I’m guilty. I used to do this too before I learned how damaging it can be to a screenwriter’s mind, image, and the screenplay. You finish your screenplay and you’re surging with a natural creative high that you want to share with the world. This is the time to step back and take a pause. Allow your script to sit for a few days and do no read it. You’ll be tempted to give it to any of your friends bugging you to read your script when it’s done. Do not let anyone read it. Fight the temptation to share it at this point. It’s your first draft and it will definitely need more work—but this is delicate process and one a screenwriter must do alone and without anyone’s input at this point in the journey. It’s now just you and your screenplay—creator and project—alone together again.
During this vulnerable period, it can take just one person’s unfavorable of offhanded comment to drown you in an ocean of self-doubt. Your creative high fuels your feelings of triumph and you definitely do not want anyone to rain on your parade before you start on your next draft. You don’t need anyone’s criticism at this point until you work out the bugs and craft another solid draft.
I hope this goes without saying, but I’ll say it—never give the script to anyone in the film business after your first draft—even if they ask you to read it—even if they beg you to read it. I wouldn’t even mention on your screenplay’s cover what draft the screenplay is as to avoid the reader’s possible bias against the draft number. If you list that it’s a fifth draft the reader may think, “Why did it take five drafts to get it right?” Remember, you will never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. If a producer, director or executive reads a substandard draft, no amount of excuses from you will sway their first impression. It will hurt your project and more importantly their view of your writing abilities. If you need to be reminded—write on the cover of your screenplay “FOR MY EYES ONLY.”
When the time comes for a read, everyone will have an opinion about your screenplay. You know that five different people will have five different opinions. You don’t need that varied of criticism ranging from good or bad at this early stage. When you are ready, only give the script to your inner circle to read when you really feel that it’s the best draft you can do up to this point or you feel that you’re written out—you feel that you have nothing more to offer and you are happy with what you’ve done.
If you find yourself needing a professional set of eyes on your new screenplay or draft and want constructive notes, consider my screenplay consultation services. I offer feature and TV pilot packages, mentor packages, outline consultation, and short scripts. I’m offering $20 off until February 29th, 2020 on my feature and TV pilot consultation packages. If you find the need, I’ve love to work with you and get your screenplay in the best shape possible before you unleash it upon Hollywood.
I’d add this nugget of advice from experience—while you’re screenwriting, keep the intimate details of your work to yourself. Do not continually talk about the status of your projects, your “writing process,” or how each project is moving forward. Hollywood’s bizarre time warp works on its own schedule. Every project will take much longer than you ever expected and you don’t need people thinking that you’re blowing smoke when you talk about the status of your material. It can also distract you from the work. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home and eventually get produced—if ever. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our own inner voice of self-doubt, but why give fodder to your critics and skeptics who will use it to squash your dreams? They’ll even taint any good news you share and use it to belittle your success because they didn’t have the guts to risk everything to pursue their own dreams. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut the naysayers out of your life. Keep your work close to the vest until it’s finished.
You will not escape criticism and notes because they are part of the business of screenwriting. Be open to the entire process of writing—the notes, rewrites, the critiques and all. There will always be creative highs and lows. Do your best not to perceive your disappointments as a failures and then sink into the morass of fear and insecurity in your creative soul. Always be writing— something. No disappointments only triumphs when you complete a screenplay or other work.
Keep the faith and always keep filling your blank pages.
Copyright © 2020 Mark Sanderson. All rights reserved. My Blank Page blog.
New script or draft? Need in-depth consultation on your script before you unleash it upon Hollywood? Click on the icon below for the link to my website and more information.
Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches in this New Year? Consider my book “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” now available on Amazon. Click on the book for the link to Amazon and more information.
It’s a long haul journey to reach any level of screenwriting success. If your passion drives you to embark on this crazy adventure of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professionalism and ability to endure criticism, rejection, and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck — a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods. “A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success” will help you prepare for your own journey with the necessary, tips, tricks and tactics that I’ve developed over the past twenty years of working in the film industry. It’s time to start living your dream as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
Check out actor/writer/showrunner John Lehr’s (the original Geico Cavemen!) podcast where he interviews me for the second time and we chat about the crazy journey working in Hollywood as writers. Click on the icon below for the link to the Sound Cloud podcast.