Could this Screenplay Writing Tip Help You Write Faster?

I’d like to share a screenwriting tip. But it could potentially help you streamline the writing of your next sales letter (or whatever else you may be writing).

I took my first shot at writing a screenplay in my teens.

The plot revolved around a carpenter who, sadly, decided to turn into a killer. He was wanted in 17 states for murder, nine states for manslaughter, and three states to build a chest of drawers.

I've written several screenplays over the years. None, though, are where they need to be in terms of story and structure. Having decided to rewrite my last script, I searched online for some books that would help.

One was Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need by the late Blake Snyder.

I found plenty of tips for my screenplay. But also one that I could apply to my copywriting.

Snyder describes his use of what he refers to as "The Board." It’s a simple bulletin board, which you fill up with index cards (one card per scene) to “map out” your screenplay.

This way, you have a big-picture view of your movie. If some scenes don't flow quite right or need changing, you can do so from a "big picture" point of view.

Which got me to thinking …

Would this also be beneficial when writing a promo?

It would be a natural extension of master copywriter John Forde's system for writing a promo.

John writes out each idea (complete with features and benefits) that he’s going to talk about in his sales letter on 3x5-inch cards. As he determines the order he's going to talk about them in his sales letter, he rearranges the cards accordingly.

Combining these 3x5-inch cards with a bulletin board would give you a quick visual representation of your sales letter.

I used it with a recent promo I wrote, and it worked remarkably well. It allowed me to visualize the sales letter in my mind and quickly spot ways to improve the order of the ideas presented.

Plus, it made it easy for me to track the sections of my sales letter that still needed to be written.

Overall, it cut down significantly on the time it took me to write the letter. One of the reasons for this was that it forced me to identify and organize my sales letter before I actually started writing it.

Something I didn't do but might be useful is to color code the cards to represent the 4 P's (Promise, Picture, Proof, Push). This way, you can see at a glance what elements of your promo need beefing up.

What do you think of this idea? Do you think it would help you organize your thoughts better and write faster? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

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Published: October 5, 2011

15 Responses to “Could this Screenplay Writing Tip Help You Write Faster?”

  1. I'd say the 3X5 cards are OLD SCHOOL... try either software Dramatica Pro or StoryMind....

    However, I think the really great writers (of any style or type) are able to see the big picture before they even start.

    Guest (Kevin Mask)

  2. Nice! I've actually started to do this recently, but using mind mapping software instead of index cards. Easy to color code, make different shapes, etc. for easy visual big picture. I use XMind, which is free, but there are plenty of mind mapping programs available.

    Guest (Susanna Perkins)

  3. If you want to go high-tech for the same thing (plus more organizing), two computer programs for writers I'd recommend:

    PC Users: (This is what I use)

    Mac Users:
    Scrivener is hands down the best program out there for this sort of thing, if you have a Mac (There is a PC version, but it's always a generation behind)

    Guest (Michael Ashleigh Finn)

  4. As always John, your tips & techniques are very useful. Yes this has helped me out a lot. I'm going to try this.

    Do you know if there is a free software to where I can organize these thought and re-arrange them like on the chalk board type setting?

    My penmanship needs an overhaul. I can notice things better when it is typed out, because my handwriting isn't the greatest.

    I have tried freemind this week, from a tip I got through Cindy Cyr posting, to organise phrases, verbs, nouns, etc...

    Not to sure if it will work with your concept. I'm going to try it out..

    Thanks John


  5. I'm still learning how to use Scivener but it seems to be a great tool. Has the note card and bulletin board feature you mention.

    Sean McCool

  6. Mind mapping software is pretty cool stuff, but I still like having a big board similar to what you describe. I prefer to use a dry erase board (good for the environment), which allows me to make important items larger, and less important items smaller. Red denotes urgency. Green denotes completion. It helps with the 'big picture' concept. Useful for solving murders too, or any other type of complex problem.


  7. The best screenwriting workshop I ever attended - and did the same one twice - was by Robert McKee in L.A. He has since written a book with the same information as was in the workshop. If you want to really learn how to write an effective screenplay, find his book. Many elements, however, can be applied to all types of writing: fiction or non-fiction, sales pieces or articles. No matter what you write, it is a "story" - whether it be ad copy or anything else.


  8. I've been handwriting into journals for so long that I find it's still very effective. I like the colored cards idea to break out the different parts of the letter. Thanks for the idea.

    Guest (KathPoole)

  9. Wonderful idea. Funny you should mention it, but I do the same thing when I'm writing fiction--especially something visually-oriented. I never thought to apply it to a promotional piece--brilliant!

    Guest (persuasionink)

  10. The card idea is one of those "oldies but goodies" that really stimulates the old brain cells. Can never be replaced by technology. I replaced them with large colored Post-Its on my large white board. Still the same concept.
    Thanks for the reminder, John

    Guest (Ralph Pehrson)

  11. This absolutely works. In the mid-90s, when I was a film production manager (of TV commercials), I was asked to write a 30 minute TV script for a kids show. We break down script line items with colours . . . likewise I used indexed cards to write the 3 segments. With no formal training how to write a tv script; we shot it and had 5 immediate buyers. It sold to Discovery Channel. Definitely works. Thanks,Tia D.

    Tia Dobi

  12. This is wonderful, I am just starting and was having a hard time putting things together. I have so many ideas in my head that just needs to be placed accordingly. I am in the process of starting my own business as a Resume Writer after taking the course it is great, superb, excellent and simple to understand and follow.

    Carmen Iris

  13. I am not a visually oriented person and am extremely disorganized in all ways, including thoughts. Trying to put things on cards and arrange them on a board would not work for me. The cards would just be in my way, adding more clutter to my already messy life.

    Guest (Christine)

  14. I was introduced to Scrivener by my book mentor, best seller author Sophie Bennett, and have found it very helpful to keep me on track. I still like the card system, there is something very focused yet creative for me with paper and pen and thus feel there is a justifiable place for both.

    Guest (Sue Fleming )

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