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50 Signs of an Amateur Writer
Dallas Workshop Weekend
ScriptWriters Network LA Seminar
Script of the Month & Page Awards Success!
Thanks, Chicago!
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  The No Bull Newsletter 

with Danny Manus 

Aug 1, 2012



There are probably hundreds of signs that the writer of that script I'm screaming at is an amateur. But today, I'd like to give a mere 50. Most of these may seem like common sense, yet you'd be amazed at the sheer number of projects plagued with these issues. Some of them may make you worry about your own work. But hey, at least you'll know for next time and you'll be one step closer to making sure your work is at the highest of professional standards.


The following is in NO particular order and covers a broad range of script issues.

  1. Writing CUT TOs, FADE TOs, FADE OUTs, or any other Transition between every scene.
  2. Telling us instead of Showing us.
  3. Description is in past tense instead of present tense and does not use the active form of the verb. For example, John drives - not John is driving. Danny stands - not is standing. No -ING verbs.
  4. Not using pronouns or articles in your sentences. THE room, HIS dog, HER chair. You don't walk into room - you walk into THE room or A room.
  5. Having wordy description paragraphs longer than 4 lines on a page without a line break.
  6. Not CAPITALIZING your characters names the first time we meet them in your description. Or capitalizing characters names every time they're seen or mentioned.
  7. Capitalizing every noun and/or verb in your description.
  8. Not having a new scene heading for every new location or writing things in your scene heading other than the location, time of day and relation to the previous scene
  9. Your description tells us exactly what your characters are thinking or are about to discuss in dialogue, or tells us backstory the audience cannot see.
  10. The script is written in Microsoft Word, Notepad or Celtx.
  11. Not knowing the difference between a Montage and a Series of Shots. A Montage condenses numerous scenes, locations and the passage of time while progressing the plot and character arcs. A series of shots is a visual style to show many different actions or specific visuals all from one scene or a short time span.
  12. Having Camera Direction in your description ("we see", "shot of", "camera pans" etc)
  13. Writing parentheses before dialogue on every page explaining the emotion or how the line should be said.
  14. You are not using "Intercut With" when going back and forth between two scenes instead of restating the scene heading each time.
  15. Lengthy location descriptions or too much production design - we don't care what color the couch is.
  16. Using Voice Over to express and tell things you could express though action and dialogue.
  17. All conversations start with "hello" or "how are you" and scenes end with "goodbye, goodnight or talk to you later." Or if dialogue is full of conversational niceties - thank you, please, your welcome, etc.
  18. The scenes lack dynamics - no conflict or tension.
  19. Story is missing the meat - has planning and reflection scenes instead of execution scenes.
  20. Subplots are not tracked or seen for more than 15 pages.
  21. A kitchen sink script where everything is thrown in to make it seem more commercial and original.
  22. Scenes have no emotional goal.
  23. There is a lack of emotional/reflective reactions and moments for characters.
  24. Introducing more than 3 characters in 1 paragraph - each should preferably have their own paragraph.
  25. Using incorrect margins on the page - having too much or too little white space around the edges. Also, incorrect font, spacing, or type set.
  26. You use dreams and flashbacks interchangeably. A flashback actually happened, a dream is a subconscious thought had while sleeping.
  27. Not giving us your main character's last names and ages when introducing them.
  28. Using music - specific songs and artists - in your scenes or writing a scene to a specific song. What do Beatles, Bowie, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi and Bon Iver all have in common? Their songs will add MILLIONS to your budget.
  29. Your main character feels like they were born on page 1.
  30. There's nothing on the line - no STAKES - in the first scene.
  31. It isn't clear where and when your story takes place.
  32. Your only antagonist is an emotion or a personal demon.
  33. The most commercial moments are not exploited and the dialogue, SFX and VFX don't POP on the page.
  34. There is no time clock of any kind in your story.
  35. Your subplots and B stories are not resolved or connect to your main storyline.
  36. You are lacking in Set Up, Execution, or Payoff.
  37. Your scenes do not evoke any emotion from the reader.
  38. You don't know how to use dialogue, actions, settings or set ups to create smooth transitions between scenes.
  39. Your scene goes on 1-2 lines too long and doesn't end on the most powerful or interesting moment or dialogue.
  40. You don't know the difference between VO, OS, and OC or when to use each one.
  41. The dialogue is slight, Q&A, isn't genuine to the characters or lacks subtext and is all very on the nose.
  42. You think a theme and a message is the same thing.
  43. Your first scene and first 10 pages don't grab me.
  44. Your protag is passive and/or isn't present in your climax.
  45. You write a comedic scene just to hit one joke or one visual gag.
  46. You think when you finish your 3rd draft, you're done and it's ready to be submitted to agents, producers, actors or contests. It's not.
  47. Your story is not driven by conflict and doesn't contain an internal, external, mental, physical and emotional conflict.
  48. You think the only difference between you and an A-list screenwriter is an agent.
  49. The first words out of your mouth when you meet someone is "I've written this script..."
  50. You think you can break all of these aforementioned rules and mistakes and people will still want to read your script and you'll still be able to break in because Tarantino did it.





Hold on to your cowboy boots and get ready for a No Bull Workshop Weekend Presented by the Dallas Screenwriters Association September 21-23!


If you're in the Dallas area or you plan on Pitching at Austin Film Fest in October, you can't miss this event!


First, Join me Friday Night Sept 21 for a FREE seminar and networking event where we will go through all the Do's and Dont's of Pitching and how to make sure your pitch will be successful!



Then on Saturday, Sept 22 from 930AM-3PM, I will lead 2 fun, interactive and information-packed workshops designed to make sure you and your project are ready!  


* How to Write Successful Loglines, Query Letters & One-Sheets (9:00am-11:30)
This class will cover how to construct proper loglines, query letters and one-sheets that grab attention and sell and what execs are looking for in each. And we'll be fixing all your loglines LIVE in class so come prepared! 



* 12 Steps To a Screen-Worthy Script (1PM-3PM)
Through specific exercises, we will examine the 12 most important things you need to do to ensure your concept and script will be Visual, Compelling and Cinematic. We'll discuss doing your research, developing your hook, writing your natural story, creating great set pieces and subplots, how to create dynamic characters and dialogue and more! By the end of this class, you will know if your project is ready and if it's ready to be submitted.



And you get BOTH Saturday Workshops for only $75 for DSA Members and $90 for non-members. Only $45 for College Students (with valid ID).   

After the workshops, I will also be holding one-on-one private pitch and story consultations. If you are interested in scheduling one, please email me at



More info will be listed on the DSA Website shortly! Space will be limited. Click here for more info -



If you're in the LA area, don't miss a very special ScriptWriters Network Seminar by Yours Truly!


12 Steps to a Screen-Worthy Script

Through specific exercises, we'll examine the 12 most important things you need to do to ensure your concept & script will be Visual, Compelling and Cinematic, including: doing your research, developing your hook, writing your natural story, creating great set pieces and subplots, and creating dynamic characters and dialogue. By the end of this course, you'll know if your project is ready to be submitted.


When: SATURDAY AUGUST 18th from 12:30-3PM


Where: CBS Radford Studios - 4024 Radford Ave Studio City, CA 91604  (FREE PARKING ON THE LOT)


For security reasons, you MUST RSVP by Aug 16th!


Price: FREE for Scriptwriters Network Members, ONLY $25 for everyone else (can pay at the door)!


Click here for more details and to RSVP -



The Quarterfinalists of the prestigious Page Awards were announced a couple weeks ago and I am THRILLED to announce that 18 (!!) No BullScript Consulting Clients have advanced to the next round!!  That's HUGE!


So, big congrats and good luck to Sundae Jahant-Osbourn, Kingston Medland, Joan Macbeth, Waka Brown, Tobias Iaconis, Allie & Liz Sayle, Bears Fonte, Kari Ciardi, Richard Dane Scott, Lorraine Mauvais, Tracy Ryan, and everyone else! The Seminfinalists will be announced in 2 weeks and I wish you all the best!


And I am happy to announce that No BullScript had one more Recommended Script last month whose logline and query letter will go out shortly thru the No Bull Hollywood Connection! It's an unlikely but highly original story with a voice that could not be denied.


The Absence of Vonnegut

By Brian Forrest

Logline: As a young writer trapped in Iowa examines life, love and his talents, he unknowingly becomes a new leader for an elderly Aryan movement and finds one more amazing story to tell.


I want to send a very special THANK YOU to the Chicago Screenwriters Network (CSN) for a wonderful weekend of workshops, pitches and networking July 13-15th. It was a fabulous event, we had a packed house and writers got great one on one access to some major Hollywood players!  I can't wait to return next year as the Hollywood Pitch and Workshop Weekend grows even bigger and better! A special thank you and shout out to the awesome Colin Costello, Linda Frothingham, Rosa Antoniou, Christina Wollerman and the whole Board!


If you're in the Chicago area, be sure to go to their event Sunday August 5th at 6pm with the wonderful Jen Grisanti and her Friday Night Drinks Event on August 10th! You can find out more info here -

In case you missed our wildly popular Webinar in February, you're about to get another chance! I will be holding an interactive Webinar thru the Writers Store and F&W Media on Wednesday August 29th from 1pm-230pm PST. You can attend from anywhere and learn in your PJ's!
I'll be teaching my popular course "Writing Successful Loglines, Query Letters and One-Sheets" and will also be doing free Logline Critiques for anyone who is registered! And you will have access to the full class and powerpoint for a YEAR!
More details will be coming soon, so mark it on your calendar and stay tuned! .


About Danny Manus: 

Danny Manus is an in-demand script consultant and CEO of No BullScript Consulting, and was ranked in the Top 15 "Cream of the Crop" Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, 2010. He is also the author of the E-Book "No B.S. for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective." Danny was the Director of Development for Clifford Werber Productions (Cinderella Story, Sydney White) and is attached to produce several projects independently. He was previously a Development Consultant for Eclectic Pictures and the DOD at Sandstorm Films, which had a first look deal at Screen Gems. He is also a columnist for The Business of Show Institute and ScriptMag and teaches seminars to writers across the country. Until n

ext time, Good luck and Keep Writing!!

Danny Manus
No BullScript Consulting
This issue's final thought....
On a serious note, I was heartbroken over the events in Aurora Colorado. Going to the movies should be a happy and magical escape - a time for fun and laughter and togetherness - not a fearful endeavor. Let's keep the magic in movies and keep the victims and their families in our prayers.