You keep hearing everyone banging on about how important the first 10 pages of your script are. In those few minutes of reading, you are told, whoever is holding your script in their grubby paws will have already made up their mind. Now matter what happens in the 2nd act, no matter how wow-ing your finale, if your first 10 pages aren’t mustard-cutters then your script has already been rejected.

Now you can either bitch about the shallowness of the industry, how your work can’t possibly be judged on such a small sample, and probably never sell your script. OR, you can accept that those rules might be harsh but they’re fair, endeavour to make your first 10 pages flawless thus giving the rest of your script a fighting chance

As a caveat: a lot of people are looking for things like “a strong, original, writer’s voice” and of course those things are very important. But we can’t help you with that. What we can help you to do is avoid all the mistakes that instantly flag your script up as amateurish and get it chucked straight into the circular file under the desk.

What we have here is a scoring system – run through the questions below and answer honestly. Better yet, get a friend with fresh eyes to run through and answer honestly on your behalf. Tot up your score and find out where you came on our scale of crapness.

0-7:
You’re doing pretty damn well.
7-15: Not too shabby, but a polish should improve your chances.
15-25: Better hope you have a forgiving reader.
25-40: Time to dig out those formatting and screenwriting guides.
40+: Erm, you have a lot of work to do.

The basics

+4 points if the font isn’t Courier 12pt
+1 point for capitalizing character’s names on their 2nd use and beyond
+3 points for any slugline that refers to anything other than “Day” or “Night”
+2 points for any slugline that contains excessive location detail
+3 points for any spelling error.
+6 points for any tippex and pen
+6 points for any pictures or diagrams
+3 points for each camera direction
+3 points for each unfilmmable action line (e.g. the room smells of lilacs)

Character introduction

+6 points if it isn’t clear who the protagonist is by p.10
+3 points if the introduction of your protagonist isn’t something slightly special
+4 point for introducing your protagonist only by name
+2 points for a name and purely physical description
+4 points for an over-the-top description, biography or totally garbled untranslatable nonsense
+2 points for each named character that doesn’t appear after the first 10 pages
+2 points for the 7th speaking character and each one after

Dialogue

+4 points if there are not any contractions
+4 points if not a single character has a distinctive pattern of speech
+2 points for every character who speaks in full, grammatically correct sentences
+2 points for any parenthetical direction to the actor
+4 points for each instance of clunky exposition
+3 points for each instance of on-the-nose dialogue

Style issues

+4 points for any paragraph over 5 lines long
+3 points for each instance of excessive scene-setting
+2 points for utterly gratuitous sex or violence
+2 points for each “we see”

Other

+6 points if a non-modern-day set time period isn’t established
+3 points if a clear location isn’t established
+2 points for the 8th and every extra scene
+4 points if there isn’t conflict in the first 2 pages
+3 points if by p.10 the genre remains unknown
+2 points for each cliché either in dialogue or action

Help is on the way

There are dozens of articles about creative writing on this site. Just click here and start reading!

Want a professional read and critique of your script? Details here:

mm

About 

Raindance aims to promote and support independent filmmaking and filmmakers.

From new and emerging to industry pros, Raindance connects, trains, supports, and promotes visual storytellers through every step of their career.

The Raindance Film Festival runs each Autumn in London's Leicester Square.

Raindance has been delivering film training since 1992. A wide range of Open Classes to a 2 year HND Level 5 BTEC in Moving Images to a Postgraduate Film Degree are delivered to students on five continents, both in person and online.