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5 Tips Before Entering A Script Competition or Showing Your Script To a ‘Professional’

This article originally appeared in Script Magazine. It is reprinted here with permission. To read the original article head to scriptmag.com

You feel like your script is ready. Maybe there’s a competition deadline looming, or you’ve found a way to get someone to read it. Now is not the time to re-write – you’re going to ride this draft and see what happens. But your work is not done. Here are some last minute things to do to make a positive impact with the overwhelmed reader who’s taking the time to read your work. I know, because I’m one of those readers.

Before we start – take a moment to congratulate yourself. You wrote an entire freaking script, and you’re letting strangers read and judge it. Be proud of that. Then check these 5 things before hitting ‘send’.

1. Spelling and Grammar

I know, it’s obvious. I’m not saying your script must be spotless. No-one is perfect. But a spelling error in the first sentence is unforgivable. I’ve seen it too many times.

Think of the reading process as a new relationship. The reader is taking precious time to focus entirely on your work. They don’t know you. All they have is what they see on the page. When they see a script filled with typos, poor grammar and formatting errors, they may start thinking if you’re lazy with the spellcheck, you’ll be lazy with characters, structure, and emotional connection. You wouldn’t show up to a first date unshowered and in your pajamas. Don’t submit a script you haven’t read through looking specifically for spelling errors.

2. Novelesque Scene Description

Sure it’s fun to describe a windswept landscape kissed by clouds as dark as the inside of a civil war cannon. And that stuff looks great…IN A NOVEL.

You haven’t written a novel. You’ve written a script. Brevity is King/Queen. Too many writers feel the need to impress a reader with their literary command, when it actually sends the opposite message. Wordy SD tells a reader you either don’t know the rules, don’t want to follow them, or don’t care about wasting their time.

3. Script Length

The days of 120 pages for a feature as industry standard are over. It’s 110 at most now. If your draft is 114 pages long – it should be trimmed. People in the industry who read scripts for a living – managers, agents, and development executives – usually have about 50 to read EVERY WEEK. If they see 120 page count, they groan audibly. Help them with a shorter script, and they’ll like you before page 1.

But how to trim? Cut that scene description. Focus on dialogue which I’ll get to shortly. Then look at every scene. If you have ‘establishing shots’ – make sure they are VITAL. No-one cares about elaborate fight scenes or long car chases, no matter how awesome they feel to you. Many readers skim those scenes to see if anyone important dies. Extra pages send a message you aren’t great at self-editing, and have probably written a bloated script. Not a first impression you want to deliver.

To read the full article head to scriptmag.com

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