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Jeanne's Tuesday Screenwriting Tips: 7 Basic Things I Need to Start Writing

By now, you all know Unknown Screenwriter is my go-to writer dude. We had a discussion the other day about what tools we need when we write.

Me, being practical, I start out with physical tools:

1. My Mac. Can’t live without it. I’m so paranoid about anything happening to it, I actually hide it whenever I leave the house, even if just to go to the bus stop. Don’t judge me.

2. Screenwriting software. I have both Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft 9. Love them both. Which one I use depends on if I have a writing partner or producer who has a preference. (See a review of Movie Magic Screenwriter and one of Final Draft 9 and decide for yourself.)

3. A comfortable writing space. Sometimes it’s my home office or the leopard chair in the family room. But after a while, I need to get out of the house and find a human to speak with, so I head to Panera for voyeurism inspiration.

4. An outline. I need to a blueprint for my story. Unk’s not as big into outlining as I am, but he’s far more experienced in his craft. Truth is, I’m not sure I’d ever stop outlining. I like a plan. That’s how I roll. (Movie Outline 3.1 is amazing... and it's on sale.)

5. My fat cat and Frenchie. Love having them around to relax me during stressful scenes or a tight deadline.

writing tools

6. A story idea that jazzes me. If I keep getting up from my laptop to pet the cat, that means there's no way that story is going to keep me engaged enough to write it. If I can go an hour without reaching for my furry writing partners, then I know I've got an idea worth exploring.

7. Dubble Bubble. Can’t do any serious writing without it. Funny thing is, Unk actually chews it too. Great minds…

Now, it’s Unk’s turn. I’ll let him speak for himself.

Unknown Screenwriter: This is an interesting question because I've never really given it much thought. The good news?

I don't need much.

1. I need an idea. I need an idea that stimulates me. I need an idea that motivates me to write. I need an idea to start writing.

2. I need a character. Yes. The almighty Protagonist. He or she is something I definitely need as a writer. Combine my Protagonist with my idea and I'm HAPPENIN'.

3. I need music. I'm constantly adding to my ever growing playlist of songs that stir emotion deep within my soul. These songs teach me a lot about life. About love. About the pursuit of happiness. They contain loads of subtext. Each song is almost like a film in and of itself... They have an idea and they have a character... Which brings me to my 4th need.

4. I need a goal. Am I writing a screenplay? Feature? Short? Thriller? Comedy? Horror? When do I want to finish? How many pages will I write every day? If I miss a day, will I make those pages up?

5. I need a recording device. That's right. Since I work in a vacuum i.e., by myself, I need a way to brainstorm. A way to get my creative juices flowing. A handy-dandy digital recorder works perfect for me. Which brings me to number 6...

6. I need a drive. That's right. Give me my trusty digital recorder and a good, 10-hour round trip drive to anywhere and back and I'll give you a plotted out story ready to write.


7. I need a list. That's right. Just a piece of paper with all my scribbles, doodles, and thoughts. These three things comprise what I also call my list. Anything goes. Whatever pops into my head, I write down on this piece of paper. A very simple form of free-writing, this list gets me up and running very fast.

These are our collective writing essentials. Would love to hear what you guys need to get you motivated to write. Please shout them out in the comments.

Don't forget to download some freebies from ScriptMag to help!