Screenwriting : I've written 100 screenplays... by Wayne Taylor

Wayne Taylor

I've written 100 screenplays...

No, I haven't, but it got your attention. I've been perusing the site and reading a few of the uploaded scripts. Many of the new writers on this site have dozens of screenplays uploaded. Why? Is it the fact once they've finished their first project they come here for advice? What advice is given the most? Usually it's "Great, now put it away and write a few more".

They hear the same thing over and over, "Write more to become better". I hate to pee on your parade but you're not getting better. Number 100 reads as bad as number 1.

After writing that first project you're so proud of ( Hey, we've all been there ) compare it to some other scripts. Not scripts your buddy wrote. Not scripts your mama wrote. Not scripts you find on this site. I'm talking about PRODUCED scripts. Compare the lean and to the point action paragraphs. Notice I said lean, as in a few sentences. Compare your dialogue (for some it's more like monologue). Compare your white space on the page to theirs.

Feedback is crucial. I'm not saying go out and spend a small fortune on feedback, especially on your first script. There are people and places where you can get some basic feedback for free. They usually read the first 5 pages and let you know immediately the problems. Hint* It's usually what I've already covered.

So congrats on all that time you spent pounding those keyboards to crank out stories, but now it's rewrite time.

Dan Guardino

People here up load their screenplays hoping someone will read them and give some feedback or offer advice. I don’t have time to read screenplays, but I do offer advice or answer questions if I think I know the answer.

Rachel Teo

When you say, "There are people and places where you can get some basic feedback for free. There are people and places where you can get some basic feedback for free. ", where exactly do you mean?? I could use some basic feedback for my script.

Dan MaxXx

Probably 90% produced scripts (theatrical) on the internet are not spec screenplays by first timers.

Even the Hollywood annual Black List best unproduced specs, most of the writers there have established careers or film/tv industry backgrounds.

For example, I wouldn’t recommend to write on the page like “All is Lost” or “A Quiet Place” without backers or a track record.

Pamela Bolinder

My goal on this site is to get my spec script optioned.

Pamela Bolinder

The following is what came to mind after reading Wayne Taylor's comments: "Haughtiness is the abstract quality of haughty." "Haughtiness is found on the high opinion we entertain of ourselves; disdain, on the low opinion we have of others; arrogance is the result of both." - George Crabb In psychology when someone presents this way they are presenting insecurity. "I hate to pee on your parade but you're not getting better. Number 100 reads as bad as number 1." This is not a positive instructive statement; rather, it points directly to haughtiness. I know that is 'on the nose'; it is by design. I also paid attention to who "liked" this opinion. Aspiring writers do not need to be beaten down by a verbal stick.

Chad Stroman

Dan MaxXx Even the most highly touted black list scripts don't get optioned most of the time. Even less make it to actual production. The best black list scripts "usually" lead to representation or pay for hire writing gigs. Yes there are one or two over the years that have been optioned and greenlit for development and actually made. I'm not dogging the black list. It's a great tool to use to break in IF you have the screenwriting talent to make use of it. But I would be amiss if I thought the black list was an avenue to get someone to plop down a million bucks or even six figures on a spec script.

Writing and rewriting really are key I'm coming to learn and it's a labor of love that really only begins AFTER you've completed your first draft.

Wayne Taylor The goal is to improve. I listened to a podcast/interview by Jim Uhls (he's said it multiple times but he's not even the originator of the idea but it's solid IMHO) where he said (paraphrasing).

Write a script, put it in a drawer.

Write another script, put it in a drawer.

Write another script, put it in a drawer.

Pull out that first script and rewrite it/look at it with "palette cleansed eyes".

Rinse/repeat until it's ready to share.

IMHO as an amateur, if I'm not learning or striving to improve my handle on the craft with each script, I'm just producing the same level of script/work with different characters and a story.

Dan MaxXx

Chad Stroman BL is not a tool. It’s a path to a career. Look, the goal of a spec is to get a job. A writing assignment, tv staff, adaptation, Whatever. Specs are just writing samples. Everybody on the BL is already represented which means they are working/talking/networking with folks who do this for a living. Again, a working writer makes very little off specs. The game is repeat business- writing assignments.

Leonard D. Hilley II

Great writing comes from revisions. It is the hardest part of the task. Revision is key. As for improvement, you need to read the "Produced" scripts, the ones that achieved success, to see what works and how to become a more effective writer and better craft your skill. "Compare the lean and to the point action paragraphs. Notice I said lean, as in a few sentences. Compare your dialogue (for some it's more like monologue). Compare your white space on the page to theirs.Compare the lean and to the point action paragraphs. Notice I said lean, as in a few sentences. Compare your dialogue (for some it's more like monologue). Compare your white space on the page to theirs." <-- I totally agree with this. A heavy script is harder to sell. And when constructive criticism is offered by a professional, be thankful for the honesty. It's how we learn.

Dan Guardino

Leonard. I agree reading production scripts is a good idea but there are different rules so the screenwriter better know the difference between a spec and a shooting script.

Chad Stroman

Dan MaxXx I don't disagree with what you are saying. Maybe tool wasn't the right word for me to use. Path/avenue is a better one.

Leonard D. Hilley II

Dan Guardino . Yes! A huge difference.

Chad Stroman

Aaaaand I totally confused the two. My bad.

Dan Guardino

Wayne. Believe me you aren’t going to piss on my parade.

I think when you finish a first screenplay is a good time to post it here and ask questions.

I don’t know what the most given advice is here is but, "put it away and write a few more" is good advice.

The reason you hear people say over and over “write more to become better" is because it’s true.

I think it is a good idea to read production script if the screenwriter knows the difference between a spec screenplay and a production script and why you see things in a shooting script that you would not want to see in a spec.

I have read some scripts people have posted here and some are pretty good and I would never assume I was better than other people here.

Wayne Taylor

I agree and disagree Dan.

Yes, continuous writing is vital but only if you are learning and improving with each new project. Feedback, studying scripts, and rewriting with new found skills is how you improve. Not by hashing out the same ole dregs.

And for those of you with thin skin and the need to be coddled, you're going to have a hard time as a writer.

Pamela Bolinder

The following is what came to mind after reading Wayne Taylor's comments: "Haughtiness is the abstract quality of haughty." "Haughtiness is found on the high opinion we entertain of ourselves; disdain, on the low opinion we have of others; arrogance is the result of both." - George Crabb In psychology when someone presents this way they are presenting insecurity. Saying those who "need to be coddled" is being condescending (patronizing, supercilious, superior, snobbish, snobby, disdainful, lofty, haughty) points directly to haughtiness.

Pamela Bolinder

Wayne, saying, "Yes, continuous writing is vital but only if you are learning and improving with each new project. Feedback, studying scripts, and rewriting with new found skills is how you improve." Is good. You don't need to add an underhanded dig. That you read writers scripts posted on this site is fine. But, if no one asks you what you think, then you should not criticise anyone's work. It's not your place.

Erik Jacobsen

Free script coverage/feedback here: https://www.reddit.com/r/ReadMyScript/ and here https://chaosscriptcoverage.wordpress.com/get-your-free-script-coverage-... The latter has no problems with non-disclosure agreements.

Dan Guardino

Wayne. I don't have thin skin and I am not having a hard time as a writer.

Rachel Teo

Erik Jacobsen Thank you for the recommendation!

Wayne Taylor

Dan my last sentence wasn't aimed at you.

Rachel you can also check out Talentville.com. They have free services and pay for services. It's a whole community over there and you may really like it.

As writers, we all have this little ego inside of us. You just finished that book, screenplay, poem, article, or whatever. You're proud of your creation. It's your baby. Your family oohhs and ahhs, your friends marvel at your work, your grandma shows her friends, you're on cloud 9.

Then you take it out into the real world. The harsh, cold landscape of humanity. Someone reads it and shrugs. Then another and another. Your feelings are hurt. What do these buttheads know? "Nothing", you tell yourself. So you keep writing, ignoring those negative comments.

I was told, by an @sshole, that I couldn't write. He was some young producer/know-it-all. That was probably the harshest comment/feedback I ever received. Hopefully none of you will hear that. But you might. Later, I went back and re-read the feedback. There were actually a few positive words and it made me think. I went back and changed my whole writing style. His harsh words actually made me better.

We're adults, we should be able to handle rough words and harsh criticism. Maybe it's easier for me because I was in the Navy a long time. For those of you who don't know, the Navy has it's own "vocabulary" and harsh words are the norm.

So instead of looking for validation or coddling from feedback received, you should be looking and listening for the TRUTH.

Beth Fox Heisinger

This feedback of “truth” is also riddled with subjective opinion. So a writer needs to develop her/his own barometer for what is good writing and what is not. To listen to the truth of the work. To beware of bad or damaging feedback. To be wary of naysayers and fear mongers. To follow your own truth. My two cents, be as objective as possible about your own work. It’s not “you,” per se, it’s a product. It is outside of you. It is separate. Many writers use feedback to help with the mechanics of screenwriting and to develop their own good/bad barometer—what’s working and what is not. And some fall into the trap of only following varying feedback without question and end up confused or they lose sight of the story completely. The key is finding a balance: listening to yourself, the truth of the story, and finding people whose opinion you trust and whose feedback is coming from a place of mutual respect and knowledge. We keep writing to better hone our craft and to find our own voice. Why? People respond to the intangible qualities of a work, not orthodoxy. Happy writing, everyone! :)

James Drago

You're awesome Beth. You always bring solid advice in a cool collected manner.

Leonard D. Hilley II

Sometimes, writers take constructive analysis personally and misread intent, thinking the editor is personally attacking them when it's simply not the case. If you hire an editor, you're not hiring someone to 'gush over' what you've written. You're hiring someone to help you find errors, look for plot holes, and hopefully help you get your script polished to where it's ready to be submitted. It's not the time to become defensive after you've hired someone to critique your work. A good editor is doing his/her job. Now, does that mean you have to accept everything the editor says? No, of course not. But when a script has obvious formatting flaws that need corrected and an editor or reader has corrected and pointed this out, it's time to reflect on those edits. Read the comments given. Step back and wait a few days. Reread them and then look at the script with new eyes. We all hold our work sacred, which makes it quite difficult to edit and evaluate ourselves; whereas, others see things we cannot. Family members and friends are not the ones you want telling you 'how great it is'. It's not that they're going to lie to you, but they don't want to hurt your feelings (if they don't really like it), and unless they're professional editors, they're simply not qualified. As Laura Scheiner said about tone, disregard it. That's the hard part, too. Emails and forums don't give you the 'actual' tone. The reader sets the tone, and if one is prone to be offended by corrections, the tone might come across as condescending, even when it isn't meant to be. Face-to-face, you hear the tone and see the facial expressions, but in an email or letter, those are absent.

Advice given to me thirty years ago when I first started writing (seriously) was to place a finished manuscript in a drawer and start something new. After a month, take out the finished manuscript and read it. You'll catch errors you didn't see before. While it's true that the more you write, the better you become, there's something more that you need to do. Study great scripts. Learn and know the rules. Master the craft.

Dan Guardino

I never ask for or give feedback but if I wanted to do that sort of thing I would start off giving some positive feedback so they would be more open to the negative things. If someone thinks you are a jerk or a know it all asshole they usually won't list to you. Yeah, that is another reason i don't offer feedback:)

Leonard D. Hilley II

@Dan I totally agree. One should offer both the positive and negative. However, the positive is often missed because the negative seems like a massive billboard with a hundred pointing arrows stating, "This is wrong."

We all start at the same place as beginners. Years ago, I was there. Rejections and critiques hurt. They stung. They still do. But, it's part of the process. It's how I grew and learned as a writer. It made me look at my writing and then look outside of my writing and study the successful writers in the business. You experiment to find out what works and what doesn't. The one thing I love about Stage 32 is how we're able to help one another, to offer insight, and support one another. It's a good place to build a support group.

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