Writing a good, compelling, readable treatment is tough. It’s difficult enough to write a cinema or TV script – but then to boil the whole thing down from 90+ pages to one or two…! However this is a crucial part of a screenwriter’s job.
A treatment is just another word for outline or synopsis and I’ve written hundreds in my career. They all demanded 100% of my attention and pushed me to the limit of my writing skills. However, as a result I not only became a much better writer, I started making more sales.
So here, from the sweat of my brow and the depths of my experience, are three of my top tips for getting that treatment to work for you rather than against you.
1. Go for broke
Most treatments are flat, uninspiring things. Writers are so worried about getting the story down in short form that they forget to use their literary skills.
Go for the very essence of the story – in a very, very few beats – don’t try to tell us everything that happens. Instead, give us the emotion. Develop a distinctive voice that reflects the characters and setting. Unfold the theme and the meaning (in a treatment you are allowed to tell as well as show! In fact you must).
2. Be disciplined
Don’t ramble: write to length. If the treatment is for someone else, then deliver the length that they want. You will need treatments of different lengths for different potential buyers. If two pages (as for this year’s Euroscript Screen Story Competition) then make it two pages – in standard font, properly laid out and spaced. No cheating by leaving out paragraph spaces, or using 1mm margins!
If the treatment is for you, as part of developing the script, then you still owe it to yourself to keep it short and crisp. You will learn far more about your story by being disciplined than by allowing yourself to go on and on.
I believe the best way is to start with a short paragraph and then grow it organically step by step (I go through this entire process with you in Exciting Treatments).
3. Keep improving
Keep polishing, revising and improving your treatments as you write each draft of the script and then keep doing the same as you start sending the treatments out. As you keep refining, so you learn more about the script itself – characters, emotions, theme – and so both treatments and script become sharper.
I always obtain paid professional feedback before sending out a treatment, even though I give feedback to others. Everyone needs another pair of eyes.
If you want to learn more about how to develop strong, powerful treatments that reflect your own personal voice, receive feedback on your work, and solid hands-on practice, and you’re within reach of London, I’m running Exciting Treatments on Saturday 25th February.
It’s booking up very quickly but there are still a few places left. Hope you can join us.