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The Hero’s Journey From Novice to Veteran Screenwriter (Part 1)

May 10, 2013

The process of transforming from a hopeful, aspiring screenwriter to an experienced veteran screenwriter who can write great screenplays is a strange one for most. Often times, when the novice begins with classes or screenwriting books, they are presented with formulas and strict approach methods, which are often times touted by those who do not make a living solely as screenwriters. Seeing through such rigidity, a novice can be inclined to turn a deaf ear to what they’re being told. Naturally, turning a deaf ear is not the best approach, but it often seems to be an understandable response in the presence of such teachings. In turn, this can create a sticky situation, whereby a hopeful, aspiring screenwriter does not know where to find good advice and/or help with regard to becoming a professional screenwriter. Combined with the fact that too many people temporarily aspire to such a lofty goal, worthwhile professionals who may otherwise be helpful, might disregard such an aspirant as foolish, uncommitted or not serious enough. As such, the path from novice to veteran screenwriter can be a serious Hero’s Journey.

As someone who has trekked far and wide on this journey, I would like to impart some tangible wisdom that can be helpful to any aspiring screenwriter, no matter how skeptical.

Sue is looking furtively through the key hole.

Sue looks furtively through the key hole.

Sue spies through the key hole.

The journey from novice to veteran is simply outlined by the preceding three lines, each of which gets progressively better. First, each sentence becomes more concise (shorter). Not only is “looks” more concise than “is looking” but it’s also better in every single way – it’s present tense, it’s more active. Of course, “looks” is still weak, especially when you’re saying “looks furtively” – what are you really trying to say? What is the better verb that means “looks furtively?” SPIES! Yet again, one word, SPIES, is more concise than two words, LOOKS FURTIVELY.

I think a certain type of OCD and/or perfectionism is required to be a brilliant screenwriter. Seriously. I’ll never write “is looking” in any drafts of my screenplays, but I might let “looks furtively” momentarily sneak into my first draft, knowing that it will be improved upon later. Ideally, I’d write “spies” in the initial moment, but I know what a first draft is – something I NEVER show anyone else. Because, I would feel like an amateur. That’s part of the process. Words do not have to be perfect in the beginning, but they better be perfect by the end. If I ever give someone a draft that contains the words “looks furtively,” then I’ve made a mistake. Ironically, too often, I see novices sharing drafts saying “is looking furtively” or some such ilk. Hopefully, next time, they’ll read this post first.

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