Scriptcat’s 20 Steps to Follow After You Type: FADE OUT – THE END…

August 15, 2012 § 5 Comments

  • Breathe deeply and smile.  You’ve just accomplished what most writers do not—finish a feature-length screenplay.  Congratulations!
  • Run spell check and print a copy of your screenplay.
  • Avoid the temptation to read your screenplay.  Put the copy away and let it settle for a few days before giving it your first read.
  • Do something to celebrate.  You need to enjoy the little and big successes on your long journey as a screenwriter.
  • IMPORTANT: Do not give anyone this first draft to read. You’ll be coming down from your natural creative high and you don’t want anyone to harsh your buzz.  You’re also in a raw and vulnerable place after giving birth to new material, so you don’t want feedback now to taint your clear vision or perspective.  This will only lead to chasing notes, as everyone has an opinion.  Keep your script close.  Don’t boast or talk about it.
  • Okay, it’s now been a few days, or even a week later and it’s time for your first, uninterrupted read of your new screenplay.  Protect this precious time as your first read, much like seeing a film for the first time, will cement your impression of the work.  Read your script through without stopping.  Be objective and treat it as if you are reading someone else’s script.
  • Take the time to digest your first read and make notes.  Trust your first instincts and write your feelings.  You’ll know what works and doesn’t work.
  • Read your script again, this time for typos and the flow of how “it reads.”  I like to write on the actual script with my notes.  It’s more “hands on” and to me feels like I’m molding and shaping the material without the filter of a computer or a keyboard.
  • Take a few days to digest it all, but don’t wait too long to get working on executing your notes.  Hopefully, you worked from a solid story treatment and much of your work will be polishing.
  • After you complete your second or third draft, read it again and consider if the screenplay is ready for a first read by others.
  • Now it’s feedback time.  Only give your screenplay to people whom you trust and have experience with either reading scripts or writing scripts.  Do not give the script to your friends who are not in the film industry.  You want critical analysis and notes from fellow writers, not from your mother or neighbor  (unless they are in the film business!).
  • Everyone is busy.  Feedback takes time.  Especially when your readers are doing you a favor.  Move on to your next project or prepare a new pitch, start a new story treatment, or develop a new idea.
  • As the feedback trickles in, consider the notes and put them in perspective.  Take what you think makes your script better, and discard the notes that you don’t think work.  Everyone’s opinion is different.  Strongly consider similar comments, the good and bad.  If five people feel the same way about your script, they just might be on to something.
  • Execute the notes you agree with and work on a new draft. Don’t chase notes.
  • If at this point you need to bring it to another level, think about finding a professional screenplay consultant to help with a real-world view of your material.  It’s the best money spent.
  • If you end up happy with your seventh draft, do not tell anyone in Hollywood, “This is my seventh draft.”  Do not write the draft number on the cover of the script.  As far as anyone knows, it’s your kick ass first draft.  Besides, everyone knows it’s not your first draft.  Any professional writer never allows anyone to read a first draft.
  • Register your screenplay with the Writers Guild of America.  It costs $20 for non-WGA members and $10 for members and it’s registered for five years.  You can register a script in person, by mail or on the WGA’s website.  DO NOT write your registration number on the cover of your screenplay.  It’s like building a new house and posting “NO TRESPASSING WE SHOOT LOOTERS” signs on your lawn. All professionals assume you have take care of your business when it comes to this. You can copyright your screenplay if you really feel it necessary with the U.S. Copyright Office, but it’s $35 and takes about 3 to 4 months. Just know that you never retain the copyright as when you sell your script it becomes a “work for hire.”
  • Make some noise.  Get out in the trenches of Hollywood and find a home for your new screenplay.  Enter it in screenplay contests.
  • Do not make changes for free just because a producer shows interest.  If their interest is real, they will offer you an option or even purchase your script.
  • Good luck and keep filling your blank pages! A screenwriter writes every day.

Scriptcat out!

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The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.” —William Faulkner

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write.  Let them think you were born that way.”—Ernest Hemingway

Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”—Ray Bradbury

“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.” —Steven Pressfield, The War of Art


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§ 5 Responses to Scriptcat’s 20 Steps to Follow After You Type: FADE OUT – THE END…

  • Terrific advice – thank you!

  • Michael Bierman says:

    WGA is weak protection. No mention of copyright?

    • scriptcat says:

      I personally don’t think copyrighting a script is necessary. You never own your screenplay once you sell it to a production company or studio. It’s not like a novel. You don’t own the rights after it sells. You sign over the rights and it becomes “a work for hire.” The WGA gave away those rights years ago. So, many beginning writers want to lock up their scripts with warning signs about how it’s protected material. Yes, theft can happen, but it’s rare there is outright theft. It’s usually similar ideas bouncing around and if you consider the tens of thousands of scripts out here every year in the marketplace, it’s likely some will be similar. Frankly, attorneys have told me by the mere fact you have created your script you own it. You could e-mail it to yourself and have the date stamp on the e-mail and that serves the same purpose at the WGA copyright. The Library of Congress copyright is about $35 if you want to spend the money for piece of mind, go ahead. Just know you will never own the copyright on your screenplay if someone buys it.

  • Do people really get offended seeing a WGA# on the script? I’ve always put one right under my contact information.

    • scriptcat says:

      It’s not so much they are “offended” — It’s pointless and usually is a dead give away of an aspirant who is overly concerned about someone stealing their script. If you’ve ever seen a professional screenwriter’s script they do not put the WGA number on cover. Pros expect you to have already taken care of your protection. They don’t need to see it on cover.

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