Midseason Finale

Craig and John wrap up many plotlines from previous episodes, with follow-up on Three Page Challenges, diversity numbers, Road Runner and other rules, plus the Gravity lawsuit in light of the Blurred Lines verdict.

The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.


John and Craig pick up loose ends, with follow-up on previous episodes about “friends,” conflict, improv, Kindles, and defibrillation.

Putting a price on it

From Amazon to animation, there’s drama this week about prices for books and movies and even internships. John and Craig take a look at what happens when companies wrestle over how much things cost, and the effect it has on people trying to make a living as writers.

Two Writers, One Script

John and Craig look at the trend towards hiring two writers to work on separate drafts of the same project. Is it better to have writers working in parallel than serially? Or does it end up with studios ordering off a Chinese menu: this scene, that character, that other set piece?

Let me give you some advice

Craig and John go back to basics with an all advice episode, looking at the Dear J.J. recommendations for Star Wars, Tony Gilroy’s advice to screenwriters and whatever’s up with Max Landis.

Ugly children and cigarettes

Has a statistician cracked the code on successful screenplay formulas? John and Craig cast a skeptical eye at a New York Times article on Vinny Bruzzese, who claims to have done exactly that.

On the new Black List

Franklin Leonard, creator of The Black List, has announced a new incarnation of his site that allows screenwriters to upload their scripts for review and rating — for a fee.

In which Stuart reads the Save the Cat! books and tells you what he thought

I don’t read books on how to write screenplays, but Stuart does, so I occasionally ask him to write up his impressions. For this round, he tackled the three Save the Cat! books by Blake Snyder.

Breaking down Big Fish

A reader forwarded a link to this structural analysis of Big Fish, which attempts to break down my screenplay down into five plot points

Those who can’t write, teach seminars

The fact is that very few people who write screenwriting how-to books have meaningful writing credits. They make a living selling advice to aspiring screenwriters, either one-on-one or at seminars.

Rethinking motivation

Try replacing the question of what the character wants/needs with, “Why is the character doing what he’s doing?”

Short answer sprint

Nine second answers to nine burning questions. Ready…go!

What does he want?

Often, the best answer is the simplest: something physical and achievable.

Script Cops

Video link.

The Hollywood Standard

All you need to know about formatting a screenplay, right here (for sale anyway). Second opinions included.

Is Scriptblaster worth trying?

Your money would be better spent elsewhere. Such as Vegas.

Professional Writing and the Rise of the Amateur

A lecture to Trinity University on authorship and authority in the internet age.

Write-up of my recent WGA Foundation Q&A

Corrections to notes on my Q&A at the WGA.

Stressing over structure

Stop thinking about structure as something you impose upon your story. It’s an inherent part of it, like the setup to a joke.

Backing up is hard to do

It’s the law of delayed consequences: people tend to put off work that doesn’t have immediate gratification.

The Get A Mentor program

Is your mentor program a tad shady?

Hiring a “script doctor”

If you really have limitations in a given area — dialogue, plotting, whatever — you need a writing partner, not a self-styled guru.

Writers Boot Camp

Workshops often bill themselves as helping writers avoid the painful mistakes, but sometimes what you really need are the painful mistakes.

Getting help as a deaf screenwriter

If you were hired to write a magazine article in French, you wouldn’t think twice about having a native speaker look over your work. That’s what you need.