Writer's desk with screenplay pages and movie elements

How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Have you ever dreamed of seeing your story come to life on the big screen? Writing a screenplay may seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and dedication, it’s entirely possible to complete a screenplay in just 21 days.

According to the Writers Guild of America, West, the average feature-length screenplay is between 90 and 120 pages long. That means you’ll need to write approximately 5-6 pages per day to reach your goal.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through a structured, actionable plan to help you write a screenplay in 21 days. By following these steps, you’ll not only develop discipline and overcome procrastination but also experience the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes with bringing your vision to life on paper.

Step 1: Ideation and Preparation (Days 1-3)

Before you start writing, it’s essential to have a solid foundation in place. The first three days should be dedicated to brainstorming, research, and laying the groundwork for your screenplay.

  • Day 1: Brainstorming and Developing a Strong Concept – The seed of every great screenplay is a compelling concept. Start by brainstorming ideas that excite you and have the potential to captivate an audience. Consider drawing inspiration from personal experiences, current events, or exploring genres that you’re passionate about.
  • Day 2: Conducting Research and Gathering Inspiration – Once you have a general concept in mind, it’s time to dive into research. Read books, watch movies, or explore other storytelling mediums that can inform and enrich your story. Gather inspiration from various sources to help you create a unique and engaging narrative.
  • Day 3: Creating Character Profiles and Outlining the Plot – Well-developed characters are the backbone of any compelling screenplay. Spend time creating detailed character profiles, including their backstories, motivations, and personality traits. Additionally, outline the plot and story structure using a three-act structure or another preferred method. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure a cohesive narrative flow.

Step 2: Drafting the Screenplay (Days 4-14)

With the groundwork laid, it’s time to start writing. This step will require discipline, dedication, and a willingness to overcome obstacles.

  • Days 4-14: Writing the First Draft – During this 11-day period, set a daily word count or page goal that works for you. Aim for consistency and try to maintain a regular writing routine. Remember, the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect; the goal is to get your story down on paper.
  1. Overcoming Writer’s Block: Writer’s block is a common challenge, but there are strategies to overcome it. Try freewriting, changing your writing environment, or taking a break to refresh your mind. Sometimes, stepping away from the screenplay for a short period can provide the necessary perspective to move forward.
  2. Formatting and Writing Dialogue: Screenplays have specific formatting guidelines, including proper dialogue formatting. Learn these rules and incorporate them into your writing process. Well-written dialogue can bring your characters to life and propel the story forward.
  3. Incorporating Visual Descriptions and Scene Directions: In addition to dialogue, screenplays require visual descriptions and scene directions. Describe the setting, characters’ actions, and any essential details that will help the reader (and eventually, the director and actors) visualize the story.
  4. Revising and Refining as You Go: While the primary focus during this step is to get the first draft written, don’t be afraid to revise and refine your work as you progress. If you notice plot holes or inconsistencies, address them immediately to maintain the integrity of your story.

Step 3: Polishing and Editing (Days 15-19)

With the first draft completed, it’s time to polish and refine your screenplay to ensure it’s the best it can be.

  • Day 15: Proofreading and Addressing Errors – Start by thoroughly proofreading your screenplay and addressing any spelling, grammar, or formatting errors. This will ensure a clean and professional presentation.
  • Day 16: Getting Feedback from Beta Readers or a Writers’ Group – Seek feedback from trusted beta readers or a writers’ group. Fresh perspectives can help identify areas for improvement, plot holes, or character inconsistencies that you may have overlooked.
  • Days 17-18: Making Structural Changes and Revising Plot Points – Based on the feedback you’ve received, make any necessary structural changes to your screenplay. This may involve revising plot points, reworking character arcs, or adjusting the pacing of your story.
  • Day 19: Refining Character Arcs and Motivations – Ensure that your characters’ motivations and actions are consistent and compelling throughout the screenplay. Refine their arcs and development to create a cohesive and engaging narrative.

Step 4: Final Touches and Submission (Days 20-21)

With your screenplay polished and refined, it’s time to prepare for submission and potential opportunities.

  • Day 20: Formatting and Presenting the Screenplay Professionally – Follow industry-standard formatting guidelines to present your screenplay in a professional manner. This includes proper margins, font, and spacing. Additionally, create a clean, visually appealing title page.

Writing a Compelling Logline and Synopsis: A logline is a one or two-sentence summary of your screenplay that captures the essence of the story. A synopsis is a more detailed summary, typically one or two pages long. Crafting compelling loglines and synopses is essential for pitching your screenplay and piquing the interest of industry professionals.

  • Day 21: Researching Potential Markets and Submission Opportunities – Explore various markets and submission opportunities for your screenplay. This may include screenplay contests, film festivals, or querying literary agents or production companies. Tailor your submission materials accordingly and follow any specific guidelines or requirements.

Crafting a Strong Query Letter or Cover Letter: If submitting to agents or production companies, you’ll need to include a query letter or cover letter that introduces your screenplay and yourself as a writer. Highlight your unique selling points and any relevant credentials or experience.

Submitting the Screenplay: Once you’ve prepared all the necessary materials, it’s time to submit your screenplay to your chosen markets or opportunities. Follow submission guidelines carefully and be prepared to wait patiently for responses.


Writing a screenplay in 21 days is an ambitious undertaking, but by following this structured plan and staying dedicated, you can turn your vision into a tangible screenplay. Remember, the journey doesn’t end here. Continue honing your craft, seeking feedback, and exploring new opportunities to showcase your work.

If you find yourself struggling or hitting roadblocks along the way, don’t be discouraged. Writing is a craft that takes time and practice to master. Embrace the challenges as learning experiences, and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small.

Recommended Resources:

  • “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Syd Field
  • “Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” by Blake Snyder
  • Screenwriting courses and workshops offered by reputable organizations or institutions
  • Online screenwriting communities and forums for networking and support

With perseverance, discipline, and a passion for storytelling, you can turn your dream of writing a screenplay into a reality. So, pick up your pen (or open your writing software), and let the words flow. The world is waiting to experience your unique vision on the silver screen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days does it take to write a screenplay?

While the timeline can vary depending on the writer’s experience and the complexity of the story, a common goal is to write a screenplay in 21 days. This timeline allows for approximately 5-6 pages to be written per day, which is a manageable pace for most writers.

What is the #1 rule when writing a screenplay?

The number one rule when writing a screenplay is to follow proper screenplay formatting guidelines. This includes using specific margins, font styles, and spacing, as well as adhering to conventions for dialogue, scene descriptions, and other elements. Proper formatting makes your screenplay easier to read and demonstrates professionalism.

Can you write a screenplay in 10 days?

It is possible to write a screenplay in 10 days, but it would require an extremely intensive writing schedule and potentially sacrificing quality for speed. A 10-day timeline would necessitate writing approximately 9-12 pages per day, which can be challenging, especially for new writers or complex stories.

How long is a 2-hour movie script?

A typical 2-hour movie script is around 120 pages long. This is based on the industry standard of one page equating to approximately one minute of screen time. However, this can vary depending on the pacing, dialogue density, and action sequences in the script.

How many pages is a 1-hour movie script?

A 1-hour movie script or TV pilot script is generally around 60 pages long. Again, this follows the standard of one page representing approximately one minute of screen time, but the exact page count can fluctuate slightly.

What is the success rate of a screenplay?

The success rate of a screenplay getting produced into a feature film is relatively low, ranging from 1% to 5% according to industry estimates. This is due to the highly competitive nature of the film industry and the numerous factors involved in greenlighting a project, such as financing, casting, and market demand.

How much do screenwriters make?

Screenwriter salaries can vary widely depending on experience, the project’s budget, and the writer’s negotiating power. According to the Writers Guild of America, the minimum salary for a low-budget screenplay is around $70,000, while high-budget studio films can pay over $1 million for an experienced, in-demand screenwriter.

How many pages of a screenplay should I write per day?

When writing a screenplay in 21 days, a common goal is to write 5-6 pages per day. This pace allows for a consistent and manageable writing schedule while still providing enough time for planning, research, and revisions. However, some writers may prefer a faster or slower pace based on their individual preferences and circumstances.

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