How To Write A Screenplay First Draft Like A Boss

What is the REAL first draft of your screenplay?

A big mistake many new screenwriters make is thinking the first draft is the final draft. It sounds silly, but many first-time writers make it to 90 or 120 pages and say to themselves:

“My screenplay is ready to be produced!”

No. Your screenplay is not ready. Think about it.

Industry executives are busy. They want to work with professionals. And if you show someone an early draft, they will think all your writing is terrible.

screenplay first draft

From Screenplay First Draft To Sellable Screenplay

While screenwriting is different for everyone, after writing 20-plus screenplays, I’ve refined a three-step process that may help you avoid common mistakes.

The first step is to write to get to the end, no matter what it takes.

Even if the story doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t matter. Create characters without backstories. Make them speak dialogue that sounds robotic. Add plot points that don’t connect. Reference scenes that never existed in the story in the first place.

Write whatever. Write anything to get to the end. All of this is okay.

When you get to the end of this exercise, you will have a complete “Garbage Draft” because it’s a piece of garbage that doesn’t make any sense.

Think of it this way. When someone decides to sculpt a statue, they start with a big stone. To the outside world, the rock looks like a stone. But then the sculptor starts chipping away.

And this is where things begin to take shape.

Rewrite Your Garbage Screenplay

The second step in the process is your “Rewrite Draft.”

If you’re making a sculpture, the equivalent of the rewritten draft would be that you’re making a face… And you’re making the bust. You can see it taking shape, but it’s not yet clear.

So you get to the end of this screenplay draft, and it’s still not your first draft. It’s still really rough.

But you’re getting there. And now it’s time to go back a third time. This is the third step!

And you complete what’s called a “polished draft.” Let’s bring it back to that sculpture again. This is when you define the little pieces: the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. Once you have that done… congrats. This is officially your screenplay’s first draft!

To recap, you first complete three passes before you have a screenplay first draft. This means you never show the garbage draft or rewrite it to anyone. And you want to make sure you’re always presenting yourself as a film industry professional.

If you liked these tips, check out my professional screenwriting course.

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Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.