How to be a screenwriting success

A few days ago I talked about how Malcolm Gladwell focused on three traits of geniuses from Einstein to the Beatles – numbers one and two were that they loved what they did and that they were lucky enough to be able to work on what they loved for long periods, around 10,000 hours!

I promised to tell you number three.

Before I do, don’t underestimate the power of #1 and #2. I don’t think there’s a single successful artist of any kind who didn’t have a passion for their work, indeed wouldn’t have done if for nothing given half a chance. (Some of them, of course, had no choice!)

And nobody succeeded without putting in the leg-work – sheer hours on the page, reading, writing, networking, training to be better.

And all that is nothing without #3

Breaking the Rules

All great artists – writers, film-makers, musicians, etc – think outside the box. They learn the rules, and then they learn to master them and break them. They break them so effectively that they make new rules for others to keep.

To break the rules you need to know that there are three kinds of rules.

The breakable rules that others have made and that you can get away with if you know how. Check out your favourite films. I guarantee they’ll all break some rules (and keep others).

You’ll find subtle rule breaks and unsubtle: unusual characters, flashbacks, voice-overs, multiple story-lines, tricky openings, surprising endings, stylised dialogue, and many many more.

Ask yourself which rules they keep and which ones they break – and how they make it work. To break them takes skill: you need to know not only how they work but also why they exist, and how to avoid the pitfalls.

Then there’s the rules that you make for yourself, and may not even be aware of, and that you absolutely must break. What are you totally wedded to? What would you never ever do in a million years? What dreadful thing would happen if you broke these?

And finally the rules that are fatal to break. There are only a few of these, but breaking these will torpedo your script faster than, er, a torpedo…

But then maybe one day someone will break even those.

So, over to you – time to shatter your chains.

If you want to know how to master the rules, break the rules and make them for other people, take a look at my book Complete Screenwriting Course.

It’s one of my absolute favourites. I write about all the rule breaks mentioned above and much more. It will get your brain buzzing. Click here to learn more.

Go on – break some rules now. You have nothing to gain but your freedom!