Two of the most searched Google terms on this blog are, ‘writer mistakes’ and ‘writer fails’, so I thought I would take a look at you actual WRITERS and what you might doing to kill your screenplay dead. Ready?? Brace yourselves you lot … ‘cos here’s how you’re MURDERING your chances!
1) By … Waiting for inspiration
I love this quote (whomever said it) because it gets straight to the nitty-gritty. NO writer can afford sitting around, waiting for his or her muse. You might not feel like writing, but you have to get on with it. SO GET ON WITH IT! Do whatever it takes to *get* inspired by yourself, whether that’s doing writing prompts or exercises, or reading motivational quotes, or something else. GO GO GO!
2) By … Panicking
I’ve lost count of the number of Bang2writers who tell me they’re ‘running out of time’ on a SPEC project. They’ll use this get-out-jail-free card to justify sending their work out before it’s ready, thus KILLING their chances stone dead with scripts that simply won’t pass muster. And for what?? Whilst it’s true time is not on our side *overall*, when it’s a spec project you cannot afford to send out sub par work. You might as well not bother at all!!! TRUE STORY.
3) By … Acting like a know-it-all arsehole
Social media is great, but it also spells DANGER … Especially if you’re the type prone to drunk tweeting or general RAGE about terrible movies or TV shows you’ve seen. That said, you can get away with both of the above if you’re FUNNY with it. The one thing writers cannot afford, especially online, is to come across as a know-it-all and/or an arsehole. This is a very small pond and you do NOT want people to read your name on the front of your screenplay and their first thought to be, “Oh god, that dick.” FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT.
4) By … Not doing your research
It’s not rocket science. If you want to write a particular story, you need to read/watch ALL the stories that are *like* yours (and believe me, there WILL be some!!). So, if you want to write a horror, watch ALL the horror movies like yours that have gone before. Same goes with dramas, comedies, sci fis or any other *type* of stories. You simply cannot break new ground without doing this!! Otherwise you end up with a bunch of same stories, tired tropes and full on CLICHES. You must must must put the groundwork in.
Equally, when it c ones to characterisation, you MUST figure out WHO they are (character motivation), plus WHAT they are (role function). It’s NO GOOD saying ‘Oh my characters come to me in my dreams” or whatever BS, I’ve heard it all before and it DOESN’T WORK. Writing is about craft, not magic. So you have to know how your characters work and why. This is non-negotiable!!!
5) By … Wallowing
Thinking everyone is doing better than you is a mug’s game. The only way to launch your career (or indeed keep it going) is, GUESS WHAT — writing. So stop whining on Facebook about how much of a loser you are or how much you hate EL James and GET ON WITH IT. (See point 1 on this list).
6) By … Thinking there’s a fast track
No. Just, no. There is no fast track. There are no magic beans. There is no get-rich-quick scheme. There is only a fuckton of work. So either do it or go be an accountant or something.
7) By … Writing solely for the market
If I had a quid for every writer who’d presented me with some shitty derivative bollocks who’d then proclaimed with a fervent gaze, “Well it’s STILL better than most than most of the shit out there!!” I wouldn’t need to be a script reader. I could live in Barbados and sun myself with Matt Damon as my sun shade boy. Seriously.
Get this into your head: we’re not hacks. We are WRITERS. Some of us are better than others it’s true, but all of us *should* have one thing in common – and that’s we’re all doing the BEST WE CAN. Don’t be a hack!!
8) By … Writing solely for yourself
Passion is good. But when passion replaces CONNECTION, it is not good. And writing is a communication – we need to connect with an audience of some kind. That audience might be mass or it might be niche; it might be somewhere in-between. But you HAVE to know who you’re appealing to and it CAN’T just be for you, even if you’ve read some writer saying this is what *they* did. They’re fucking lying, whether they know it or not. So, who is YOUR script FOR?
9) By … Not investing in craft
Like I said in point 4, this is a CRAFT – not magic. This means you can always get better, especially if you invest in your craft. This doesn’t *just* mean check your format (though that is a good idea) … It means investing in your:
- Visuals (especially via scene description)
- Your writers’ voice
You can always learn more about and develop these five things. ALWAYS. Never, ever think you have craft licked. The spec pile says that 90% of screenwriters have a LONG way to go on craft, plus ways audience preferences change all the time. STAY UP TO DATE.
10) By … Giving up!
We’re all in this for the long game … So if you quit, now? You’ll never know how close you came. Don’t kick yourself. Eat up the triumphs and swallow the failures with them. And most importantly, KEEP GOING.