Step 1: Pick a Structure
Different stories have different shapes. Pick the story structure that will help guide your story. (Or go “Freeform” and write by the seat of your pants.) Here are the structures we currently support:
- Four Act: Aristotle’s classic story structure. The setup, the rise / fall, and the resolution.
- Five Act TV: Most TV has 5 acts. Some shows contain a teaser & tag which can go in the 1st and 5th acts.
- Eight Sequences: Frank Daniel divides a story into 8 sequences that generate cliffhangers and twists.
- Save the Cat: Blake Snyder’s Hollywood method defines the key plot points and when they occur.
- Story Circle: Dan Harmon’s hero’s journey structure for sitcoms and “there-and-back-again” stories.
Step 2: Set Your Page Target
How long do you want your script to be? In screenplays, 1 page = 1 minute.
Commonly, a feature script is between 90 and 110 pages. An hour-long episode of TV is 60 pages – but if you’re writing for network TV, after subtracting commercial time, your hour comes down to ~44 pages.
This number will help you in the next step…
Step 3: Write Your Beat Sheet
A beat sheet is the abbreviated precursor to a screenplay outline. The beat sheet sets your plot at the macro level. Our outliner generates page targets for how long these various sections should be depending on what structure you follow.
The things you write in your beat sheet are the 10,000-foot view of your story. Begin by defining the big-picture of your story in general terms, brevity is key. One could sum up the entire 2nd Act of The The Wizard of Oz simply:
- On her journey, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (wants a brain), the Tin Man (seeks a heart), and the Cowardly Lion (wants courage). She invites them to join her and ask the Wizard for what they lack. Despite the Witch’s attempts to stop them with sleeping spells and other magic, they reach the city and see the Wizard, who appears a giant ghostly head.
Step 4: Write Your Step Outline
When you’re done with your beat sheet, then you drill-down into one of your sections and begin defining the individual scenes. This is sometimes called a “step outline.” Click “Add Scene.”
Define the location for the scene. Each scene description in your step-outline reminds you only of the vitals: what the scene needs to generally accomplish…or exactly what a character needs to discover in that specific location.
For example, the first scene of the 2nd Act in Wizard of Oz could be simply:
- Dorothy takes her first steps down the yellow brick road – song.
Step 5: Talk Your Draft
Pick the scene you want to dictate, and click “Talk Your Draft.” This launches the transcriber (seen below).
- Click the number buttons #1-9 to program the speaking characters in that scene.
- Click the Record “microphone” button to start our transcriber.
- Speak an Action Line or Stage Direction – button #0 will be for your Action Lines.
- Tap and release one of the character buttons – Then say her line.
- If someone else speaks next, tap their character button – Then say their line.
- You can also press the number buttons on your keyboard for extra speed.
When you are done, Click “Export Transcript” and then open the exported file in the screenwriting software of your choice.