How to Practice Writing Scenes
One of the best mantras screenwriters have is “Always keep on writing”. It’s a great inspirational mantra against hanging the towel, but it’s also a strategy to improve their craft. Most of the time, every new script a create creates will be more professional, with fewer common mistakes. Even if the concept is completely different, the repeated writing helps.
The problem with good mantras is that it is detached from daily life. Writing a new full feature is a very time-consuming task and writers (especially aspiring ones) can’t spend it on a mere practice. Most of them are already juggling between a paying job, family obligation, and more. By the time they reach their designated writing slot, they have their own passion project to focus on.
Practicing on the final product is not always the best way to improve. When a chef practices a new dish, she focuses on the new techniques before taking a run at the full dish. The same can be done in screenwriting, focus on a single “technique” in order to produce the best final product. The way to practice these single “techniques” is by writing a single practice scene.
Scenes are the basic ingredient for writing a full script. It always encapsulates different aspects of storytelling: visualization, conflict presentation, pacing, and so on. Writing more and more scenes focused on one aspect can enhance the overall writing technique. A writer who wishes to learn how to generate horror can focus on horror scenes, a writer who needs more work on his characterization can focus on single character scenes.
The focus on a single aspect scene helps narrow down the effort needed, and stay true to the purpose of this writing session — improving. It goes to the point where even the storytelling isn’t important, it can be taken from another source. Newsflashes, co-worker’s gags, campfire stories, books, are all are great sources for practice scenes, just pick one relevant for the aspect in training and write.
After the scene is done, it’s purpose is fulfilled. Unlike a full feature, it can be cast away without much thought. On the other hand, it’s a great tool to ask for feedback. It’s a quick read and your only interest is if the writing aspect was done correctly. Just send around (or share on Instagram) and see what your friends think, and then write another scene better.