Scriptcat’s end of the year checklist…

Who can believe the year is almost over? It will be 2023 in a blink of an eye. It’s always a powerful tool to look back over the previous year and critically analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly choices you’ve made.

Hopefully, you’ve learned from your failures, from any criticism, and enjoyed your successes. Excuses abound, but what really matters is how productive have you been? Room for improvement? Have you become a better screenwriter and have you been able to move yourself and your projects down the field? Have you opened doors and gained new “fans” of your writing? Have you continued to build those vital relationships that matter over the long haul? Did you gain and hold new ground? Create a solid body of material in a genre to show your unique voice? All of these are important to any screenwriting journey to success.

The responsibility for a screenwriter’s career begins and ends with the screenwriter. The hard fact:  Your screenwriting career is probably the most important struggle to you and not to anyone else. Only you know the hard work and sacrifices you’ve endured to go after your dream, so you need to protect your career path by taking responsibility for chartering the course of your career. Your time is precious and you need to constantly be moving forward and avoid the pitfalls of poor choices and negative experiences.

Too many times, I’ve heard screenwriters blame others for their own missteps or lack of success in Hollywood. Some writers look for the quick and easy way to success, but end up frustrated when their one script doesn’t sell, they have no other plans and they are not working on new material. Sure, it’s easier to soften the blow to blame the agent, manager, producer, or Hollywood itself for not getting your film made, but screenwriters need to step up and take more control over their choices.

Every time you write a new project on spec, you must consider how it fits into the bigger picture of your screenwriting goals. It’s a risk when you write a spec and you are rolling the dice with your precious time. Did you just have a “fun idea” for a movie and thought it would sell, so you decided to spend months writing it? This is not an effective use of your time. If it’s your passion project and you must write it—do it and hopefully you’ve executed it properly and your passion will be there on the page.

Boulder Flat

Always have a purpose in choosing your material. REMEMBER: What you write about is as important as how you execute it — and just because you write it doesn’t mean they have to buy it or will “love it.” You’ll only figure this out after you meander through four or five scripts that don’t achieve the plateaus you had expected or do not sell. You’ll be forced to take a step back and examine your reasoning for embarking on the journey with each project. If you’ve been successfully making noise with a particular genre, continue to establish yourself as an expert in that genre. When you secure a writing gig, you’ll have steady work because you’ll be known for a genre. There is nothing wrong with being pigeonholed as a screenwriter. It means you’ll work and build up your résumé in a genre that you hopefully enjoy writing.

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Trust me, bouncing around for years with different scripts in different genres hoping that something sticks is a fool’s endeavor. I’ve been there.  When something eventually hits and is a success, the producers will want more of the same from you in the way of screenwriting assignments—the bread and butter or working screenwriters. There is no shame in steady work in a particular genre. I find sometimes aspirants believe they’ll hold out and will only go with a script that is “their vision” and somehow it’s “selling out” to take a job offered writing something that maybe isn’t their favorite choice of material—but it’s a foot in the door. A writer with zero credits is still a writer without any produced films.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the odds are already stacked against you and time marches on so quickly. The main issue is that you must stay busy creating projects, networking, building your unique voice, and casting your best scripts wide to the right players. Your first job may be non-union and for little money, but it’s important to build upon any success and get that important produced credit. No career starts out on top. And it’s difficult to weather the storms of the long haul journey.

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So, it’s never too late, even though the year is nearly over, to grab a piece of paper and if you haven’t yet, set up a game plan for 2023. Hollywood continues to deal with Covid and all the protocols to produce films and production continues. Hit the ground running and achieve your goals every day of the week. Treat your screenwriting like a business—because it’s YOU, INC. and every decision you make affects your pathway to success. Ask yourself the hard questions: “Why are you writing this particular spec and will it serve you in the best way possible to create opportunities and open doors?”

Here are eight tips on my checklist to prepare for the new year:


Make a list of all viable projects. Completed scripts and what condition they are in: ready to be read, needs a rewrite, needs a polish, only a first draft, etc. Add to the list any fleshed out pitches, log lines, one sheets, beat sheets or treatments. This is important if you cross paths with an agent or manager. They want to see you busy and prolific on your own. What do you have to offer? Do you have script only and nothing as a follow-up? You’ll need a solid body of work to standout and it will take time to craft these projects. It’s dangerous to be impatient and go out with a screenplay without having another solid project to back it up.


Make a list of your achievements in the past year. Scrutinize the successes and failures so you can see where you need to pick up the slack in areas where you need to focus in the new year. List any accolades—did you win or place in a significant screenwriting competition? Did you option or sell a screenplay? Did you graduate from film school?  Did you make any films, short movies, or a webseries on your own?  Did you work on a production or take an internship? List anything that shows you are working toward to your goals.


Make a list of any new contacts that you met by networking during the year. In January, make sure to send them a “First of the year—hope this finds you well—this is what I’m doing” e-mail. It will put you back on their radar and if you list a few interesting projects, they might bite and ask for a read. Also, instead of always asking for help, BE a good contact too. It’s not all one-sided. You are building “relationships” and not just contacts. These are vital to your continued success on your journey.


Make a list of potential deadlines for any rewrites or new ideas. Keep true to these self-imposed deadline as if they were real screenwriting jobs. Do not deviate from the commitment for anyone or any external forces. Trust me, either on purpose or by mistake, people will try to derail your schedule and will think it’s not that important because you’re writing on spec. It is that important. It’s vital training for the time when you finally do get a job on assignment and you’ll know how to keep a deadline under any conditions. Find respected screenwriting contests that you may want to enter and use their entry dates as a goal and deadlines to finish your new material.


If you haven’t yet, start attending networking events in the new year. Become a member of the International Screenwriter’s Association ( ISA ) for workshops, webinars and in person events in your area. Join Scriptwriter’s Network and they have seminars and meetups every month in Los Angeles. It’s hard with Covid affecting in person events, but you can use Zoom and other apps to continue to stay connected. And don’t be afraid, get out of your writing cave and meet other screenwriters and network.  Help others and you will find they will help you.


If you don’t already, read scripts on a regular basis. Good scripts, bad scripts, classics—read! You’ll be surprised how much you learn from reading screenplays. Be careful of the screenplays that are posted during award season. Do not try to emulate their style as most were written in a protected bubble of development and were not specs, so they can get away with many things regarding format that you cannot with a spec from an unknown writer.  “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” —Stephen King.


If you don’t already, read screenwriting blogs, books, articles and film websites with news about the film industry. You must do your homework on a daily basis and not expect your representation (if you’re lucky to have an agent or manager) to do it for you. A lot of vital information slips through the cracks and information is priceless currency in Hollywood. It can mean the difference between getting in a door with a meeting that could land you the next job that launches your career.


I don’t care if it’s on your cell phone. You learn so much if you film a scene that you’ve written. If you have larger ambitions to produce your own feature — by all means go for it! Don’t wait around for Hollywood to call because they will not unless you give them a solid reason to care about what you are doing. Produce a project. There has never been a time before in our history when it’s been easier as a filmmaker to produce a project. It’s also empowering to make something of your own. Regardless if it’s seen by the masses or twenty people who appreciate it. You will have gained the precious experience of making a project on your own. This will also show potential agents, managers, executives and producers that you are not waiting around to be discovered. You have made a solid body of work that reflects your unique voice. Go for it!

A game plan helps you allocate your precious time wisely. It shows that you’re your serious about your career and treating your screenwriting as a professional—not just willy-nilly writing a script and hoping it will sell on its own merits. It’s rare that one script makes a career. It’s always one script that opens the door, but you’ll probably have to write five or six to get to that “ONE.” The overnight success is usually a series of little successes along the way that lead up to continued success.  You have to consider how everything you do regarding your career fits into your bigger overall goals.

Your career aspirations can’t live or die by one project and you can’t focus on “the one” and hope it unlocks the gates of Hollywood. It’s always going to be a numbers game with horrible odds of success. Even if you sell a screenplay, there are no guarantees and still so many hurdles to jump. The good news is—the more quality material you create, the better chance you have of garnering interest and that may lead to a sale or assignment work. It’s always about the right project to the right producer at the right time. That’s why you stay in the game by continuing to write and get better. Keep your eye on the big picture.  It’s like what Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon, “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!”

All my best wishes for a glorious and successful new year that is a blank slate for you to fill as you wish.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright © 2022 by Mark Sanderson. All Rights Reserved. My Blank Page blog.

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“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” — JJ Abrams

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Falukner

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”—William Falukner

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu

“Your screenwriting career is not a Dali-esque delusion, but the result of work, talent, focus, sacrifice, patience and luck. And we know that luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets an opportunity.”—Scriptcat

Communiqué from the front lines… always be writing, pitching, and taking meetings for any chance at success.

As I’ve mentioned before in my blog articles, even with credits or not, a screenwriter’s job never ends with regards to either creating new material or constantly meeting, pitching and building an ever-expanding network of your “fans.” It’s days, nights, and weekends, folks. Anything else is a hobby.

One of the two recent meetings I had was a pitch meeting and the other a follow-up meeting after the exec read my TV pilots. Both meetings went very well and I’m extremely happy to add two more places with open doors. The pitch meeting was with an independent producer that I pitched to before, and this time I came ready with five new pitches—all in the same basic genre for her to consider. Now, what could have happened is that I pitched all of my ideas and nothing resonated with her, but luckily for me she picked three to further develop.

We’re moving forward with the three pitches and will work to tailor them to three specific networks with regards to their tone and scope. I have produced credits in the genre I was pitching, so it helped to make her feel confident that I could write the ideas I had pitched. Once we have a more detailed story locked down and she’s confident with it, she will hopefully schedule meetings and take me into the networks to pitch with her attached as producer. I now go into the important research process and have to watch a handful of the original movies that have aired on these particular networks to enable me to capture the tone of their material. I’ll bet you never figured one day watching movies would be considered research. It’s the best part!

The other meeting was a lunch with a development executive who works for a successful, old school producer with mega Hollywood credits. She read my TV pilots as they are branching into series television and she really liked the writing, but the projects weren’t the right fit for what her boss is looking to produce. She’s now a “fan” of my writing and we discussed in length the types of films/series ideas they do have in development with other important insights. Another invaluable door opened and a flag planted on the field of battle. I of course sent a handwritten “thank you” follow-up card to both producers as part of the professional code.

These are they types of meetings you will need to take on a regular basis to continue to build your network of relationships. Eventually one of your “fans” will buy your material or hire you to write their next project on assignment.  It will happen if you stay in the game and build those necessary relationships. It’s happened for me nearly two dozen times being hired for screenplay assignment jobs. The process is ongoing and never ends as long as you’re writing. As with anything in Hollywood, you never know how events will turn out—good or bad. This is why early in my career I began to practice the art of detachment from any outcome of a meeting. This is important because it’s never going to turn out the way you envisioned. Never. Detachment helps you protect yourself from the many disappointments that meetings in Hollywood can deliver. You’ll want to wrestle control of your “highs and lows” to lessen the inevitable bumpy ride. 

Always consider these meetings in the bigger picture of your overall journey and not just focus on the success of any specific meeting. Many times, a meeting is just a meeting and will end up being nothing more. But it’s always good to get out there and put a face to a name and a script. Remember, success does not happen with one script or one meeting, as it’s a long process of many steps and many meetings and a body of work that will show professionals you have something unique to offer.

So, dig in deep and get your latest project finished. Work on your pitches, one sheets, outlines, loglines, and completed scripts. Take the meetings and build those vital relationships that will serve you over the long haul journey to success. It’s not the romanticized idea of what a screenwriter does, it’s the reality of looking for your first — or next job. It’s all part of the process of a working screenwriter. Rinse, lather, and repeat. When it does finally happen, if it hasn’t already, you’ll take the meeting that launches your career when they want to buy your script or hire you to write a project on assignment. Your screenwriting career is not a Dali-esque delusion, but the result of work, talent, focus, sacrifice, patience, timing, and luck.

Keep writing and keep the faith. —Scriptcat

Copyright © 2022 Mark Sanderson. All rights reserved. My Blank Page blog.

Did you just finish your latest screenplay? Is it time for in-depth screenplay consultation? I’ve helped hundreds of writers elevate their scripts into a release draft where they can feel confident to show it to producers. Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for the link to my website and more information.

“Loooooove your script. Simply love it. Can we change the ending?” – Anonymous producers.

“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

But the Artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling.  If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer his whole life.  In the hierarchy, the Artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, “What can this person do for me?”  “How can this person advance my standing?”  In hierarchy, the Artist looks up and looks down.  The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee

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Need help navigating the life of a screenwriter as you pursue a career in Hollywood? It’s never easy to slog it out in the trenches and my book can help with my tips, trick, and tactics to help you survive the long haul journey to 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.