do an online search and find out which organizations represent screenwriters in your country
http://www.wga.org – Writers Guild of America (If you’re enjoying a Hollywood blockbuster, watch the credits and see if “WGA” appears at the very end.
http://www.wgc.ca – Writers Guild of Canada

WWW.IMDB.COM – Click on Writers
Who wrote the screenplay?
If it’s an adapted screenplay, who wrote the material the screenplay is based on?
What is the original story format? Novel, play, short story, non-fiction book, magazine article, memoire…..
Does the original material have the same title as the movie?

Always check for items at the library first, it will save you a significant amount of money.
Some library systems have an inter-library borrowing system that will allow you to borrow from several different libraries across your province or state
Reading scripts online isn’t free, you (or your parents) still have to pay the service provider
The Writers Store is a dangerous place for a writer with a credit card to visit
Your Local Library
http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom – Script Library
http://www.imsdb.com (Internet Movie Script Database)
Book Sales, Used Book Stores
http://www.writersstore.com (The Writers Store)
Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, etc.

Work as a Background Performer/Extra or volunteer on a short film project
Volunteer as video camera operator for a local cable operator or a church. (I’m a volunteer camera operator at a church.)

Note: You may be able to borrow these books, or download them as eBooks or audiobooks from you local library
On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette-Paul J. Salamoff-2012
What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting-Marc Norman-2007
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency-James A. Miller-2016
The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and A Company Called DreamWorks-Nicole Laporte-2010
Tales From The Script-Directed by Peter Hanson-2009-105 minutes (The DVD is based on the book with the same title)
Dreams on Spec-Directed by Daniel Snyder-2007-88 minutes

Note: This last item isn’t about screenwriting, but about the writing process, as presented by Canada’s most successful science fiction writer: Robert J. Sawyer
YOUTUBE: Ontario Writers Conference / Approximately 25 mins.
P1 of 3, P2 of 3, P3 of 3 OWC 2010



Intimidation and Inspiration

Eighty thousand words! One of the members at the meeting said he’d written eighty thousand words in one month, while working a full-time job. I’ve been writing a science fiction novel for several months and I only have about thirty-five thousand words completed. One of the risks of joining a writing association is that you’ll feel intimidated by the achievements of other writers. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t allow that uneasiness prevent you from joining.

If you’re serious about becoming an accomplished writer,  you must be willing to have your work critiqued.  When you’re working on a piece, you’re too close to the material and you won’t notice problems, that other writers will.  If you were building a house, wouldn’t you be thankful if someone pointed out a flaw in the foundation, rather than build it, and have it collapse? It’s better to have issues in your story pointed out by other writers, before you send it to an editor or literary agent.

One of the greatest benefits of attending meetings with other writers, is talking about your craft with people who understand what you’re experiencing. Your friends and family, and the guys and girls at work may be willing to listen to you talk about writing, but they won’t truly understand how frustrating or how rewarding the process can be.  You’ll be inspired by writers just like you, who are driven to create. They’ll understand that you don’t just write because it’s a fun hobby, you have to write

For many people, just the thought of speaking in public is terrifying. As a writer, however, public readings are an important aspect of developing your profile. A group of writers you’re familiar with is a safe, encouraging environment where you can learn to improve you’re public reading skills. A couple of months ago I read from the novel I’m working on, and I spoke so fast that hardly anyone understood me. That was an embarrassing, but important lesson that I had to learn.

If you find it difficult to travel to meetings, you can participate online.  There are so many writing associations, that the challenge won’t be to find a group, it will be deciding which ones to join! Please note that I don’t believe that you must join a writing organization to become a great writer, but there are definite advantages.

Last weekend I wrote an article for a writing magazine, and this week I’ll continue working on my science fiction novel. What will you be working on this week? Let us hear your voice and feel your passion…Write!

Copyright © 2018 By J. Paul Cooper