Ultimate Screenwriting Guide: Write-At-Home Survival Kit

In this blog post we present a comprehensive collection of inspiration, information, guidance and tools that you can use to train those screenwriting muscles, build your knowledge and manage your screenwriting career and dreams.

Back in the screenwriting boom of the 1990s — and the years before it — resources for budding screenwriters looking to learn the art, craft, and business of screenwriting were sparse.

In the pre-internet days writers not living in Los Angeles or without access to top film schools didn’t have much accurate information to inform, guide, or inspire them.

Today, we’re lucky to have lots of resources available to us without having to even leave the apartment, house, cabin, or wherever we currently reside. Here we go:

 

Writer’s Block Eliminators

Jordan Peele once wisely said, “We all deal with writer’s block. We all get in our own way. My mantra was ‘follow the fun.’ That means, if I’m not having fun, I’m doing it wrong. If you get to a point where you hate what you’re doing, it’s up to you to figure out how to have fun while doing it.”

You’re stuck in your home with plenty of time to write, and what happens? You go blank.

Writers often refer to this as writer’s block. To most professional writers, though, writer’s block is a myth.

Here we offer two blog posts that can help you eliminate “writer’s block” from your at-home writing experience:

Creativity Boosts

Sometimes you’re ready and eager to write, but even though you’ve eliminated the myth of writer’s block from your mind (see above), you’re still struggling to get those creative juices flowing.

You may be stuck on a scene, not knowing where to go next.

You may have written a fantastic first act, but are struggling to take that momentum into the second.

You may be having trouble figuring out a plot point.

When this happens, you need some creative boosts that will help inject some inspiration and answers.

Here are two blogs posts that will help you access the creative boosts you need:

At-Home Screenwriting Exercises

When you’re a professional athlete, you need to continue to build and develop those muscles that make you better at your sport.

Screenwriters need to do the same thing. With that in mind, click the below links to some amazing writing exercises that you can do from home:

Note: Within each writing exercise post, click “next” to move onto the next exercise. 

Writing Schedule and Habits Guide

You need to be disciplined to complete a screenplay. When you’re writing from home, there can be a lot of distractions.

Developing a writing schedule will help you focus. But you need to create your writing schedule — not the emulation of others’.

Don’t hold the beliefs and perspectives of others as doctrine. Yes, you need to create great writing habits to succeed. But you can’t just replicate what others have done before you because you haven’t lived their life and they haven’t lived yours.

Persevere in your own world. Don’t try to emulate others. And don’t listen to the noise of people trying to insist that you do so. But you still have to do the work. And to get that work done, you need those great writing habits.

Set Goals

With each writing session, have a goal. It could be five pages or ten pages. It could be working on particular scenes or sequences. Whatever your process is, you need to set goals.

Get Focused

Distractions prevent you from gaining momentum during your writing sessions. So before you sit down to write, you need to clear those emails, texts, and other social media notifications. And then you need to put that phone away. This is your time.

Be Prepared

If you go into a writing session blind as to what you are going to write, you’re in for a world of mental anguish. See the above Writer’s Block Eliminators section. It’s your own fault if you’re not prepared to write. So do the necessary preparation work so that you’re ready to work when the writing session begins.

Here are two blog posts that will help you to develop your writing schedule and some excellent writing habits:

Screenwriting Podcasts

There’s nothing better than a great screenwriting podcast. Who needs in-person panels, workshops, and film school lectures when you have terrific knowledge that can come to you through your devices at home?

While we love being in a room with experts and peers at writing conferences, panels, and courses, having the same type of knowledge and perspective brought to you by a wide variety of individual podcasts at the comfort of your own home is pretty cool.

Here are a few great podcasts to enjoy while writing at home:

Screenwriting and Filmmaking YouTube Channels

If you’re in the mood to put a face to the voice and have visuals to go with the screenwriting and filmmaking education, YouTube can be your at-home film school.

Here are a few excellent YouTube channels to subscribe to that cover the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and filmmaking:

Best Spotify Playlists for Screenwriters

When you’re sitting down during your writing session and visualizing the scene that you are about to write, it helps to duplicate the cinematic experience as much as you can.

That’s why screenwriters should write to music.

And in most cases, you don’t want to use songs with lyrics. While a specific lyrical song can surely capture the moment, the best overall music to utilize can be found within instrumental scores.

During the development process, just before starting to physically write, many screenwriters create their own playlists that work as temp tracks that they can listen to while writing.

If you’re looking to save time searching for specific songs, Spotify is a great place to go. The music site and app have a plethora of instrumental playlists full of original cinematic musical scores and classical music that can set the mood for any writing session. And you can use these selections to help you create your own Spotify playlists as well.

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Spotify, it’s free to join as long as you’re okay with an advertisement here and there. You can also enjoy an ad-free Premium account.

Here we share the best Spotify playlists for screenwriters to write to.

Note: The number of songs we list for each playlist may fluctuate. 

This Is John Carpenter

Number of Songs: 50

If you know the movies of writer/director John Carpenter, you’re familiar with his style of musical scores — many of which he scored himself.

His themes are very atmospheric, so they are perfect to listen to during writing sessions.

Cinematic Chillout

Number of Songs: 50

The name of this playlist says it all. The instrumental music within is comprised of scores that you’ve likely won’t remember, even though they come from major motion pictures.

Each song is ultra-atmospheric and very, well, chill.

Movie Soundtracks — Instrumental 

Number of Songs: 637

This is a master playlist with a wide variety of selections from movies — The Shawshank RedemptionForrest GumpTitanicLegends of the FallGladiatorAvatarHarry Potter, and so, so many more.

There are even John Williams score tracks from major Spielberg movies. But these tracks are those that aren’t as iconic as the main tracks you’re familiar with.

This list is especially perfect if you’re looking for selections to create your own specific playlist as well.

Epic Movie Soundtracks

Number of Songs: 499

Similar to Movie Soundtracks — Instrumental, this playlist offers some more epic scores overall — just in case you’re writing that epic period piece, action tentpole, adventure, or war flick.

Movie Soundtracks/Themes

Number of Songs: 640 Songs

While there are many actual movie soundtracks, this playlist is unique because there are also non-movie instrumental tracks that work very well as overarching theme scores or music for specific cathartic moments.

Mellow Movie Soundtracks

Number of Songs: 981

If Cinematic Chillout offered very chill music to write to, this playlist takes it to a whole new level with almost 1000 tracks that are mellow and relaxing. If you’re writing any type of drama or romance, look no further. If you’re searching for some tracks that capture cathartic moments that you’re visualizing, you can’t go wrong.

Coffee House Ambient Sounds

There’s something calming about the ambient sounds of our favorite writing places outside of our homes. And if you’re stuck inside your apartment, cabin, or house and trying to write, the absence of those sounds may be hard to adjust to at first.

Coffitivity is a website that provides ambient sounds that you can play on your laptops, computers, Macs, and smartphones as you write.

CLICK HERE to listen to the below free ambient sound options:

  • Morning Murmur — a gentle hum that gets the day going
  • Lunchtime Lounge — bustling chatter of the lunchtime rush
  • University Undertones — the scholarly sounds of a campus cafe

The website also offers a Premium pay option for additional and unique options. But the above three do the job just fine for free.

Character Name Generators and Resources

Finding the perfect character name comes down to the perfect storm of research, creativity, chance, luck, and a good ear.

Try to be original when the character calls for it, and practical when originality isn’t necessary. And whenever you can, inject each and every name with a little more meaning. You’ll appreciate those characters more as a result.

But sometimes you need a little help.

Here are a few links to help you find those perfect character names:

  • Fantasy Name Generator — Choose from a wide selection of name types — and within those types, you can find hundreds of options in subtopics. You can also search through a wide variety of additional names for groups, planets, places, gangs, etc. There’s even a random generator that offers unique names for arcades.
  • Point Park University’s Character Name Generator — Simple and easy to use with options like species, gender, period, genre, and what letter it starts with.
  • Social Security Baby Names Background Information — All names are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States after 1879. You can search for the most popular names from any decade from that point to the present, which would be an excellent tool for those writers that are writing period pieces. The website lists popular baby names by Decade, U.S. states, and U.S. Territories.
  • Meaning of Names — One of the best destinations to find meanings behind both first and last names, with a great feature that allows you to search for names based on specific keywords or themes.
  • CLICK HERE for a Free Download of Mastering Character Names and Movie Titles from our friends at ScreenCraft!

Screenwriting Education eBooks

Need to brush up on your screenwriting basics, learn some new tricks of the trade, and prepare yourself for a screenwriting career? Check out some of the best screenwriting books online!

Screenwriting Education Courses

Sometimes you need a little direction and push. Listening, watching, and reading about screenwriting is great, but being challenged with daily assignments and deadlines can help you stay on task and meet your goals.

ScreenCraft’s eCourses are simple, effective and affordable, to help you do just that! CLICK HERE to check them out!

$50 Off Final Draft Screenwriting Software

To write great scripts, it helps to have the best software. Final Draft is the industry standard.

If you click on the upper right of the screen, you can sign up for The Script Lab’s free newsletter and receive a special code for $50 off Final Draft’s latest software!

Coverfly’s Contest Deadlines / Submissions Tracker

Coverfly is the industry’s largest database of screenwriting competition entries, searchable by industry pros who are looking for good screenplays. They only accept the top screenwriting competitions and fellowships on their platform.

So if you’re at home entering some of the industry’s best contests, competitions, and fellowships, sign up with Coverfly to track all of the deadlines and your submissions — all in one place.

CLICK HERE to learn more and sign up with Coverfly!

They also offer exclusive extras for members, including:

  • Pitch Weeks
  • Virtual Live Reads
  • The peer feedback script exchange program — coverflyX
  • Access to Few Waiver Progam
  • And more!

CLICK HERE to learn more about Coverfly’s Extras!

The Script Lab’s Free Screenwriting Contest

If you’re looking to save some money, but want a chance to get your screenplays in the hands of industry insiders, look no further!

The Script Lab and Coverfly are offering this FREE screenplay competition to help open talent-discovery to anyone and everyone, regardless of financial ability. This contest is open to feature, TV and short screenplays.

  • Early Deadline: March 31, 2020
  • Regular Deadline: April 30, 2020
  • Final Deadline: June 30, 2020

CLICK HERE to learn more!


We hope this write-at-home survival kit will help you be as inspired, informed, practiced, and productive as possible to get you through any extended at-home stay.

If you have any other resources that your fellow writers can use, please share this post on Facebook and Twitter with your own comments and ideas. Keep writing!


Michael Lee has worked in development as a script reader and story analyst for a major studio, Emmy Award-winning production company, and iconic movie director.


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Michael Lee

Author Michael Lee

Michael Lee has worked in development as a script reader and story analyst for a major studio, Emmy Award-winning production company, and iconic movie director.

More posts by Michael Lee