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5 Career Strategies For Writers

StrategyAll About Careers

Various Bang2writers have been asking me, especially on Twitter, about career and submissions strategies, so here’s a quick breakdown of approaches you may want to consider/try.

As ever, the usual disclaimer: “buyer beware” and do your homework on all submissions opportunities … Plus, *obviously* nothing “guarantees” success and you may find you want to/need to tweak various elements of these approaches to suit your own life. Equally, if you have a strategy you feel I’ve missed here, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it.

Before we get started, here are resources that are useful in actually finding industry people and I strongly recommend you have/subscribe to all of them as a minimum:

Ready? Then let’s go … 

1. The Strategic Submissions Route

Good for: Autonomous workers; novelists; screenwriters who like research (especially into the marketplace) & networking, making new contacts, etc.

i) What have you got?

There’s generally no point sending your Horror feature to a TV company specialising in children’s television. Well durr, you say – but in reality, companies get sent stuff outside of their remit ALL THE TIME. So don’t waste your time or theirs by sending the wrong stuff to the wrong people! Here’s how to get your work solicited via email.

ii) Find out who you’re sending it to WITHIN THAT COMPANY

Reach out; make contact. This has never been easier thanks to social media. GET A NAME. Never send stuff addressed to “Sir/Madam” or info@ addresses. There really is no excuse for an amateur approach.

iii) Review accordingly

Remember, most places have a turnaround time of approximately 6-12 weeks. Mark 6 weeks from your submission in your diary, then follow up on your submission with a concise and polite query. If they have not read your submission yet, ask when you may call or email again. Mark that date in your diary – and do it!

iv) Avoid peak times or holidays

Again, do your research and find out when people are busy. Avoid contacting agents during obvious peak times like book fairs and festivals. Avoid production companies when they’re shooting. And always, always avoid August (everyone’s on holiday) and December (durr).

2) The Contest & Initiative Strategy

Good for: Writers with day jobs who need deadlines; writers who only want to write, without thinking about stuff like the market, budgets and logistics, but still catch specific industry people’s eyes. 

i) Look to the YEAR AHEAD – there are lots of great lists and directories of writing competitions and initiatives now. Here’s a list of screenwriting competitions; another directory of screenwriting contests; a list of novel writing and a submissions calendar to get you started. Here’s a list of Facebook pages and Twitter profiles worth following, many of whom post writing contests.

ii) Work out what you need to enter these contests and initiatives in terms of a) writing & b) money (for fees, etc).

iii) Submit accordingly!

3). The Market-Ready Approach

Good for: Autonomous workers, especially those more seasoned writers and writing duos eager to make a sale, who are not afraid of doing a LOT of research, planning and prep. 

i) You watch and read EVERYTHING with a view to what works/what doesn’t work & figure out why.

ii) You scour the likes of DoneDealPro, IMDBPro, GoIntoTheStory, ScriptMag etc, checking out who is making what, with whom and by what date. Novelists: you follow book editors and agents on Twitter, go to events like London Book Fair, etc.

iii) You pitch ideas to social media/your industry contacts (as appropriate) and see what sticks.

iv) You expand your logline to a fully fledged concept, ie. a one pager and short treatment or pitch. Get all – and I mean ALL – who expressed an interest in the initial idea to take a look and give feedback.

v) Rewrite accordingly, until you’re absolutely certain the concept is bombproof.

vi) Only NOW write the screenplay or novel. Rewrite and polish it ’til it shines.

vii) Send your work to all who expressed an interest in seeing it when it was just an idea – for starters.

4. The Schmoozer Approach

Good for:

Highly sociable screenwriters who want to write as part of a team to get their films made, especially on super low budgets or using crowd funding. Also those wanting to crack various funding avenues such as government initiatives and private investment. Those wanting to set themselves up as trainers, educators or in related fields (such as script editing), too.  

i) First up, decide what you want to do: low budget guerilla films? Mid range genre films with a commercial hook? Microbudget shorts or art films?

ii) Set up a brilliant online presence. Make sure all your profiles “match”. Have a mission statement. Ensure people know who you are and what you stand for – bring people TO you. Build an online presence. And here’s what not to do on social media.

iii) Plan ahead for the year and look to going to AT LEAST ONE major event such as London Screenwriters Festival, but also related events such as those at Women In Film And Television or at the BFI. Alternatively, go to as many free and/or low priced events as humanly possible – at least five in the year. Set up your own networking event if you need to. Make sure people know your face; who you are; what you do; what/who you’re looking for.

iv) Cultivate those relationships – and treat it like a job. Always be positive and professional  and people will WANT to work with you.

5) The Savvy Writer

Regardless of what approach you follow and what you want to be, make being a savvy writer part of it. This means:

i) You know what you want – and when by 

Set those goals and review them and your progress at various junctures; make the necessary adjustments, don’t forge blindly forwards and cross your fingers. this will depend on a number of factors, many of them external, but screenwriting career coach Lee Jessup has some great advice on the *least* any writer should be doing, here.

ii) You’re not afraid of changing the route 

You may find you want to change tack completely. Lots of writers tell me they “can’t” because this means all their previous efforts were wasted. Nothing is ever wasted. Changing the route or endgame does not mean you are a failure. I originally set out, in 2006/7, to be a TV writer. I ended up a script editing novelist who helps organise London Screenwriters’ Festival. And I love it! Now I can’t imagine why I ever wanted to be a TV writer. Seriously. Never be afraid of changing the route … You could end up somewhere you never foresaw, but love so much more than your original goal.

iii) You’re always learning – but you also have confidence in your strengths 

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone – figure out EXACTLY  which parts of your writing, skillset or experience you’re lacking and remedy this by doing a course, or asking/helping out the people doing it. But equally, have confidence in your own ability, too. A friend of mine emailed recently, asking if she should make her script reading “official” by doing a course, since she learned on the job? I said NO WAY – she is experienced and accomplished; the last thing she needs is to be told *how* to do the job she’s spent literally years perfecting. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with knowing you’re GOOD at what you do.

iv) You’re generous 

It’s as simple as this: spread the good karma, it will come back to you tenfold. So don’t guard all your info, leads and ideas jealously. Share them and you will advance; keep them to yourself and you will stand stock still. End of.

v) You know when to let go

Don’t tinker endlessly with your drafts, or keep trying to work with people who no longer fit your game plan. These things evolve. That’s fine. Don’t sabotage yourself and stop your career advancing by not knowing when a project or relationship is dead in the water. Know when it’s time to move on!

Good luck!


Connecting With Agents, Filmmakers & Other Writers Online

How Do I Make New Contacts?

Breaking In – Me at The Black Board

The Basics Of Online Script Submissions – me at Scriptmag

“Never give up; you’ll never know how close you came” – Me at WriteSoFluid

Transcript of UK vs UK Script Editing #Scriptchat (Jun 23rd, 2013)

What Is A “Marketable” Screenplay?

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PsulitHyThen check out my screenwriting books, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and all good book stores. Click the pics or to look inside Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays, CLICK HERE.



CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays about the iconic character of Driver in the movie DRIVE, courtesy of B2W friends Film Doctor. Click on the pic or HERE, to look inside in the front of the book.


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11 thoughts on “5 Career Strategies For Writers”

  1. Thanks Lucy! Spot-on. I’m going to show this to my mum when she next asks: “What is it you actually *do* all day?” 🙂

  2. Hi Lucy

    Thanks for this article. Very useful. One thing though: those lists of screenwriting contests and initiatives are US-based, Moviebytes, in particular, has next to nothing for this side of the pond, as far as I can see. Do you – or anyone else – know of any more Eurocentric lists?


    1. Hi JV, yes there is a UK screenwriting competition now called Screenwriting Goldmine and there’s the Red Planet Prize, though that’s not run for a while. If you follow @HayleyMcKenzie1 on Twitter or Script Angel on Facebook, Hayley keeps track of all the UK comps as well.

  3. I’m a poverty stricken new-ish producer in need of finding exceptional writing talent. What would be the best way of going about it?

    1. Hi Sacha, great news! Loads of my Bang2writers are looking for producers just like you to collaborate with on shorts and features, etc. Either email me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom, post to the wall at or tweet @Bang2write with your requirements/expectations for writers or scripts and I’ll roll the details out … You should be hooked up with someone in no time 🙂

  4. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and resources. My daughter could probably make very good use of this – she and her fiance run their video graphics company. There seems to be a plethora of resources available to budding screenwriters. Are there any analogous resources, besides the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, for the authors of books, novels, etc?

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi Bill, glad the post is of use! Yes, besides the Writers’ Yearbook there are LOTS of resources for novelists – probably as many as for screenwriters. Depends really what you’re after – I was a big fan of the “Teach Yourself …” imprints in the 90s, but in this post-internet age there’s books about every subject for writers now, like social media marketing; transmedia and so on. Here’s the most recent reprint of the book I mention, check out the suggestions at the bottom on Amazon for more. Good luck!

  5. All the above are excellent. For screen writers, I’d also suggest making your own short film or working with somebody else on theirs. This will not only give you a fantastic insight into the process and help you realise the realities of the transition from page to screen, but also help you build relationships with a wide range of people within the film and TV making community.

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