First Draft: The Screenwriting Method

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I’ve rarely read any advice about first drafts. Mostly other authors say the important thing is to get through them quickly. You can always go back and edit later, the idea is to get all of your initial ideas down on paper. But I’ve heard of a more specific method that I wanted to share with you today. If you’re having trouble with writing your first drafts, trying out this method could be helpful to you.

The technique in question is writing your first draft as a screenplay, or at least as a pseudo-screenplay. You can write out a description of the setting all in one go. You can write your descriptions of the characters without having to worry about artfully integrating them into the narrative. You can write out all of your dialogue just to get down the witty banter and not worry about what details you might want to add in between lines. Separating out the description, exposition, and dialogue can help you quickly get to the heart of your story without stressing too much about how well the words of the flow together.

If you’re someone who likes to edit as you write, and you feel that doing so slows you down, this method might be helpful for you. It essentially forces you to keep your momentum going because you know that you’re going to have to do a second draft later. You can really hammer down the details of the descriptions, both of characters and settings, without getting hung up on word choice or narrative flow. Having a first draft writing technique that is so very different from your editing process might also help you to focus more on the writing rather than the editing.

For those of you who are discovery writers, this method might help speed up your process as well. You can use the “screenwriting” process to work on discovering your setting, or working through your characters dialogue and interactions, without committing to the grind of writing out a more fleshed out narrative. The “screenplay” that you develop as your first draft can be the point at which your discovering everything about your story, and then it can serve essentially as the outline for your second draft, at which point will have a clear idea of who the characters are, what the major plot points are, and how your story comes together.

I haven’t personally tried this method yet, but it’s something that I’m thinking about integrating into my writing process in the near future. I often stumble over integrating exposition, dialogue, and description in an elegant fashion, and I think that slows down my first draft writing. If you find that you have similar problems, or if you’re just not a huge fan of first drafts in general, than I think this might be a method that is worth trying.

If you try this method, or if you have already tried it, let me know how it went for you in the comments. Is this something you would suggest to other authors? Or do you think it is in an effective way to write a story? I’m curious to hear your thoughts and hear if anyone has any other suggestions on methods for approaching first drafts.


3 thoughts on “First Draft: The Screenwriting Method

  1. I do this. It helps so much, there’s no desire to edit whatsoever because you’re putting the story in it’s most basic. Usually, I find my WIP first drafts to be condensed in this form, they are around one hundred or so pages and descriptions of places, people and emotions are very brief. It also prevents me from pulling an exposition dump that doesn’t come from whoever is speaking. 🙂

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