Dr. Atul Gawande is one of the most compelling popular writers about medicine. He likes to examine how medicine works, as a system; to diagnose, if you will, the corpus of medicine. One of the most effective ways to reduce complications and deaths from surgery, he's found, is simple: checklists. Pilots have checklists. Why not surgeons? His team found that instituting checklists reduced complications by 33% and deaths by 47%.
Surgeons are experts. They know what to do, but sometimes they forget to do it.
I wonder if we could come up with checklists for screenwriting. Items like these:
STORY PITCHDo you have a compelling hook?
Have you checked your hook with civilians to make sure it's really attractive?
Have you checked your hook with professionals to make sure it's viable in the marketplace?
Are the five elements of story all strong? (They are: a compelling main character; an opportunity, problem or goal; obstacles and / or an antagonist; jeopardy; stakes.)
Does the ending deliver the goods that the beginning promised?
Does the story deliver the right goods for the movie's genre?
Do all the characters come from your background, or, where appropriate, have you made them diverse?
Does the story take place in a fresh/entertaining/cinematic/fun/spectacular place? Given the budget you're writing for, could you move it to one?
Does each scene take place in a fresh/entertaining/spectacular or character-revelatory location? Given the budget you're writing for, could you move it to one?
What is the conflict driving each scene?
How does each scene advance the story? (Note: story is not the same as plot. A scene can advance the story by revealing backstory that increases stakes or jeopardy.)
What does each scene (including action scenes) reveal about the characters?
Track the sequence of NIGHT and DAY scenes. Make sure they feel right.
Is every line of dialog in the character's voice?
As much as possible, is every line of dialog distinctive to the character, so that only he or she could say it?
Can you move any EXT. NIGHT scenes to indoors, or EXT. DAY?
For each scene, can you reduce the number of characters you'll need to cover (not just speaking but reacting parts)?