Tips to Follow While Writing a Spec Script

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Image credits – Pixabay

Spec scripts are speculative scripts written for a feature film, a documentary or a TV show where the screen writer does it on his own in the hope that someday, some producer or studio might like it and either buy the script to be made into a movie or a show or help him show his skills and talent so that he gets a job on another show.

Spec scripts may or may not get purchased and commissioned. This is especially true if you are doing it for a TV show. Many writers have written spec scripts of already running, on-air, popular TV shows and made it a part of their work portfolio with the aim to get noticed. But now, young and inexperienced script writers are encouraged to write spec pilots which are completely new shows which may get made or rejected but helps to understand a scriptwriter’s depth, ability to build a plot from scratch without any guidance and talent.

How to get your spec script right?

Don’t write pages after pages: A good spec script will not write down even the obvious. There is no need to get down into the details of the action or explain the back story elaborately. The focus should be on the main story and the characters. Also, the language should be crisp, professional and pithy. Remember that you have not been tasked with creating a novel. You don’t have to spell out every camera angle, transition, mood, setting or costume that you are going to use in great details. Keep it short, especially if you are writing a single pilot episode for a TV show. The reader wants to get a taste of the story and understand its marketability and is not interested in your style or choice of moviemaking.

Keep the total page count low: If you are writing a spec script for a feature movie, ideally you should try and restrict the page count to below 110 pages, 120 being the upper limit. Don’t try to test the patience of the reader. Don’t get into unnecessary details like setting long back stories behind every character or sequence. Often, the flow is more important than the details which can be worked out later if your script gets selected.

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Image credits – Pixabay
Write and rewrite: It very difficult to write the perfect draft or script the very first time. You will have to write the spec script as many times as you need to make it error free. Get feedback from your friends in the field. Tweak characters and remove or re-write weak subplots.

Don’t change the voice of the main characters: If you are writing a sample script for a single episode of a popular and well-established TV show, remember to study the show and the characters carefully. You don’t want to change the style or the voice of the central characters for a single show only. It would show that your writing lacks depth and you have not done enough research.

Hold the tension in all the scenes: A hallmark of a good script it that it manages to keep the premise exciting throughout the movie. Force your characters to make important decisions, use a powerful and unique concept even if you are writing for a low-budget film and don’t let the plot meander and lose steam.

Writing your first spec script may be intimidating and may not be without flaws. Moreover, these are some guidelines and since scriptwriting is a creative work, you can’t always bind it to textbook rules. However, only the most obvious have been discussed here and should help you in your endeavor.

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