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Write your Screenplay in 10 Minutes a Day

By Pilar Alessandra

I know you’re busy. Trust me, I’m with you. You’ve got work, school, kids, you name it. Family counts on you, friends need you – someone’s probably e-mailing, texting or instant messaging you right now!

So how in the heck are you going to find time to write? Well, look down at that smart-phone or computer. You already are.

Be honest. How many times a day do you sneak in a Facebook post, send a brilliant thought through Twitter or entertain a far-away friend with a text? Every time you do, you’re writing.

You’re relating an anecdote; describing a person you met, engaging in a conversation. In other words, you’re focusing on story, character and dialogue all day long.

So, you might as well do it for your screenplay.

Try it. Apply those same stolen moments of time to your script. Instead of telling your friend what happened that day (really, she can wait), quickly synopsize your movie idea. Instead of texting gossip about that person you met in an elevator, create a piece of scene direction that might describe that person as they enter a movie scene. Instead of engaging in a cutesy I.M., write a “cute meet” between two characters.

Suddenly, your stolen moments of time are productively moving you towards a screenplay.

Think it can’t be done? Let’s try it out. See how quickly you can actually outline your movie by choosing to focus on one element per ten-minute break.

  1. Commit 10 minutes to telling a simple story with a great idea. Describe it in a paragraph or two as though telling a friend about a great movie. That’s your synopsis.
  2. Commit 10 minutes to dividing that story into four sections. Give each section a title. Those are your acts.
  3. Commit 10 minutes per act to brainstorming the major events that happen in each section. Those are your sequences or “beats.”
  4. Commit 10 minutes per sequence to brainstorming the cool details, character moments, and smaller actions. Those are your scenes.

Congratulations. Outline finished.

This isn’t to say that you need to cut all of your Facebook, Twitter and texting time. But look at how quickly you just moved through your outline when social networking suddenly turned into screenwriting.

Do keep texting, though -- because you’re actually teaching yourself to write. Yeah, you read that correctly. All of this texting and tweeting has taught us how to focus our stories and edit.

You choose your words carefully and well when you “tweet” a joke using only 140 characters. You’ve learned how to create urgency or coax a smile with only a few choice words sent in a quick text. You edit your e-mails to make sure that you’re not burying an important point.

All of these skills are the same ones a writer brings to scene honing and dialogue doctoring. So why not try a rewrite on your script with the same attention to detail?

  1. Commit 10 minutes to hone in on the main point of a written scene. Then quickly lop off the excess that threatens to bury it.
  2. Commit 10 minutes to finding new words for your action lines; words that have enough impact to sum up the action and emotion of that moment.
  3. Commit 10 minutes to turning an overwritten monologue into the perfect one-liner.

There’s an argument that all of our social networking is dumbing us down as a society. I say it’s created a generation of writers. We communicate through the written word more than we ever did before. Now, we just have to use those skills for our art.

Today, when that urge to cheat on your job comes to you, go ahead and take those ten minutes – but don’t log onto Facebook; focus on your screenplay.

Imagine your status update after you’ve sold it!

Meet the Author: Pilar Alessandra

Pilar Alessandra is the director of the popular writing program "On The Page." A sought after teacher and lecturer, she's traveled the world teaching screenwriting and is in high demand at major writing conferences and film festivals. As a consultant, she's helped thousands of writers create, refine and sell their screenplays. Her students and clients have sold to Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers and Sony and have won prestigious competitions such as the Austin Film Festival, Open Door Competition, Fade-In Competition and Nicholl Fellowship.

Pilar jump-started her career in film as a script reader for Amblin Entertainment. With the formatio...