1. Watch Tons of Movies
Lots of them. Good, bad, old, new. All genres. Make it your quest to become exposed to all things film. It’s a badge of honor to earn film nerd status, because as we all know, “Nerds Rule the World.” The more movies you see, the easier it’ll be to identify plot points, sequences, and act breaks. You’ll even start watching the clock when viewing DVD’s at home, as you’ll be inundated with the desire to analyze, but you’ll know when you experienced something truly great when you stop thinking and just enjoy the ride.
2. Read Tons of Screenplays
As many as possible. This helps to understand screenplay form as well as see how the page translates to the screen. You get a sense of different screenwriting styles and voices, and most importantly you will be exposed to the application of clear, concise writing, while using creative brevity to maximize the visual medium. Learning how not to direct on the page and maximize white space is all part of it. Check out some websites that offer free downloadable screenplays, such as SimplyScripts or DailyScript.
3. Have Lots of Ideas
Lots of them! And make sure your ideas are fresh, original, and unique - because a plethora of great ideas is truly your ace in the hole. As soon as you finish writing one script, immediately begin another. Always be creating something new. Imagine: If you write one script a year, in a decade (and it does take that long to have overnight success), you have ten finished screenplays, and the chances of achieving success with ten spec scripts versus one is obvious. Fresh, original ideas truly are the lifeline of Hollywood.
4. Create a Writing Schedule
Eat right and exercise: you’ll start liking what you see. Save your money and put 20% down: you won’t lose your house. And if you call yourself a screenwriter, you absolutely must follow suit. Schedule your writing because a writer’s schedule is the writer’s salvation. Make it a part of your daily routine, and stick to it like crazy glue. But be realistic about your own situation. Being a writer – paid or not – is absolutely a job, so treat it like one. Be accountable. Be responsible. Be on time. Show up and write - Everyday!
5. Find the Magic Within
There are stories in all of us, and the old adage "write what you know" is always a good place to begin. It only makes sense to steal from your own experiences. But it’s also just as important to “write what you love.” You have to get to where you’re inspired, because the real magic originates from inside. And if the spark isn’t ignited from within, there will be no fire in your script – no passion. And the best way to conjure up the passion and maintain that magic is to focus on who you are creatively and be true to yourself.