There are a lot of great online resources for writers, but there are so many, it’s hard to prioritize them. I’ve listed the essential resources in this Screenwriters Cheat Sheet. Most of these offer free services. You can read Save the Cat for free. You can listen to free podcasts from screenwriters and screenwriting gurus like John Truby. You can also find ads for paid writing gigs. You can even download a huge library of great scripts for free.
You can write screenplays on Celtx for free, just download it.
- Download, print, read and steal ideas from lots of great free screenplays online.
You can Google “free screenplay downloads” and find tons of scripts to study. SimplyScripts.com is a great place to start. They have Oscar nominated screenplays and TV shows. There’s no substitute for reading great scripts when it comes to learning to write.
- Download and study some of the best books written on screenwriting – for free.
There are a million great books on screenwriting that you can buy on Amazon. However, let me save you some time and money. Read these two. Don’t read anymore. Instead of reading every how-to book, read these, and start writing.
Here’s the link to a 40 page summary of Sid Field’s classic Screenplay, (probably best ever book on how to write a screenplay). http://www.kimhartman.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Summary-of-screenplay-by-syd-field.pdf
Another “bible” for screenwriters that everyone who works in development at any studio or production company has read, is Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. The entire book appears online at this link: http://www.docdroid.net/9nqg/save-the-cat-by-blake-snyder.pdf.html
This boils STC down to 15 beats: http://www.flyingwrestler.com/save-the-cat-beat-sheet/
Compare to the Legally Blonde script:http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/legallblonde-shooting.pdf
- Best resources for free on-line networking
To build relationships with other writers, producers agents, and directors, there are groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Meetup.com where you can make virtual friends, and actually meet contacts face to face. Post on these sites and watch for activities, or set up coffee/drink meetings with like-minded creative professionals.
Groups on Meetup.com; Sunday Night Screenwriters Group, Ink Tank Screenwriter’s Group, LA Actors and Filmmakers, Entertainment Entrepreneurs and Performers, Writers With Drinks (LA), LA Neo-Noir Cinemasters, and Creativity Workshop (LA).
Groups on LinkedIn; Film Angels, The Writer’s Club of Los Angeles, Film Job Board for Los Angeles. Stage 32. Film Financing Group, Film and TV Professionals, Independent Filmmakers,
Groups on Facebook: Screenwriting, The Indie Film Scene, MOVIEWORLD, Get Reel!, The Craft of Screenwriting, Independent Film Society, Cinema Discussions, Creative Designers and Writers, Film Industry Network, Film TV Professionals, 10 Minute Novelists, Writing in the Modern Age, Screenwriters Networking Group, and really good ones – Screenwriters Who Can Actually Write & LA Creative Profesionals.
- Read the best blogs/listen to podcasts online for TV and screenwriters.
I wouldn’t spend too much time on these blogs. Remember you can get lost for years learning more and more about writing, but without actually writing, you’re mostly wasting your time.
Read Hollywood Therapy on Psych Central (at HollywoodTherapy.com). Besides the fact that I write this blog, it’s the only one that addresses, and advises on persistence, motivation, anxiety, creative blocks, coping with rejection, in essence the mindset and coping mechanisms required to become a successful media writer.
Besides my blog, I’ve done podcasts for the International Screenwriters Association. All the podcasts they have are free to download. Besides myself, they have lots of great topics, and great interviews with screenwriting “Gurus” like John Truby.
Read Terry Rossio’s Wordplay (at wordplayer.com). He has 100s of “articles” on all aspects of screenwriting. He may be the highest paid screenwriter in history, especially after the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
John August and Craig Mazin write another great blog called ScriptNotes, at (https://johnaugust.com/scriptnotes). Erik Bork writes a blog called The Flying Wrestler (athttp://www.flyingwrestler.com/).
There are so many more blogs about writing, but I still say, read the 40 page summary of Screenplay, and if you must, read Save The Cat, read Hollywood Therapy, and Wordplay. Read ScriptNotes and The Flying Wrestler. s.
There are some excellent podcasts — one called Inside Pitch, hosted by Christopher Lockhart, (at http://www.flyingwrestler.com/) and Ken Levine’s Hollywood and Levine, at http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/) That’s enough. Check those out and stop. You should be writing more and reading/listening less about how to write.
- Post your screenplay, synopsis, or logline on a site that producers, filmmakers and agents read.
Inktip (at inktip.com), is one of the first websites to post written material for industry people to find. They have some success stories. There is a monthly fee, but it’s not a rip-off. They will also list your logline in a brochure that’s sent to 5,000 production companies.
The Blacklist (at blcklst.com) is one of the best newer services to offer this type of exposure. They charge $25 per month to post your material. They also offer evaluations of screenplays and TV scripts at reasonable prices. They also have contests and mentorship programs.
- Online blasting services
Scriptblaster is a service that kind of replaces the need for an agent. Agents take 10%, so they’re not free either. There is a charge for this service. They “blast” a copy of your screenplay, along with a query letter to hundreds of producers.
Unlike an agent, they won’t give you feedback on your writing. For that I recommend coverage services, screenwriting contests, or websites like The Blacklist, or International Screenwriters Association.
Personal writing coaches also offer this type of feedback, as I do. I used to have the job in the Story Department, reading novels, scripts, summarizing them and grading them for dialogue, story, character, etc. Ultimately, I would either check the PASS or RECOMMEND box.
- Enter screenwriting contests to get your script noticed
Moviebytes lists hundreds of screenwriting contests. The best 3 are Nicholls, Austin Film Festival, and Page. The Blacklist is up there, too. For independent films, I like the Slamdance Film Festival competition.
Before entering, make sure you get coverage from a reliable source, make sure the script gets a RECOMMEND evaluation. If it doesn’t rewrite it until it does. The Blacklist, Stage 32 Happy Writers, or Hollywood Therapy are good sources of coverage.
- Take advantage of Personal Coaching
These days, nobody wants to risk having a script sent to agents or studios with flaws. You only get one chance to make a first impression on studio executives. Even professional, produced screenwriters want a second pair of eyes on their material before handing it in.
You want someone who’s worked as a professional Story Analyst for a studio or production company to look at your script. Beyond the coverage, you may want to consult with a veteran screenwriter or TV writer. Hollywood Therapy & Coaching offers great advice from me, a produced screenwriter and TV writer.
- Coverage services that send out “Recommends” to producers.
Some of the coverage services also offer to blast your finished script to hundreds of producers. Scriptshark, for example, provides this service. Of course you want to make sure the script you send out gets a “Recommend,” not a “Pass.”
Spend more time having people read your screenplay before sending it out. Ask writer friends; any people you know in studio Story Departments, or talent agencies to look at your script first. Keep improving it until you’ve collected a group of fans. Then, and only then, send it out.
- Ways to get your finished script to producers if you don’t have an agent.
Some resources you can use to reach producers once your script is in great shape include; Screenwriters Online, a website that will allow you to chat with a producer; and online pitch festivals like the one FadeIn Magazine (online) offers.
The International Screenwriting Association website advertises “Gigs,” most of these jobs are non-WGA writing jobs, so take advantage of them while you’re working your way up and before you’re in the guild. The producers advertising there will want to see a script of yours, preferably in the same genre.
Good luck and happy writing! And, if you want a free 20 minute phone consult to help with any screenwriting questions, call 310-850-4707. Let’s make it happen!