Screenwriting : Starting a writing career by Pablo A. Rajczyk

Pablo A. Rajczyk

Starting a writing career

I've had a little success in writing contests, reaching the quarterfinals or semifinals, finishing in second place once, receiving encouraging feedback, etc. But, of course, these contests only have one winner. I wonder how many successful writers (i.e. published, produced) began their careers by winning a writing contest vs. how many acquired agents via queries or sold spec scripts. In other words, are these contests helpful or are they basically just ways to get aspiring writers to drop fifty bucks a pop? I can't imagine there's any hard data on this, but any insights are much appreciated.

Kerry Douglas Dye

I don't know if I qualify as successful, but I am produced. I've never won a contest, though my high placement (top 10) in the Austin FF Screenplay Contest possibly helped with my first sale. Specifically, I attended the Screenplay Conference and met the agent who would go on to sell my script (not the contest success script -- a different script which did less well). But it's possible I could have made that same connection without placing highly in -- or even entering -- the contest. My high placement just meant I paid less for the Conference pass. :)

Shawn Speake

Striking it big with one script is rare. Switch the mind-set. Create a catalogue of compelling stories. Become a master storyteller.

Pablo A. Rajczyk

Shawn, I have seven completed film scripts (and outlines for another two dozen) and have written two produced plays (plus a handful of others in various forms of completion). I wasn't asking about trying to be a one-hit wonder, but about the value of entering contests vs. other methods.

Shawn Speake

My bad, Pablo! I apologize! But I went to your profile and there are no log lines or scripts posted. I assumed you were a new writer.

Pablo A. Rajczyk

Not at all. I'm still navigating my way around the site and developing an online presence for my work, especially on Stage 32. But you bring up a good point about marketing one's work. Your comment is actually making me consider starting another thread asking about this very point. While I'm not new to writing, I'm still trying to work out the "business side" of things.

Shawn Speake

Good call! Always here for you if you've got questions. I'm impressed with your work-ethic! I totally think you should show off your work!

Brad Johnson

Sometimrs it seems that writing contests are having a bit too much fun collecting fees from us poor schlubs and are constantly dreaming up new services to sell. On the other hand there are too many writers in the world and these contests have created a viable business model that offers at least some outlet for writers in an overcrowded marketplace. Until someone comes up with a better model I suppose we can only criticize them so much .

Varun Prabhu

There are many contests that prey on writer's money. There are many that offer a writer to reach out to the marketplace. Most prominent ones are Academy Nicholl, Page, Script Pipeline, Scriptapalooza, American Zoetrope, Sundance, Slamdance, BlueCat, etc. Stage 32 contests are good as well. So yes, contests help to some extent.

Mike Romoth

There are tens of thousands of us battling every day to get seen and heard. Contests offer one type of opportunity, but they are not the only opportunity out there. Until you get "discovered", you should pursue all avenues for getting your scripts read. I agree with Shawn that S32 offers the best community support and the best "pro-level" services available. However, contests can give a connection or a boost too. Everything adds to the pile. There are tons of sharks swimming in these waters, to be certain, but it's up to us little fishes to learn the difference between a big fish and a shark.

Howard Johnson

Hey Mike, could break down the big fish and shark analogy? Now, to make myself look more like a New Jack...One writing contest I came across asked that the story not be published and it discouraged me from joining other contests. Is that normal? And Shawn, does Joey read the scripts that are just posted with the logline?

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Wow Shawn, I didn't know that Joey did that. That's terrific. We need all the exposure we can get.

Jim Fisher

The only way to learn to write is to write is the advice I've been given many times. Plus, read top quality fiction or screenplays - good stuff.

Pablo A. Rajczyk

Steven, thanks so much for your thorough and thoughtful response.

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