1) CONFLICT NEEDS TO BE IN EVERY SCENE
This is the first law of screenwriting. If characters just talk in a scene and there's no conflict anywhere then you're going to bore the reader! Put some kind of conflict in every scene or cut the scene altogether.
2) SHOW DON'T TELL
Why have your characters talk about their past when we can see it? If something life changing happened to your character, show it to us! Your audience isn't going to remember words, but they'll remember something they see.
3) EVERY CHARACTER HAS THE SAME VOICE
Every character needs their own voice. If everyone sounds exactly like you then your script is in trouble. Everyone is different so we all talk differently and use different vocabulary. Make sure no two characters sound the same.
RULE OF THUMB
Take a page from the middle of your script and cross out all the names. Then see if you can tell who is talking. Great lesson learned from Blake Snyder's "Save The Cat."
4) TOO MUCH SETUP
When your story doesn't start moving forward until page 34, then I've already already PASSED on your script, I don't care if you have an epic story to come, because I'm already bored. I'm not coming back from that painful 30 minutes I wasted on your script. You setup should be short and state your goal as soon as possible.
5) CHARACTERS HAVE SIMILAR NAMES
Don't have a Josh, Jake, John, and Jeff! Your reader is going to get confused if you have even two characters with the same initial and the same amount of letters in their name.
Don't have names start with the same initial.
6) YOU'RE DOING THE DIRECTOR'S JOB
You're not the director! You're the writer! Don't tell me how camera angles should go or have a crazy amount of transitions. And never FADE IN and FADE OUT more than once. Amatuer writers love to do more than one of these, but this is NEVER OKAY! The only time you FADE iN is the first thing in your script and the only time you FADE OUT is the last thing.
7) TOO MUCH ACTION DESCRIPTION.
When you're first page is just action description, I'm already cringing at your script. Screenplays are not books! Keep the action description snappy! The more white space on the page, the better. If I get sick of all your action description then after a certain page I'll stop reading it. I'll just go by the dialogue to figure out what's going on. This is especially true for comedies. Brevity is the soul of wit.
8) ING words.
Screenplays are written in present tense, not past tense. Take verbs with ing and replace them with present tense verbs! This also makes your action description snappy and shorter. Don't write:
Lou is running and listening to music.
You're wasting space and this slows down the script. Instead write:
Lou runs and listens to music.
9) Characters talk in Paragraphs!
Dialogue should be snappy, especially in comedy. Don't make me read an entire paragraph of dialogue every time your main character speaks. This not only makes it extremely hard for actors to remember their lines, but it’s not natural. Unless we’re giving a speech or telling a story, we don’t talk in paragraphs.
10) YOUR FIRST 10 PAGES SUCK
The first 10 pages of every new screenplay are the most important. It's the first impression. If it's comedy, it better make us laugh. The first 10 pages decide if I want to keep reading this or if I'm going to eat, go online, or take a nap. The first10 pages have to draw me in and set the tone.
About the Author ~ Jordan Chadwick Imiola is a screenwriter with years of script coverage experience at management companies, freelance, and currently for a very successful script coverage service.