Writing Tips: The Differences Between Concept, Plot, Structure, Formatting, and Theme (and how they all interrelate)

April 13, 2019 by Ann Marie Williams

concept plot structure formatting theme

In the writing world, you often hear terms like theme, concept, plot, structure, and formatting.  Each is important, and each affects the other.

But there is little consistency in how they are defined.  Even David Trottier (author of The Screenwriter’s Bible) states that plot, structure, and story are often used interchangeably.

In screenwriting contests, these terms are often used as part of competitions’ judging criteria.  Some competitions will include their definitions of the terms (for an example, check out the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards website), but others do not.

Without terms clearly defined, it can be challenging to determine which competitions are the best fit for your script.  It can be equally challenging if you receive a written critique of your script that doesn’t explain the terminology used therein (e.g. the critic states that your concept is great but your plot needs work, or that your formatting is excellent but the structure is weak). And while sometimes you can analyze the rest of the critique to determine the critic’s meaning, some critiques aren’t detailed enough to allow for that analysis.

So, what can you do?  Quite simply, the best approach is to be sure your script checks all the boxes — regardless of the terms assigned to those boxes.

With that in mind, I’m going to discuss these five terms using my definitions.  My definitions will likely vary slightly from others’ definitions, but I’ve defined them as follows because they cover five separate (but very related) aspects of story and it’s conveyance.

To help illustrate the definitions, I’ll reference two films: It’s a Wonderful Life and The Martian(Beware there will be spoilers!)

 

Concept (aka Premise)

The concept or premise is the one idea that the story is built around.  Concept is usually the focus of the logline.  It’s like a “what if” question that the story (plot) addresses and answers.  Without the concept, the plot wouldn’t be able to exist — or at least not the entire plot.

Concept Examples

It’s a Wonderful Life:  Seeing what the world would be like if you’d never been born.

The Martian: A person is stranded on Mars.  Alone.

Without the idea that you could see what the world would be like if you’d never been born into it, the entire resolution of It’s a Wonderful Life would have to be achieved in a very different way.

Without the question “what if someone got stranded on Mars?” the story of The Martian wouldn’t exist at all.

As you can see, both of these concepts are very straightforward, very to the point, and very succinct.  They are one specific thing.  One specific idea.

Also note that you could come up with a whole host of stories to convey these concepts.  But part of the writer’s job is to find the plot that best conveys the concept.

Concept = Idea

Concept

 

Plot (aka Story)

The plot is about the story itself; the events that unfold throughout the script. The plot is what happens in the story, what happens to the characters, how the characters react, and what happens because of those reactions.  A + B = C.  Chicken gets to the road, chicken crosses the road, chicken is on the other side.

Of course, plots can be very complex. And often a good story will have multiple plot threads throughout.  But there is usually one main thread, and it’s usually the one that will best embody the concept and lead to the theme (but more on theme later).

Plot Examples

It’s a Wonderful Life:  George Bailey loses money. George contemplates suicide so his family can receive his life insurance money. Clarence, an angel, shows George that he is worth more to the world, alive, than any benefit from insurance. George learns the value of life and his life.

The Martian:  Mark Watney works on Mars. Mark gets left on Mars. Mark must survive Mars. Mark must escape Mars. Mark escapes Mars.

I know, I know! There is so much more to these stories than what I’ve written above. As there should be. But, these are the backbones, these are the A + B = C. How these events happen, how the characters move from A to B, how they react to C… that’s all part of the story. But it all revolves around one basic thread.  And that main thread embodies the story’s corresponding concept.

What if the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life focused on Clarence trying to earn his wings, instead of focusing on George?  While the concept promised would be addressed (we could still see Clarence show George what life would have been like if George had never been born), it wouldn’t be the focus of the story.

Could Clarence’s pursuit of wings be its own story, with its own concept and plot?  Sure! And it’s definitely a great subplot of It’s a Wonderful Life.  But the plot of Clarence trying to earn his wings shouldn’t be the main plot if the concept is about seeing what the world would be like if George had never been born.

What if The Martian focused more on the goings on at NASA instead of how Mark tries to survive on Mars?   Again, the NASA subplot is in the story, it adds to the story, but the main focus of the story is Mark: the man who is stranded on Mars. Alone.

Plot = Story

plot.jpg

 

Structure

If plot is about the story, then structure deals with how you tell the story.  Structure is the framework used to convey the plot.

Said differently, plot pertains to what the moments in a story are, structure pertains to when those moments happen.  For example, what the inciting incident is falls under plot. When that inciting incident occurs falls under structure (this could pertain to both how the story unfolds for the characters and how the story unfolds for the audience).

Overall, stories typically unfold for the characters and the audience at the same time and in the same, linear, order.  But not always. Two basic examples are flashbacks/reflections (when something happened to a character before the audience finds out about it), and scenes in which audiences learn the motives of the antagonist before the protagonist determines what’s happening.

Structure also heavily affects pacing — how you set up the scenes, how plot points lead into each other, where you start a scene and where you end it…  You’re building the story, you’re framing the plot to have the most impact possible. 

Structure Examples

It’s a Wonderful Life is told primarily in a linear fashion.  Yes, we see George’s youth through a series of “flashbacks” as shown to Clarence — but it’s all told in a fairly linear way for us, the audience.  This structure allows for the alternate realities that Clarence reveals to George to occur without the film dealing with a double-flashback scenario back-to-back.  It also allows the audience to see what George’s life was like before his financial devastation so that we have a better idea of who he is and why he’s contemplating suicide — so we realize his desperate choices are derived from love for his family.

Could the story have implemented a different structure? Sure! But maybe it would have changed the story’s impact, changed our empathy for George, changed the story’s focus, or led audiences to infer a slightly different theme.

The Martian is also pretty linear (the movie more so than the book). To me, what makes the structure unique is how it changes as more and more people get pulled into helping Mark. When Mark wakes up, alone, on Mars, the story is told primarily from his perspective.  No one knows he’s still alive except him, so the story focuses on Mark and only Mark. But as NASA learns that Mark’s alive, as they start helping Mark, as Mark’s fellow crew members decide to help him, the story starts spending more time with those characters… but it all still revolves around the main concept (Mark being stranded on Mars).

Could the story have been told solely from Mark’s perspective the entire time (e.g. only finding out how NASA was helping based on the correspondence Mark receives from them)? Sure! Could it have worked? Possibly. But the structure in the book and film was the structure deemed most effective for conveying the plot and the concept (and leading to the theme).

Remember, it’s about getting to that most effective and engaging version of your story. What sequence of events will build to the most climactic ending and the most satisfying resolution? How can the story be structured to lead the audience to the conclusions (the themes) you want them to walk away with?

The idea is to find the most logical, structurally appropriate way to tell your story. The one that leads to the greatest impact and resonance. (You can tell a story backwards if you want, provided it leads the audience in the right direction.) 

Structure = Conveyance/Framework

Writing Structure

 

Formatting (aka Presentation)

If structure deals with the framework of your script, then formatting deals with the tools you use to build that framework.

This goes beyond proper spelling, grammar, indentations, etc. (all of which are important), to the formatting tools available to you. For screenwriters, its scene headings, description, dialogue, transitions, etc.  For novelists you get chapter breaks, paragraph breaks, internal reflection, etc.

Of course, there’s some definite crossover here between formatting and structure.  Where you place a chapter break, for example, or how you use transitions, relates to both formatting and the structure of the story.

I won’t go into formatting too much because it really requires it’s own post (or, more likely, posts). The point here is that formatting is the use of whatever tools are available to you to ensure your story is conveyed the way you intend — the same focus, the same pacing, the same impact.

You can have a great concept and an amazing plot that’s structured brilliantly, but if you don’t convey that correctly then the audience won’t know just how great the concept, plot, and structure are.

Formatting = Tools

Formatting

 

Theme (aka Message or Meaning)

Usually theme is considered the point of the story. What is the message you want the audience to walk away with?

Most stories will have multiple themes, but usually there are one or two overarching themes that the concept and plot have been building toward.

Theme is probably one of the hardest of these topics to pinpoint.  Sometimes, we walk away from a story with slightly different interpretations because we’re all individuals and we all have different experiences and models that stories get filtered through.  But a story should lead most of us to one or two themes we all agree on.

With that in mind:

Theme Examples

It’s a Wonderful Life: Life is precious, we don’t always know how our lives touch others, and the amount of money one has is not the measure of an individual’s worth to society.

The Martian: Never give up.  Work the problem.

The theme doesn’t have to be directly related to the concept, but the concept should be a an excellent setup to convey the theme.  And the plot is a way to link the two.

Showing George how much worse off the lives of his friends and family would be were he never born is a pretty effective way to show that there’s more than one way to measure someone’s worth.  And sticking Mark on Mars, alone, knowing that if he gives up he’ll die is a pretty effective way to demonstrate the importance of perseverance.

Concept generates plot. Plot embodies concept. Plot leads to theme.

Theme can be fairly general and universal (e.g. love conquers all, good prevails, never give up, life is precious). Or it can be more specific (e.g. we don’t always know how our lives touch others, work the problem). Moreover, a single theme can be conveyed via many different stories and in many different ways (and it usually is).  Will you get points if your message is more refined?  Possibly.  But you must be sure that the theme and the plot and the concept all support each other: that the concept is best conveyed by the plot you’ve chosen to use, and that the plot you’ve chosen to use is the best way to lead to the theme.

Theme = The Point

Writing theme

Summary

Putting it all together: Concept should inspire the plot. The plot should embody the concept and lead to the theme. The structure should convey the plot. And the formatting should convey all of that the way the writer envisions it.

That’s how I see it.  It’s how I analyze my own stories to figure out what’s working, where, and why (or, ahem, why not).

But what do you think?  What about your favorite stories?  What about the story you’re working on?  Can you identify the concept, plot, structure and theme? Do they work well together? Do they support each other in the most effective and impactful way possible? Can you think of another plot to convey the story’s concept and theme?  Would it work better?  Why or why not?


Ann Marie Williams is the author of Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script, published February 2019 by Bluestocking Press.

Screenplay Competitions has received endorsements from Dave Trottier (Author, The Screenwriter’s Bible, http://www.keepwriting.com), Richard Walter (former Screenwriting Area Head, Associate and Interim Dean UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television), Matt Dy (former Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival), and Harry M. Cheney (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts).

Screenplay Competitions book front and back cover

Ways to Analyze Critiques of Your Writing: Identify the True Source of the Problem

March 30, 2019 by Ann Marie Williams

Reprinted (with slight modifications to fit the blog format) from Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script.

Does your story suffer from referred pain?

Have you experienced this situation when reading a critique of your writing: The critic points to a moment in your story that he/she found unnecessary and suggests you remove the moment entirely. But you can’t fathom removing the moment because it is crucial to the story, it’s perfect as written, and if you alter it then the rest of the story (or certain vital aspects of it) will change beyond recognition.

So… who is right?  You, or the critic?

If you are both honest in your assessments of the moment in question, then it is possible that you are both right.

How can two opposing analyses both be right?

You’ve probably heard of referred pain — the phenomenon that happens when there’s an injury in one part of the body but the pain is felt somewhere else entirely You injure your neck, for example, but your shoulder hurts instead.  Well, “referred pain” can be experienced in writing, too.

Referred Pain In Writing

Let’s say your critic makes the statement that scene 17 in your script seemed unimportant to your story and suggests you remove the scene entirely.

It could very well be that scene 17 is unnecessary and needs to be deleted. But instead of immediately implementing the critic’s suggestion, first try to figure out why the critic perceived the scene the way he/she did.

Remember, the critic isn’t as familiar with your script as you are.  So while it’s possible the critic correctly identified a problem with scene 17, it’s also possible the critic erroneously thinks the problem stems from scene 17.

In other words, it’s possible that a problem with scene 17 does exist, but the fix actually needs to take place at another point in your story.

Maybe scene 17 seemed unnecessary because it wasn’t set up properly back in scene 8. Or maybe scene 17 held a clue meant to resurface in scene 95, but scene 95 was overwritten and the reference got lost.

The critic is correct that the moment in question doesn’t pay off — as the story is currently written.  But you’re also correct in recognizing that the moment in question is crucial to the story and that the moment is written correctly.  So, there is a problem, but the problem isn’t stemming from that particular moment, but rather from a failure to set it up or have it pay off correctly.

In other words, you have referred pain in your script — scene 17 suffers from an issue with scene 8, or a problem in scene 95.

And this is something that the critic (who isn’t as familiar with your story as you are) might not be able to pinpoint.

But you know your story inside and out, so it’s up to you to do diagnose the true source of the problem.  You’ll need to get to the bottom of what doesn’t work, why, and where. Then you can go about fixing what actually needs fixing.

“Referred pain” can apply to any aspect of your story.  It doesn’t have to be an entire scene.  It could be a moment in a scene, a single line of dialogue, or it could be an entire character, a concept, a plot twist, the tone… Whatever it is, it’s in your best interest to figure out where the true problem lies.

Because there’s no point doing surgery on the shoulder when it’s the neck that’s injured.

Identify the true source of the problem


Ann Marie Williams is the author of Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script, published February 2019 by Bluestocking Press.

Screenplay Competitions has received endorsements from Dave Trottier (Author, The Screenwriter’s Bible http://www.keepwriting.com), Richard Walter (former Screenwriting Area Head, Associate and Interim Dean UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television), Matt Dy (former Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival), and Harry M. Cheney (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts).

Screenplay Competitions book front and back cover

Reasons to Enter Screenwriting Contests Other Than Winning

March 23, 2019 by Ann Marie Williams

Are screenplay competitions worth the time and money to enter?

Entering a screenwriting competition with the hope of winning is a great goal. After all, if a screenwriting career is what you’re after, then winning (or placing highly in) the right competition has the potential to move you further along that career path. Moreover, the competitions that have a track record of actually helping to launch careers are more likely to be legitimate and reputable.

However, many competitions receive hundreds — even thousands — of entries and select only a handful of winners. It’s not uncommon to see a reputable competition receive nearly 7,000 feature script entries, which (if you’re curious about the percentages) means that typically less than .001% of entrants actually win.

Now, you could argue that only some of those 7,000 entries are worthy of consideration for the win, which is probably true. And you could also argue that simply placing in a top competition can be enough to help launch your career, which (depending on the competition) can also be true.

But even then… If a competition’s quarterfinals represent the top 10% of entries, that’s 700 scripts that make it to the quarterfinals. And while that’s a lot of scripts, it also means 90% of entries do not make the quarterfinals — 6,300 scripts do not advance.

I’m not suggesting competitions should advance a greater quantity of scripts to their quarterfinals. Nor am I suggesting that entering competitions is a pointless endeavor.

But, as a competition entrant myself, I needed to find ways to benefit from the competition process other than winning. In other words, I needed goals that were achievable, that were within my control to achieve, and that were worthy of the time and money I spent entering competitions.

And that’s one of the main reasons I wrote Screenplay Competitions. To explain ways that writers can use the screenwriting competition process to better their scripts and themselves as a writers (and thus improve their chances at a writing career) — whether they win the competitions they enter or not.

Benefits of Screenwriting Competitions Other Than Winning

While Screenplay Competitions discusses the following topics in detail, this post will introduce you to some of the ways you can benefit from screenwriting competitions other than winning (or placing).

Many of these benefits are only achievable if you’re aware of them and open to them. If you’re focused on the win and only the win, you’ll miss an opportunity.

Is this an exhaustive list? Definitely not.

Will every competition offer every benefit? Nope.

But knowing which benefits you’re seeking can help you select the right competition/s for you, your script, and your goals.

Learning Your Script’s Rank

One of the reasons Screenplay Competitions discusses ways to determine how your script ranks in a competition is because learning where your script stacks up among thousands of other entries can be very helpful for new writers, as well as established writers who want to get reactions to a new script. A script that consistently places in the top 25% of entries (but no higher) will require a different level of revision than a script that consistently places in the top 10% of entries.

Be aware, however, that competitions offer varying degrees of insight to entrants about exactly where their scripts ranked. But that’s a topic for another post.

Identifying Your Script’s Genre

If you’re having trouble pinpointing your script’s dominant genre, you might consider entering competitions that use genre-specific judging (competitions that judge scripts only against other scripts entered in the same genreinstead of judging all entries against each other, regardless of genre).

This way, you can enter your script in the genres you think are a good fit, and based on your script’s placements in those genres, you should be able to determine the genre in which your script is best received (especially if you start to see the same results across multiple competitions). Maybe your script consistently places higher in drama than it does in action. Or, maybe it typically reaches the sci-fi semifinals, but never advances in comedy.

Pinpointing Your Script’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Some competitions will tell entrants how their script scored per judging criteria. This allows you to see, at a glance, the specific areas in which your script excels — or falls short.

Is your dialogue always complimented but your pacing is panned? Does your plot receive ten out of ten but your structure only a five?

It’s important to realize, however, that scores don’t tell the whole story. Scores won’t tell you why your script scored the way it did or how to go about fixing any problems.

This is one of the reasons most competitions won’t provide an entrant with criteria-specific scores unless that entrant purchases a written critique explaining the scores.

Written Critiques

Many competitions offer some form of written critique in conjunction with your competition entry (either included with your entry or for an additional fee).

The length and depth of the critique offered, the cost, the content, the credentials of the individual who writes the critique (as well as whether the critique is written by your script’s competition judge or not), and when you will receive the critique, all varies from competition to competition.

Learning how to digest, analyze, and implement critiques will help you better your script, and yourself as a writer. Because, all the critiques in the world won’t help you improve if you don’t know how to deal with them. Moreover, if you want a screenwriting career, you’ll have to know how to deal with critiques. It’s a good idea to start learning how to do so now.

Patience and Focus

It’s perfectly normal to be excited for competition results to release. But, it can be very easy to get too focused on those results.

I speak from experience here: constantly checking one’s email to see if competition results released is not nearly as productive as channeling that energy into something that can actually improve one’s chances at a writing career: writing.

And this brings up another opportunity to better yourself as a writer: The ability to set one project aside and move on to another.

You have put months (or years) into your script, you probably spent every second leading up to the entry deadline polishing your script, the story likely captivated every available cell in your brain… you finally hit submit and — now you have to stop thinking about it.

It’s hard to let that story go, to switch your brain off to it, and move forward to another script. And, let’s face it, it’s a bit startling to go from a polished script to one that’s… well, not.

But, if you want to be a prolific writer, it’s a necessary skill to acquire.

This doesn’t mean you can’t return to the submitted script at some point (and for some scripts it will be sooner rather than later). But learning how to recognize when to move on from a script, when to give yourself a breather, when to start another script, and when to return to an old one… these are all skills that are helpful to learn if you want to improve yourself as a writer.

Motivation and Incentive

If the goal of entering a competition gives you the extra motivation to push through those painful rewrites, or if the idea of someone else reading your script fans the flame of excitement and makes final edits just a little easier, then competitions might provide the incentive you need to see you through the tougher aspects of writing.

Writing can be a long, solitary process. Entering screenwriting competitions, getting results and critiques, and knowing there’s the possibility you could win can be fun and exciting — a welcome feeling after the weeks, months, or years you’ve spent on your script.

Deadlines

Do you need deadlines to help you write? Don’t know? By entering a competition, you can determine if having an entry deadline helps or hurts your writing. Do deadlines make you feel pressured and too anxious to write? Or do they give you the incentive you need to push through tedious final edits?

Either way, if you want a screenwriting career, odds are you’ll have to write to deadlines eventually. You may as well start getting used to them now.

Reading and Understanding Agreements and Fine Print

Always, always, always, read a competition’s “fine print.” This would be the competition’s rules, terms and conditions, privacy policy, guidelines, prizes, judging process, eligibility requirements, commitments… basically, everything that has to do with the competition — everything you agree to by entering the competition.

This includes, in some cases, also having to read all those pesky terms and conditions and privacy policies of the competition’s parent site and/or the third-party submission source they use.

I know… it’s boring.

I know… it’s tedious.

I know… it’s confusing.

But it’s also crucially important.

Reading and digesting all the fine print can take a while. But it’s a fraction of the time you’ve put into your script. And fine print can greatly impact what happens to your script after you hit submit.

The good new is, the more you read fine print, the easier it gets. Besides, eventually, you’re going to have to sign a major contract with a major studio, right? So, why not be ahead of the game and start getting used to legal verbiage now.

Dealing with Disappointment — or Success

I suggest you use caution when making any major writing decisions while on the highs or lows of competition results. However, how you react to your competition success (or lack thereof) can be informative and insightful.

It’s difficult to get turned down over and over again. It doesn’t feel great and it doesn’t provide much incentive to get back to work. While there can be benefits to entering more than one competition, given the nature of competitions, odds are your script will not advance many times over (remember those statistics at the start of this post).

So… will you be okay with that? Will you be able to handle that disappointment and keep writing?

Or, if you’re one of the fortunate few who wins or places highly, will you be able to handle the success? Will you be able to remain critical of your own work when you’re being heaped with praise?

Validation

If you do well in a screenwriting competition, or if you make it past the first round of judging, or even if you just get a few good comments in a critique, a positive reaction to your script can validate that you’re on the right track and that (with enough work) you might just have a chance at a screenwriting career.

The degree of validation you receive, and the number of sources that provide it, will help you better understand where your writing currently stands and how much work you may need to do on your script.

Maybe you realize your script requires more work than you want to do — and that’s fine. Perhaps you’re not passionate enough about that specific story to see you through multiple rewrites. Or maybe you realize you love writing, but not rewriting, so you’re happy to write for your own enjoyment but don’t need to pursue it as a career.

Or maybe you realize that you’re actually eager to start rewriting because you believe in yourself, you believe in your script, and you’re willing to put in the work to make your script the best version it can be.

Summary

Entering a screenwriting competition with the hope of winning is a great goal. However, statistically, the chance of winning a screenwriting competition is small. Even if you’ve written a stellar script, the odds of making it through multiple rounds of competition (where multiple judges must agree on the merits of your script) are not very high. It can happen! But, if it doesn’t, it is nice to realize that you can still benefit from the competition process.

So, while I still enter screenwriting competitions with the hope of winning, my goal is to use the competition process to better my script, my writing, and myself as a writer. If I can do that, then the time and money I spend entering competitions becomes more than a chance at winning — it becomes an investment in myself. And that moves me closer to a screenwriting career… whether I win the competition or not.


Ann Marie Williams is the author of Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script, published (February, 2019) by Bluestocking Press.

Screenplay Competitions has received endorsements from industry insiders Richard Walter, Dave Trottier, Matt Dy, and Harry M. Cheney.

Screenplay Competition Research and Entry Templates

 In Section VII of Screenplay Competitions, I include three templates:

  1. The Competition Template
  2. The Competition Round Template
  3. The Submission Template

These templates were designed to help screenwriters research screenplay competitions, to help screenwriters narrow down which screenplay competitions are a good fit for them and their scripts, and to help screenwriters keep records of their entries—and better determine how far in the competition their scripts advanced and the judging and advancement processes it took to do so.

Now, as a Bluestocking Press exclusive, you can purchase the Screenplay Competitions: Three Template Set which includes the three templates designed by Ms. Williams and based on the templates she presents in Screenplay Competitions.  The templates are formatted and ready for you to customize and complete as you research and enter screenwriting contests. The three templates contained in the set (and in the book) are:

The Competition Template

The Competition Template should be completed per competition (or per genre and/or format per competition). This template is designed to help screenwriters identify key aspects of each competition that they research so they can better determine which competitions are a good match for them and their scripts.

The Competition Template is meant to help the screenwriter understand a screenplay competition’s entire competition process (from the type of scripts accepted, to how judge’s rank and advance scripts, to the types of awards and prizes offered). By understanding a competition’s entire process, the screenwriter should be better equipped to determine which competitions are a good fit for him/her and his/her script.

The Competition Round Template

The Competition Round Template delves into a screenplay competition’s judging, ranking, and advancement process even further—by looking at the process round-by-round.

The Competition Round Template should be completed per round, per competition.  Completing this template should help the screenwriter understand a competition’s judging, ranking, and advancement process for every step of the competition—if the competition provides enough detailed information to complete the template.  Either way, by understanding and recording the information that is (or is not) provided by the competition, the screenwriter should have a better idea of which competitions are a good fit for him/her (as well as his/her specific script). 

Moreover, for the competitions that the screenwriter does decide to enter, The Competition Round Template will help the screenwriter better determine how far his/her script actually advanced in the competition and the judging, ranking, and advancement process it took to do so.

The Submission Template

The Submission Template should be completed per year and/or per script per year (whichever the writer prefer). This template is designed to help screenwriters keep track of their competition entries and results.

The Submission Template is meant to be used during the screenplay competition entry process to help the screenwriter:

•Keep track of competition entry details and requirements to make the submission process easier.

•Maintain a record of competition entries and the corresponding results (once received).

•Maintain a record of competition entries and the corresponding critiques (if applicable).

•Maintain clear and consistent records of entries and results for easy comparison and future reference.


You can purchase The Three Template Starter Set directly from the publisher (with a choice of either PDF or Excel format). 

Or, receive The Three Template Starter Set free when you purchase Screenplay Competitions directly from the publisher.

Competitions Referenced

Throughout Screenplay Competitions I reference ten different screenwriting contests (or contest organizations). As mentioned in the book, I chose these competitions to use for reference because:

  1. They provide an overview of the similarities and differences among competitions.
  2. Most of the competitions selected appear on several “top screenwriting competition” lists and are often perceived as some of the most reputable in the industry.
  3. I have entered my own scripts into at least one of the competitions offered by each of the referenced competition organizations.

What follows is the list of the competition organizations I included in Screenplay Competitions and links to their websites. However, just because I’ve included a competition in this list does not mean I think you should (or should not) enter that competitions. Nor does it mean that these are the only competitions worth entering. These competitions were selected for the reasons listed above. I’m including links here to make it easier for you to cross-reference the information they provide on their sites with the discussions in Screenplay Competitions.


•Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
https://www.oscars.org/nicholl

•Austin Film Festival Screenplay & Teleplay Competition
https://austinfilmfestival.com

•BlueCat Screenplay Competition
https://www.bluecatscreenplay.com

•Final Draft®’s Big Break® Screenwriting Contest
https://www.finaldraft.com/products/bb-contest-info

•Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition
https://nashvillefilmfestival.org

•The Page International Screenwriting Awards
https://pageawards.com

•ScreenCraft
https://screencraft.org

•Scriptapalooza
https://scriptapalooza.com

•Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition
https://scriptpipeline.com

•Sun Valley Film Festival High Scribe Screenplay Competition
https://sunvalleyfilmfestival.org