As most of you have probably noticed, this blog is all over the map.
Sometimes I'll write about reading. Sometimes I'll write about movies, or the box office. Sometimes I'll try to make people laugh; sometimes I'm more serious.
Because so many other blogs deal so well with screenwriting, I haven't written all that much about that aspect, other than to occasionally filter writing ideas through my reading POV.
But now I'm inspired to just rant a little. I'm going to even use capital letters, and bold. (Wow, who knows, someday this blog might even have a photo or two. Nah).
Anyway, this is my thesis for the day:IF YOU WANT TO BE A SCREENWRITER, PUT IN THE WORK.
You know what the biggest problem is with most young writers today? They sit down to their first script, and they don't say to themselves "I'm going to learn how to be a writer, by writing". They say "I'm going to write something, and sell it to Hollywood".
And then they knock out a script, and then they go over to the Internet message board they have been occasionally hanging out around, and they post "Hey, I just wrote my first script. How do I get an agent?"
Of course, they don't want to hear the answer, which is:
You don't. Throw the script into a drawer, and write another one. And then write another one.
There should be a rule, that you can't even try to sell one of your screenplays, until you have written at least 3. Or maybe 5. 7? 10's a good number. Because that's about the time most writers really start to figure out this whole screenwriting thing.
Of course, writers don't want to hear this, because it's daunting. It seems like work. And meanwhile, they think most movies in the theaters are so bad that anyone can write them.
But look at other careers. You want to be a doctor? You've got to put in a lot of time and effort -- LEARNING
-- before you get to perform surgery on someone. You want to defend a killer? Again, you can't just walk in off the street and be a lawyer.
Unfortunately, there's no test for screenwriting. You don't need a license to practice. That's not necessarily a good thing.
Other careers even have rules. You can't even play football in the NFL, until you have been out of high school for at least two years. It's to protect the players, because they aren't ready, even if they think they are.
You think good screenwriting is really all that much easier than medicine or the law? You're wrong. You think you're ready to play with the big boys? No.
You need to treat it like a career. You need to read the books, you need to find writing exercises that sharpen your mind, your characters, your story, your dialogue. You need to see movies, and think about why and how they work.
You need to write scripts without worrying if they are commercial, because it isn't about that right now.
Hell, I think everyone should be required to adapt a book that they like a lot, that they don't have the rights to and probably never will get the rights to. Just as a writing exercise, to take you that much farther down the road. Adapt a J.D. Salenger short story. Do a screenplay based on that fantasy novel you've always loved.
Who cares if no one will ever buy it? That's the point. Write. The more you write, the better you get. And hell, if you adapt something that you like, you'll probably enjoy adapting it. Though if you don't enjoy simply writing, of creating something, then maybe you're in the wrong business anyway.
Of course, I'm terrible at taking my own advice. I haven't really consistently put in the work, outside of actually pounding out close to a dozen scripts. Though through the course of my reading career, I've actually been paid to do assignments that helped my writing.
I was paid to type the foreign film "Kolya" into screenplay form, from just watching the subtitled video. Want a good intensive exercise for screenplay form? Turn a movie back into a script.
I was paid to type the musical "Chicago" into screenplay form, from play form (apparently because execs' brains hurt if they have to read something that isn't a book or a screenplay). Want a good intensive exercise in screenplays? Simply retype the script of something someone else wrote.
Another company regularly hired me to do a scene breakdown of their scripts in development; basically the slugline of the scene and a brief description of what happens in the scene. Again, it's a way to find yourself looking at how scripts flow and come together.
There are a zillion different writing exercises that you can do to make your writing and your scripts better, from writing scenes between characters who never even meet during your script (just to explore different aspects of your characters), to trying to write sequences of your script without any dialogue at all, just to make yourself come up with ways of telling things without dialogue.
If all this sounds like work, it is. That's the point. Screenwriters aren't born, they are made. Talent helps, but unrefined talent isn't going to get you far enough.
Yes, there are stories of people selling their first screenplay, or having their first screenplay place well in a contest. It happens. But when they are inevitably asked "What else do you have", well, it's good to have an answer.
Write as much as you can. Don't make it about the selling, make it about the process. Aspiring TV writers have the right idea; they spec episodes of TV shows, not in hopes of actually selling them as episodes, but as writing samples, to show they can write. And in putting together all these samples, they learn how to write better.
Put in the effort. And if you don't want to, well, it just might not be the business for you.