I’ve written a script, what next? That’s the question I’m most often asked by writers just starting out. Here are my top tips:
1) Put it away. Let it gather dust for a few weeks, then take it
out, brush it off and get your red pen ready. Do that several times
until you can’t make it any better yourself (or you’re going barmy,
whichever comes first).
2) Ask an expert. Get the opinion of someone else. Family and
friends don’t count, unless they’re experienced writers, directors,
producers or script editors. If you don’t know anyone in the industry,
then have a look online at some of the experienced industry
professionals offering script feedback (Script Angel and others). Don’t be tempted to spend your money on the one with the jazziest website or the lowest rates, but do your homework.
Who will actually read your script, what’s their name? Look them up on IMDB
to check they’ve got the credits they claim to have. What length of
report will you get for your money? Some may claim to give you a 4
page report but what you actually get are a couple of pages of synopsis
(you already know what’s in your script so that’s a waste of money) and
only a page or so of useful feedback. Beware of lazy ‘reader’ reports
which are generic, littering their reports with phrases like
‘naturalistic dialogue’ (or lack of), characters needing better
delineation. That’s fine if it is followed by tangible examples of
what you could do to change it. You could ask to see a sample report
from several and compare them.
Ideally your script editor should be keen to keep working with you,
helping you to develop as a writer. Drop them a line and ask for a
chat to see if you actually get on with them. Most good editors are
approachable and helpful and don’t hide behind anonymity.
3) Rewrite. The feedback should be constructive, giving you ideas on
how to make your script better (not just telling you what doesn’t work)
but it will also be critical and that’s hard to take. Develop a thick
skin, remember the criticism is of the work and not you. Take heart
from the fact that the very best writers at the very top of their game
still get notes. Now take your precious script, and your feedback, and
rewrite your script to the very best of your ability.
4) Get it out there. Many people think that the next step is to get
an agent – after all, you can’t get your work produced until you’ve got
an agent can you? Well, actually, for most writers it’s the other way
around. As you’ll see from Michelle Lipton’s Q&A with agents,
most agents are interested in writers who are already getting their
work out there, not writers who have just written one spec script.
So, you want to get it noticed, but how? There are three main ways
that spring to mind – theatre, radio, screenwriting competitions and
production companies accepting unsolicited scripts.
Most of the successful applicants for the BBC Writers’ Academy are
already writing for theatre and radio, so ignore these media at your
peril. Writing for theatre is a fantastic way to develop as a writer,
and there are many theatre production companies dedicated to putting on
the work of new writers. They get exciting new talent, you get your
work professionally produced – it’s a win-win situation.
So in my next post I’ll look at ways for new writers to write for theatre. Then, in later posts, I’ll look at screenwriting competitions, where to send your unsolicited script and how to get an agent.