We get a lot of folks coming up and saying “hey, I have a great idea for a script! Want to write it for me?” … and the answer is, usually, no. Why? Because we’ve got plenty of our own ideas that we’re working on! It’s hard enough to find the time to juggle those.
However, we always want to be helpful, so we’ve put together some recommendations of ways you can learn on your own to become a (better) screenwriter.
- Read screenplays that are selling today.
This is a big one. We know so many screenwriters who don’t do this, or who only read scripts from the 1950s. It’s great to do that – and we’re big fans of Some Like It Hot – but it’s not ultimately the most useful way to use your screenplay-reading time. Get up to date on this year’s Black List and specs that are selling now. Read what won Oscars last year and the year before. Get inundated with what’s doing well in the industry today. That will help you do better with your own writing. If you’re saying “well, I read 5 scripts, and they didn’t help.” First – you may be reading the wrong scripts. Second – you haven’t read enough. You need to be thinking in the hundreds.
- Read books that will help you become better at writing.
Some of these, like Stephen King’s On Writing, may not be geared toward screenwriting, but will still give you great pointers to master the craft. Look at the popular ones (Story, Save the Cat, The Writers Journey) and some of the lesser known ones (The Sequence Approach, Your Screenplay Sucks). Test out the tried and true methods, and experiment with stretching beyond that to really learn what works for you.
- Take classes.
This is a big one, and it’s fun, too! Find classes that will help hone your skills, whether at UCLA, the Writers Store, Screenwriting Master Class, through Jen Grisanti, or others that may be of use. There are a ton out there, and you can only get better through practicing your skills with other people.
- Form a writing group.
Find other friends who are also writers and might be willing to form a group with you! Exchange notes on your scripts, hold readings (this is a great tip to help with proofreading and finding any plot holes), and work together to improve.
If only it were that easy – but it is! You won’t improve if you don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get those ideas down. Write a ton. When you’re done writing, write some more. We often see writers talk about how many scripts they’ve written, and quantity is good – but it’s ultimately not as important as quality. If you’re not improving with each draft, you may want to try one of the above tips to help you get better. Keep working at it – it’s an uphill climb to success, but you will get there!
One of the best things about making your own way in the screenwriting world is the knowledge that you’ve created your own work and brought that world to life. You’re reliant on no one else to meet deadlines or fit your vision – you can do it yourself. And you should! Happy writing!