Nice Not To Sweat The Writing

I am in the middle of critiquing a screenplay. Did you know that I do that? For anybody! You just give me money and I will give you notes. And your script will be WAY better after you listen to the notes, decide which ones to act on, and do the rewrite. Call now. Operators are standing by.

Anyway.

This particular script is really good. The thing I am noticing while critiquing that is generally rare in scripts I crit, is that the scene description is smooth as silk and requires NO NOTES from me. I am not having to bleed all over the scene description with my trusty red pen. Taking the time to critique scene description… takes time… and this time is taken away from using my massive brain to give notes on story and character.

A monkey can give notes on poorly written scene description, but it is staggeringly rare that I get a script to crit where I don’t have to give notes on the scene description.

This script is getting both barrels of my many, many years of screenwriting and critiquing experience JUST on the story and characters, so it’s really going to improve. The writer (or a monkey) did a hell of a job on the scene description, so I just read it and get it and move on lickety split.

Please, with your scripts, take the time (and it takes a ton of it) to smooth out your scene description. It makes the read faster and vastly less confusing.

It also frees up my mighty brain to think about your story. Which, if you are paying me hard earned after-tax income, is worth it.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Nice Not To Sweat The Writing

  1. I’ve often wondered how to handle the scene description on page 1. I’ve seen a lot of amateur screen plays that take about half a page to set up that ‘opening image’.

    When I look such screen plays I have to fight the urge to throw it over my shoulder, or into a fire. My page 1 looks like any other scene description, 2 lines max.

    Is page 1 special when it comes to scene description?

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Hmmm. My theory is that you have a tad more room on Page 1 than anywhere else. No paragraphs over 5 lines, as per usual, 3 is better, 2 is swell, but you don’t have to leap into story. Set stuff up a little. Tell us what that craggy industrial wasteland looks like. Give us a bit of mood… But not half a page for an opening image. My usual thought is to read scripts on line and see what they do. Used to be, eons ago, that you had no dialogue on page 1, but that’s long gone.

      It’s a bit more leisurely than page 2 – 110, but not a lot. Gee, now I’ve confused you.

  2. I think I get it. “Show us more, but show us quickly.”

  3. I’m starting a script right now, how much would it cost for you to critique it when I finish? (And when I say “Finish”, I mean rewrite the ever-loving shit out of it)

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Well, sadly, it’s a TON of money if I do actual writing. That’s a question for my agent. However, if you just want my notes on your script, it’s $600.

      You get plenty of bang for that buck.
      You mail me a hard copy of the script with “End of Act I” and “End of Act II” written on the appropriate pages.
      I read the screenplay and write all over it. Then I read it a second time, and write on it in different color ink.
      Then I read it again. This time through, I dictate notes to a digital recorder… generally 40 minutes to an hour of thoughts and suggestions.
      I email you those files and snail-mail the script.
      Then, after you’ve digested all the notes, you give me a call and I’ll answer any questions you may have.

      Everyone seems thrilled with the level of detail and overall helpfulness of the notes.

      If you have any questions, please let me know.

      • Great! I’ll contact you once I’ve finished!

      • yourscreenplaysucks

        You may know this already. I wrote the book, Your Screenplay Sucks!, because people sent me scripts for notes and I found that many of them made the same mistakes. Over and over, so I created the book as a checklist: “Do this stuff first, then send your script.”

        Be sure you read the book (a couple of times) and do the checklist (which takes a long time!!) and THEN send me the script. Today’s conversation got started because I mentioned a writer who wrote good scene description. The whole middle of my book, “Physical Writing” is all about getting good, clean scene description.

        So read the book.
        Do the checklist.
        Send me your script (and your money!)

  4. Not for nothing. But that is a GREAT book! I highly recommend it. Every screen writer should read it before, during and after the writing process.

    I should say, check your ego at the door. Because the title is absolutely correct.

  5. Elaine

    I second Danny’s comment. It is a GREAT book.

    But oh my god is it painful working through that checklist. Some are quick fixes, but others – to be’s are not to be, the’s and that’s must go – are really tough.

    After you’ve found out that Your Screenplay Really Does Suck, you can read Stephen King ‘On Writing’. But only if you can face the herculean task of rewriting all your adverbs…

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Yeah, sadly… to REALLY do the YSS! checklist will take a month or months. But, the overriding principle is that you will only get one crack at someone in the industry (assuming someone will read your script) and so, knowing that, the extra time with the checklist, gives you (I hope!) an extra JATO boost of energy and confidence knowing your script will rise above the tide. At least, that is my fervent prayer. (Jet Assisted Take Off, btw)

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