The first time I wrote a script, I opened a Word Document and just began writing. In fairness, I do most things by diving in too soon, making a ton of mistakes, and learning as I go. But I am here to confirm – I made a ton of mistakes.
First thing’s first: I was using the absolute wrong software. 90% of your script-writing process will be done in Final Draft (and if you don’t already have this software, stay tuned for an exclusive discount code from me!!).
But beyond formatting, I complicated the process and muddied my results because I didn’t create a clear roadmap before I started. There are stages to script-writing for television that, while seemingly tedious, are hugely clarifying for the writer (and the studio and network, should the script sell/go to production). Taking time to map out your idea when you start will save you time and confusion on the back end. Let’s take a look:
At the outset of a television project, it’s important to start with a logline. You know when you’re scrolling through Netflix for things to watch – the two sentence blurb that tells you, in a nutshell, what a show is about? That’s a logline. A logline conveys the premise of the show and let’s the viewer/reader know what they should expect. For the writer, a logline encourages focus. It forces you to articulate the most important elements of your project, and write towards them.
Rosewood: This close-ended, investigative series centers around the brilliant Dr. Beaumont Rosewood Jr. (Morris Chestnut), the top private pathologist in all of Miami. As owner of one of the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art independent labs in the country, he finds the secrets in bodies that others usually miss. Despite being constantly surrounded by death Rosewood is obsessed with life and savors every moment. His eternal optimism will frustrate the cynical female detective he often works with, but she can’t argue with the results that his unique perspective provides.
Superstore: A comedy about a group of employees at a big box store who quickly learn that there’s much more to their ho-hum jobs — like love, friendship, and the surprises of everyday moments – than they thought.
Designated Survivor: Centers on a lower-level U.S. cabinet member (Kiefer Sutherland) who is suddenly appointed president after a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the presidential line of succession. The series is described as a family drama wrapped around a conspiracy thriller about an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation.
Before going to outline, I highly recommend creating a beat sheet. Think of a beat sheet as the skeleton of your script. A beat sheet identifies all of the major beats in your story. Each beat is one scene. It’s a bare bones roadmap that tracks the journey of the story. It’s usually space in details – typically one sentence per beat.
here’s another one:
Once you’ve beaten out all of your scenes, it’s time to flesh out the shape and details within each one. You’ll establish the beginning and end of each scene. You’ll set the stage and explain the turns within each scene that are critical to the overall story arc. If the scenes themselves are your macro beats, the outline is your opportunity to identify the micro beats.
Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to move on to script! Your scripting process should be so much more straightforward after taking the time to create this roadmap. Have you started your beat sheet? Your outline? Share what you’re currently working on in the comments!