What Are Some Easy Ways For Screenwriters To Cut Down The Page Counts?

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What are some easy ways for screenwriters to cut down the page counts of their screenplays?

This is a great question and I think there are a few techniques I might be able to humbly impart that can help speed things up. The good news is, pacing something up is pretty much always possible. You have to be ready to let go of things that you think you love, but I can promise that when you let go of something you think you can’t let go of, it will open you up to brand new opportunities that you might never have been exposed to otherwise. Wait am I’m talking about writing, or all of existence? —exactly! Anyway - I see three general ways you can pace up a script. By trimming down some words. By changing out some words. By reevaluating the subject of some of the scenes themselves. Way one to pace things up is to go into a scene like a hunter and pull out any looseness. Evaluate each word and phrase and if t don’t add to the thrust, if t aren’t moving your idea forward, pull them out. Be ruthless. Pull out sentences too. Anything redundant can make things feel draggy. Even subtle things that are just a snippet of a line — especially if t’ve already been expressed in other dialog or indicated in action lines. Trim trim trim, snip snip snip. If it doesn’t add to the momentum and understanding, cut it. When you really want to pace things up. trim as much as you can, trim more than you think you should, then trim some more. Be more brutal than seems at all reasonable. Then later, if some of it feels like it’s missing or if things aren’t making sense, carefully put select items back in, piece by piece, a very little bit at a time until you find that balance between pace and information. Break up dialog lines. Often we have larger chunks of dialog that can be divided up into more of a back and forth. So take those big pieces and split them up. This can really up the pace and often it is a more realistic way to represent a conversation. It’s rare that a convo is one person talking while the other person listens to them saying their whole point and then having that listener reply and say their whole point. Break up that dialog and things will pace up. Within the dialog there are often redundancies that can be eliminated and things like, “Yeah” “Uh” “Er” etc that feel like character flavor when you are writing them, but are a drag on the overall flow as a whole and most of the time t aren’t needed. (because t are implied or some other part of the presentation represents that aspect of their personality) If there is a scene that needs to be paced up, avoid large descriptions and long chunks of one-sided dialog (see above.) The style of the writing can and should reflect the pace of the scene. The way the action is described in the scene itself can make a big difference. Instead of. “She enters and moves across the room and sits on the couch.” try. “She busts open the door and flops down on the couch.” Never be shy about exclamation points! or high-action words!! (like in the cream of wheat example below) Zooming back for a larger macro view, sometimes entire scenes or even multiple scenes can feel slow no matter how efficient or tight we make them. This might mean those scenes are in the wrong place in the overall picture — that scene needs to be moved elsewhere or deleted altogether. Sometimes it is the subject of the scene — the scene itself — that jams up the flow. It can be difficult to take a scene or portion of a screenplay that is inherently less outwardly dynamic and pace it up because maybe it’s a scene about cooking and eating cream of wheat. You can always write it like. “Bam! He pours the cereal and each grain of semolina crashes into the bowl in slow motion. Searing hot water splashes through like a tsunami, absorbing everything in it’s path!!” You can pace it up like that, but does it fit? Is this scene in the right place? Is this scene even in the right movie? That’s a big question and evaluating what is slow about your script vs what it’s supposed to do is the first step to pacing it up. I often like to step back and look at what it is exactly that needs to be accomplished in a scene, then look at the scene and be brutal with it. BRUTAL. You have to be brutal with your work all the time. Writing is rewriting. All of life is editing. Let it go. Maybe it comes back. Look at what you are trying to accomplish in an area of the script and be honest about whether your approach does that. Then adjust. Remember. Almost all scripts are sales documents first. T are literature second (or unfortunately often never.) You are trying to sell this thing. Even if you have already sold it you are trying to sell it. You are trying to get these ideas across as efficiently as possible so that actors and producers and crew people and studio heads can understand and buy into your intention as much as possible. The more fun the writing style is, even if the subject is dead serious, the more you are going to have various people buy into it. The more clearly (and simply) you can communicate your concepts the better chance you have of seeing it on the screen the way you intended it. Screenplays are not novels and overly flowery language can often distract. The most experienced screenwriters can sometimes achieve efficient and flowery but until you get to that level, just work on getting your ideas across in the way you want your intended audience to take them in. You are smart, and maybe the general audience is smart, but the people who are reading and evaluating your script are not necessarily smart. Write it like it’s for a person who— can read, but rarely does. If it’s a complex idea, really lay it out. Even if you think you are over-simplifying, you probably aren’t. It’s not your job to confuse anyone or even to challenge them with the language. You can challenge them with the broader idea, but it’s your job to take them through your idea in as smooth a way as you can muster. People reading your script have a lot to think about. A lot of factors to weigh including, “Do I want to read one more word, or move to the next script in my inbox?” So if you are a screenwriter, you are asking the right question. Don’t let that pace sag! Keep em engaged! Good luck!!

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