Screenwriter’s Journey: Reading Scripts


“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King

A writer reads. Not only novelists like Stephen King need to read, but any writer there is who wants to sharpen their writing tool(s) – and that includes screenwriters. Besides writing and watching movies, this is the only way you can improve in your craft.

But what should you read?

Some people suggest that you should read anything you can get your hands on and interests you. This is not necessarily the worst you can do; it can be quite invigorating, if you do enjoy reading a lot – and have a lot of time.

But like most people, I’d imagine your time is quite limited, and you’d rather cut to the chase.

Here are my tips to get the most out of reading scripts (fast):

  1. Find a good resource. The Internet Movie Script Database is full of freely readable scripts. The only downside; you cannot download them. Keep an eye out on articles that make Oscar-nominated movie scripts available around the Oscars; that’s how I could download Nocturnal Animals, for instance.
  2. Pick high-quality scripts. Why waste your time reading poorly written scripts? After having read a lot of high-quality scripts, you may have a look at a low-quality one, just in order to see the difference. But I’d say doing so is rather unnecessary in general; especially because you do not want to develop a voice that is similar to that of someone who writes poorly. Now you may ask, what distinguishes a high-quality script from a low-quality one? Generally speaking, movies with a great story tend to have great scripts. As a screenwriter, you’ll also have to watch movies of course, and get a feeling for what kinds of movies have a good, tight, intriguing story. Read the scripts of those movies. You may also want to have an eye on Oscar-winners (see Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture), and read their scripts.
  3. Pick scripts that fit into your chosen genre. If you are about to or are already working on your own script, it could be advised to read high-quality scripts in your chosen genre. For instance, before I started working on my own Thriller script, I read those scripts which I imagined could be inspirational and educational: Memento and Nocturnal Animals. 
  4. Read everyday. Don’t let a day slip by where you are not reading any work of art. Ideally, you would finish reading a script within a day in one go, but for most of us this is rather unrealistic. At least read one script in a matter of a few consecutive days. Let your mind be consumed by that script, and don’t cut the cord by missing out on a day. Make it a habit to read everyday. When I was reading the aforementioned scripts, I’d set aside the time for each morning, just to read. The exception to this “rule”: You may not focus on reading other scripts when you are actively working on your own.
  5. Make notes. Take note of what excites, intrigues, frustrates you about the script you are reading. What would you do better? What do you find fascinating? What is especially cinematic (as in visual)?

The gist of it is quite simple: Read (high-quality) scripts (everyday). 😉


At last, I ask you: Which scripts have helped you on your journey to becoming a (better) screenwriter? Please share your recommendations in the comments!


Screenwriter’s Journey: Speed Writing #1


There’s a practice called “Speed Writing”, according to which you write as much as you can in a short amount of time; ideally getting into a “flow” of consciousness and turning off the voice of your internal critic in the process.

I discovered this technique in Charles Harris’ “Complete Screenwriting Course” ebook, which I wrote more about here.

Harris gives the reader a Speed Writing exercise, where they have to write as much as they can within 10 minutes, non-stop.

As already mentioned, the goal here is to get yourself to write – which is the cornerstone of every writer’s existence.

Sometimes, a writer may feel too stifled or uninspired to bring anything to paper (or equivalent). This is typically caused by his or her internal critic, who is censoring you before you can even spell out one word or thought.

By engaging in Speed Writing, you are forced to write whatever comes to mind; and your internal critic is too overwhelmed by the flow of your writing to be able to get a word in.

Furthermore, it is possible to break through a writer’s block while you are doing the speed writing exercise.

Now you may think: “This is all good and well, but what should I write about? And how?”

You can write about anything that comes to your mind; ideally a scene, or some dialogue, or a character description, but it could truly be anything that intrigues you.

In terms of the best medium, I’d recommend writing on your computer or laptop, because that way you can write as much as possible in a short amount of time. Don’t forget to save it!

After that, you wonder: “Okay, but do you even Speed Write regularly?”

Personally, I find the Speed Writing exercise the most useful when I suffer from a lack of inspiration or writer’s block or simply cannot get myself to write anything. 

Other than that, I don’t find it necessary to do Speed Writing regularly; unless you really enjoy the practice, and it increases your desire to keep writing on whatever project you are already working on.

At last, following is what I wrote the first time I ever did the Speed Writing Exercise, and before I ever worked on my first script (on 19th August, 2017):

Why oh why is there a time when music stops and mouths go AH and the redness of the lights encompasses the shadows. There is a glim hope of something else, of knowing what it means to be alive. Humans are sad, sorrowed, with dull skin and wrinkles of solitude around their lips. There is a dim feeling of hopelessness. The light flickers. A woman in a figure hugging dress, Marilyn Monroe-esque, leans to the side. Her dazzling blonde curls swooping across her cheek. The alluring smile of rose red, shimmering lips. A gasp. A sigh. The scene changes. People exchange numbers, or vows, or future desolations. A dragon screams in pain. Lorelei sinks down to her feet, smelling gun powder and death in the air. Her pale skin is illuminating the room, or rather the open field. Grass everywhere, a whisk of glory. A tall, statuesque man with a broad chest and firm shoulders looks down from his high horse, whose body is pulsating with life, sweat drops are dropping downs its flanks. The man swings himself off the horse, and falls down into a pool of despair. The water is enclosing around Henry. It’s a pool side. A model laughs, her pink lips cooled off by the coldness of the water. Another scenery change, the sky turns dark and blue, with white stars twinkling beneath, or beside, or in-between the clouds. Soft and softer. Ryan mutters to himself, the words do not mean anything. Steffen wants to know how to change his life, how to go to the next step, he’s doubting himself, just as much as so many people who want to accomplish something great in this world. How could I change? Myself and others, and the world? If all my past has been the same monotony; or not even monotony, but just lacking success. People have told me I couldn’t accomplish anything great, that I was a failure, that the rejections mean that I must be rejected from the Great Table of those who control, or rather triumph over the others, over the world, who have society’s destiny in their grasp. Donald Trump laughs, shortly, cowardly? Or rather curtly. One sec, the sound is over. Flashing of cameras. iPhones are being held out in front of the faces of the masses, everyone is a walking iPhone, not a human. Where are the feelings? There is only fear in everyone’s heart, there is no deeper reverence, no deeper appeal to humanity. What is humanity anyways? It looks as if it was a quivering mass of fear. Where is love, or joy, or bliss, or community, or honor, or dignity? Everyone follows the one who seems the most fearless. People are drawn to the extreme of their own disposition, in one way or another. The Marilyn Monroe, drawn to both beauty and ugliness, her heart steeped in shadows and loneliness, dying in beauty with a broken heart rendered ugly due to its scars. Michael Jackson, a similar if not completely different fate. Elvis Presley. Marlon Brando, who did die late for his disposition, but his disposition created a thick impenetrable wall between him and others. What for? If not for self protection? Out of self-directed fear? Being physically bigger can give one a feeling of omnipotence, or rather an illusion of such. But inside, it is a scared mouse, eating more and more cheese, without having a conscious mind of its own. Well, perhaps it does have a conscious mind, but it is eaten up by fear and primitive concerns. And so is everyone following primitiveness, and indulging in their primitive nature, without engaging enough in their prefrontal cortex and making the most of what it means to be human.

Have you ever tried Speed Writing before? How did it go?

If not, will you give it a try? If you do, please tell me how it went in the comments. 🙂

Screenwriter’s Journey: Books and Websites


If you are new to anything, you’ll have to learn from those who’ve successfully walked the path before you. As a newbie to screenwriting (apart from that one dabble in it in High School, where I wrote a “one shot” for class), I was pressed to find resources and guidelines that would introduce me to the craft of screenwriting, and teach me how to do it properly – in a short amount of time.

Typically, the first thing we do in this day and age is using Google. So like my fellow Modern Westerners I went ahead and googled screenwriting, which was followed up by a move towards Amazon.

I purchased Charles Harris’ “Complete Screenwriting Course” ebook, which I can highly recommend. This book is certainly all you need, in my estimation. It’s affordable and very well-structured, instructive, and useful.

Harris’ book guides you through the process of writing your (first) script, from start to finish, including how to develop an idea, and eventually pitch your script and get involved in the business.

Browsing through my own personal library at home, I discovered I had already bought a book on Screenwriting a few years ago; the German version of one of Syd Field‘s screenwriting books, called “Das Drehbuch“.

Field’s book is more personal in nature, and less structured. It reads more like a personal story on how he got into screenwriting, how he assesses the value of scripts, and how his students did in his classes.

If you don’t have much time (like I did), you’d be better off focusing on something more instructional and to-the-point like Harris‘ ebook.

Personally, I read both books alongside each other to gain the most value and knowledge in a short amount of time; relatively short. Within one month or two, I felt mostly confident in my ability to set up and write a script, thanks to the books above and the following websites/articles:

At last, some of my friends recommended Robert McKee’s “Story” to me, which I have heard some audio excerpt from before. I imagine it to be quite interesting, and I might check it out more closely another time.

With the help of the above resources, I managed to finish my first short movie script within one to two months, starting from absolute scratch.

I hope this article was helpful to you, and I’d like to hear which resources you’ve found valuable on your way to writing your own (first) scripts. 🙂