If you have a passion for screenwriting and you want to make it your career, you’re already way ahead of the game because most people haven’t even figured out what they want yet, let alone how to get it. And if you’ve finished your first draft screenplay, you’re ahead of the thousands of others who are still only thinking about writing theirs.
So you should give yourself a huge pat on the back for getting this far. But it’s a long road from your first draft of your first script to a screenwriting career so here’s my top tips for what to do to get there.
The good news is, there is a lot of help out there once you start looking for it. If you’re prepared to invest your time and a bit of money in your screenwriting career there is plenty of information, support and opportunities to help you develop your craft and your understanding of the business.
Mastering the basics of screenwriting is tough. Writing a good story and telling it visually for the screen is no easy task. But there are lots of screenwriting books and articles out there to help you master the basics of formatting, story structure and characterisation.
But a good script isn’t enough anymore because the spec piles are awash with well crafted scripts written by people who have read all the books, studied the scripts of their favourite films, done a Screenwriting M.A and learnt the basics of screenwriting.
To stand out in that pile you need your script to be amazing. The first step is to get feedback, which might be from fellow writers (ideally ones more skilled than you are right now) or from a professional script analyst or script editor. But don’t just put it away in the drawer, USE IT! Rewrite your script. Put it away for a few days or weeks. Then read it again, alongside the notes you got on the last draft. Have you really addressed all of those notes? If not, rewrite again. Keep rewriting until your script is not just good but brilliant. I’ll be doing a session for members of the London Writers Café later this year on ways to elevate your script so that it really wows.
However brilliant your spec script (or even a pile of brilliant spec scripts) it won’t get you a screenwriting career if no one in the industry has read it. So how do you get your writing noticed? It probably feels like a closed shop, an impenetrable fortress, but I promise you it isn’t. New writers are breaking in, getting signed by agents and getting their first commission all the time.
In the age of the internet there is no shortage of information about the industry and a myriad of opportunities to get yourself noticed. Read interviews with screenwriters who broke through in the last five years. Read the trade publications to keep abreast of spec sales and tv commissions – you can get a discounted membership to The Tracking Board by signing up for the Script Angel Newsletter. Research screenwriting contests and producers looking for new material. Pick the brains of those working in the industry or come on my Screenwriting Craft and Career Workshop (28 February 2015) to find out where producers and development executives look for new writing talent.
The help and advice is out there. And if you put the work in to develop your craft and your understanding of the screenwriting industry, you can turn your hobby into a career.