How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days

Week One

Day 1

  • What’s your idea? What’s your story? Who’s it about? Sum up the story in a couple of sentences. “Once upon a time, there was__. Every day__. One day__. Because of that,__. And because of that,__. Until finally__. “Create a playlist that fits the vibe you’re imagining. Mood boards are always fun at this point, too.

Day 2

  • Who’s the protagonist, antagonist, what’s the setting, and what’s the problem? You probably thought about these things on day one but now flesh them out. Write some character descriptions. Practice describing the story to a friend, see what they think.

Day 3

  • Get started working on the treatment. This treatment is just for you, so don’t worry too much about the format or the length. Aim for three to five pages. Just concern yourself with getting a description of the beginning, middle, and end down on paper. A screenplay treatment is similar to a synopsis but longer.

Day 4

  • Continue working on your treatment. Does the beginning answer who, what, when, where, and why? Make a list of plot points that propel the middle and keep things interesting. What are various conflicts and consequences that are happening? How are things moving ahead or falling apart? It’s essential to know how your movie will end because knowing where you’re going makes it easier to come up with routes to navigate to that destination.

Day 5

  • Your treatment should be finished! Hooray! Now you can take it and use it to create an outline. Your outline can look however works best for you. For me, it usually consists of 40–60 index cards (representative of the 40–60 scenes in a movie), and I go through my story scene by scene. Each index card gets numbered and labeled with a brief description. Sometimes I go chronologically; other times, I jump around. Sometimes it’s helpful to start with the beginning scenes, do the end ones, then jump to the middle. If you get stuck, start with all the scenes in which you know what’s happening first, and let that help you figure out the scenes you’re unsure of.

Day 6

  • Continue working on your outline.

Day 7

  • Continue working on your outline. Or review it if already finished.

Week Two

Day 8

  • You should have your outline finished. Now create a schedule for when you’re going to write. Pick a time each day that you’re going to specifically designate for writing. Celebrate by sitting down and writing your first five pages today! You can do it! Just refer to your outline.

Day 9

  • Aim to write five pages.

Day 10

  • Aim to write five pages.

Day 11

  • Aim to write 10 pages. That’s 25 pages total!

Day 12

  • Aim to write 10 pages.

Day 13

  • Aim to write 10 pages.

Day 14

  • Aim to write 10 pages. Once you’re done, you should be at 55 pages in total!

Week Three

Day 15

  • Aim to write 10 pages.

Day 16

  • Aim to write 10 pages. That’s 75 pages total!

Day 17

  • Aim to write 10 pages.

Day 18

  • Aim to write 10 pages. That’s 95 pages! Some people might be done at this point! If that’s you, it’s time to start rewriting 😊 or time for a break before you start in on the revision process. Sometimes, the best thing to do for fresh ideas is to set aside your current project.

Day 19

  • Aim to write 10 pages. Now you’re at 105 pages!

Day 20

  • Aim to write 10 pages. This will put you around 115!

Day 21

  • Aim to write five pages. 120! You did it! You have a finished first draft!

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