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How to Write Your Screenplay or Novel Better and Faster

By Marilyn Horowitz

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I am often asked for suggestions for jumpstarting a writing project. Here are five of them:

1.  The most important point, the “secret” technique to success is to genuinely and consistently find a way to believe that you can be successful in your endeavors.  Unless you find a way to literally “see” yourself as a successful writer in your mind’s eye, you will never succeed beyond your limited expectations.  Here’s a brief exercise:  Take a moment and imagine yourself receiving an Oscar.  What are you wearing? What are you winning for? What will you say in your speech? Being able to imagine yourself as a winner does not insure winning, but it can certainly help.

2.  You also have to find a way to feel good about yourself regardless of the circumstances. You must find a way to trust that your story is worth telling and that you are up to the task. Self-doubt is a corrosive emotion that can really slow you down. Remember: pain is necessary, but suffering is optional. One way to overcome self-doubt is to carefully test out your ideas with your future readers and/or viewers. This way you will know whether the idea works on a conceptual level, and the suffering that comes from uncertainty is avoided.

3.  Always consider your audience.  Remember that your very first audience is yourself. If you can write the kind of story you would like to see or read, the chances of it being good improve more than fifty percent. This is in part because you will remain true to the original idea that got you started. You will also know how to shape the material perfectly.

Your second audience is the producers, agents and publishers. They are the ones who will help you get to the next level. This does not mean lowering your story to some “common denominator,” it means be aware of their concerns and interests and gear the story to them. Their main interest, of course, is how they can make money from your work.

The third audience is the reader/viewer. Always try to understand what they want, and then decide how much you want to accommodate them.

4.  In order to best present your work to the second and third audiences, you need to create a solid “logline” – a short description of the material in a way that is provocative and makes the listener want to see the movie or buy the book. This logline can be used verbally and in written form. For example, the logline for my recent novel, The Book of Zev is: “Can two ordinary New Yorkers prevent a terrorist from blowing up the U.N. and Israel?”

5.  Write a “treatment” of what you have already written or intend to write. This is basically a short story written in the present tense that covers the whole story. Often writing out a treatment helps diagnose any shortcomings and helps develop your work. That is why the motto of my writing system is “Don’t Get It Right. Get It Written!”  By getting something on paper you gain confidence to get the project moving.

By consistently following these five steps, you will write better and faster.

About Marilyn Horowitz

Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, author, producer, and Manhattan-based writing consultant, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She is also a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked writing system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007). Her new novel, The Book of Zev is available on Amazon.

Screenwriting Article by Marilyn Horowitz

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