5 Useful Habits of a
Beginner Screenwriter

By Daniel Polis 

At birth we are encouraged by our parents and teachers to develop habits that will benefit us in life as well as discouraged from developing habits that will have adverse side effects.  Truth be told we do not have screenwriting parents to encourage or discourage habits while writing.  What we do have is our brains, one of the most flexible weapons in our arsenal.

Just to be clear, I’m not a professional screenwriter; I’m just a student.  Although I may not be in the position to give career advice, I have been writing since I was 15.  Since then I’ve learned from each of my mistakes and each of my triumphs and developed useful habits as a screenwriter.  Here’s a list of my top five useful habits for any beginner screenwriter.

Keep a Journal

Our minds are a perpetual machine constantly churning out new ideas every day.  Keeping a journal is an excellent way to remember every one of those ideas that pop into our minds.  Keep it next to your bed while you sleep and write down your dreams when you wake up.  Jot down descriptions of places that you think are interesting.  Write down humorous or interesting things that happen to you during your day.  When you sit down to write your script you already have a whole notebook full of ideas that you can use.  Your journal has potential to be one of the more useful tools in your tool belt of creativity.

Observe People

Write and Sell the Hot ScriptPeople watching sounds like a creepy habit to have, but it truly is useful.  It is almost impossible to invent a distinctive character out of thin air.  If you are going to write about people, you must know about people.  Be aware of your surroundings and what kind of people inhabit them.   While in the park or on the train, watch those around you.  Take note on how they speak, how they move, and how they react.  Think about what people do that makes you happy, makes you sad, and makes you angry.  Apply your observations to your characters and they will immediately become multifaceted likable (or unlikable) characters that your audience can relate to on multiple levels.

Read Scripts

Simply put, if you want to write, you have to read.  If you want to be a screenwriter you should be well versed on reading scripts.  Get familiar with their basic structure.  Read the scripts of your favorite movies and see how they differ from the films. See how your favorite screenwriters write dialogue, how they show action, and how they convey emotion.  As you read scripts you can begin to develop your own unique writing style based off what you think works or does not work in other scripts.

Keep Newspaper Clippings

Sometimes real life can be just as interesting as film, and newspapers do an excellent job of compiling the interesting things happening in the world.  Reading the newspaper and saving interesting clippings are great habits for any screenwriter. If you read an article that you find interesting or even repulsing, cut it out and put it aside.  If a headline catches your eye than cut that out. If you are ever at a stand still with a script then look at your newspaper collection, the scene you need could have already happened in real life.

Set Goals

Being goal oriented is an essential habit for success in life.  The same goes for being a screenwriter.  Writing a screenplay is more than just sitting down and hammering out a script, there is a process involved. Setting goals and meeting them is crucial to that process.  The goals you set for yourself should cater to how you work best. You could give yourself a set time frame for each step along the way.  Set a certain amount of pages you want to write each day.  Even assign yourself a final due date for the entire project if that is what works for you. Setting goals for yourself encourages you to keep writing even when you’re feeling pessimistic about your script. 

Your Comments Please


Nice habits,nice write up,nice contribution to the minds of growing script writers.

- Oluwadamilola Oshodi <damilolaoshodi@gmail.com>


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About The Author

Dan Polis Daniel Polis is a Film and Media Arts Major at Temple University in Philadelphia.  While in London he is studying communications, seeing the world, and working at Raindance.  
When he grows up he wants to create new worlds using his words that entertain and inspire (or in other words, he wants to be a screenwriter).



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 5 Useful Habits of a Beginner Screenwriter