BALLS OF STEEL: How to Get Your Screenplay Read Without Asking

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor of Script magazine and a screenwriter, having written the narrative feature adaptation as well as the 10-hr limited series of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, which was honored in the Top 25 Tracking Board Launch Pad Features Competition, CS Expo Finalist, the Second Round of Sundance Episodic Lab, and as a PAGE Awards TV Drama Finalist. Follow Jeanne on Twitter @jeannevb.

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get your script read 2Last week, after giving you the secret to finding a screenwriting mentor, where I shared my experience of how I attracted the professional screenwriting mentors in my personal network, my inbox quickly flooded with the question…

How did you get Unknown Screenwriter and Doug Richardson to read your script without directly asking them?

The short answer: They knew I could write.

That’s it. The big secret. Have a nice week.

Wait. I hear someone yelling, “But how did they know you could write?”

Not one to waste time, I went straight to Doug Richardson and asked him.

I could tell three things from your blog:
A. You had something to say.
B. You could organize your thoughts.
C. You had the skill to engage me.

Bottom-line: If you want people to feel comfortable asking to read your work, you need to earn their respect to make them believe in you. The best way to achieve that is to consistently behave in a manner that instills confidence in your abilities.

Double Duty Communication

If you want to get your screenplay read, give professionals a way to know you as a writer and as a person. In social media, blog posts, and in all your communications, show your personality as well as your capability of writing to attract an audience.

Every single time you form a sentence, you are showing your ability to tell a story. Even now, I’m creating a story:

Protagonist: Me
Outer Goal: To get my scripts read
Conflict: The zillion obstacles between me and the executives

The protagonist has to be likable in order for the audience (a potential mentor) to want to root for them.

We are storytellers, but this is also a business. Every single thing you write is like being on a job interview. In today’s age, you have to assume your potential employer is stalking you. Why would Hollywood be any different?

Add to that the fact if someone offers to read your script, they need some sort of reassurance you aren’t insane. Be engaging, polite, helpful and show your personality. They need to feel safe asking for your work and trust that if they give you harsh feedback, you won’t bash them on social media platforms, stalk their homes, cook bunnies in their backyard or fill their email inbox with 30 emails a day, draining them of their valuable time.

Think about all the ways you communicate with someone. Your first job is to make them like you, trust you, and get a feel for your writing.

Twitter: I started small with the best editing teacher ever – Twitter. Everything about the craft of screenwriting has limitations: page count, formatting, and dialogue. If you can’t convey your thoughts in 140 characters, chances are your script is going to be verbose. Beyond mastering the art of brevity in storytelling, you can tell in just a few tweets if someone is interesting or not.

Facebook: Let’s say you connect with a potential mentor on Facebook. If you obsessively send Farmville requests, always threaten to delete your Facebook account, and are nothing less than a drama queen, you’re going to get muted at the very least and “unfriended” for sure. Think before you post.

And by all means, don’t use social media if you’re drunk. If you do, delete those posts ASAP… unless they’re seriously funny and engaging. But my experience is, they aren’t. You just think they are while under the influence.

Email: The emails you send someone say so much about your writing ability. As an editor, I get tons of queries that make me scratch my head in disbelief. If you can’t write a coherent email, I guarantee you can’t write a compelling script.

Blog: Before I had my Balls of Steel column, I created a website for people to find my published clips as well as my personal ramblings. When I started creating an online presence, I never put “aspiring writer” in any of my bios. Just typing that makes me vomit in my mouth. If you write, you’re a writer. Own it. Believe it!

Doug Richardson added:

I tell actors, don’t wait for them to say action in an interview. Walk in the door as the person you’re playing. You’re being judged on everything.

Creating a website isn’t as difficult as you might think. I use WordPress, which I highly recommend. You can find a class by Jane Friedman on Build Your Author Platform Through Blogging on The Writers Store site, and Screenwriters University offers How to Set Up and Manage a Compelling Blog by Dan Blank. I’d also highly recommend taking some freelance writing classes too. You’ll learn about querying and getting articles published online and in print. The wider you cast your net, the more people who will read your words. (Added perk: Because I used WordPress to operate my own website, I as prepared to submit articles for Script Magazine when I first started writing Balls of Steel, as well as further prepared for becoming the editor.)

Believe

You can learn how to write, and you can learn social skills, but the much more difficult task is believing in yourself, let alone finding someone who believes in you.

Unknown Screenwriter shares his thoughts…

I think we all have a little trouble here and there when it comes to believing in ourselves. It can really help when someone else believes in us. Sometimes? That’s all it takes.

Having the courage to put your words into the Universe requires a blind faith in yourself. If you don’t make it easy for potential mentors to connect with your words, you’ll only make it harder for yourself to succeed. The first step is to write in any and every medium you can. The path to success is long and winding. You never know what project is the one that will get you noticed.

The second step is believing in yourself enough to hit the “publish” button. If you believe in yourself, others will too. Earning the respect of accomplished writers takes time and patience. But if you do the work, you will get noticed.

If after doing the work of putting yourself out there, no one comes to read your scripts, there’s still the tried and true method of hiring a script consultant. Sometimes we gotta pay for our mentorships, especially in the beginning stages of our careers.

To get more tips on how to find a champion, make sure to read Balls of Steel: The Secret to Finding a Screenwriting Mentor

More articles by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman

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6 thoughts on “BALLS OF STEEL: How to Get Your Screenplay Read Without Asking

  1. Leona Heraty

    Jeanne,

    One more question…I’ve been doing research on the WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org to set up a blog. Which one do you use and why would you recommend it?

    Also, I’ve been doing research on the best hosting platforms for blogs, and many professional bloggers recommend Hostgator. What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks! 🙂

    Leona Heraty

  2. Leona Heraty

    Hi Jeanne,

    Thanks for another excellent,informative article. I have a question, what is Farmville?

    Thanks so much for sharing the links about blogging. I plan to set up my own blog soon about my love of old movies, and these websites will help me so much! Also, I’ve never posted on Twitter either, so I plan to do this asap. I’ve been dragging my feet about mastering all the new social media platforms, since I’m not a techie, but I think I can do it with help from all of the great blogs and web sites out there about how to get with it and master the art of social media. 🙂

    Keep doing the wonderful work you’re doing to help us screenwriters. I really appreciate your insightful and helpful thoughts and experiences.

    Onwards and upwards to all of us screenwriters! 🙂

    Leona Heraty

  3. K. Rowe

    Excellent article. And I believe I’m doing all the RIGHT things. I even enlisted the help of my editor to make sure a query letter went out in perfect order. I write, I publish, I blog, and I have fans (finally!). But screenwriting has proven to be far more difficult than an 80,000 word novel. I have scripts out there for people to see, and I plan on working on them more as I learn new things. Overall feedback has been good, yet something is still lacking. Just can’t seem to grab that brass ring.

    At least it sounds like I’ve got the social media part down. One less thing to worry about!

    1. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

      You’re doing great! Just keep remembering the journey is what matters, not the temporary setbacks that happen along the way. Just keep pushing every day. Something I do is to try to learn one new thing each day about either the industry or my craft. Keep us posted!

    2. Leona Heraty

      K, just keep on truckin’ everyday…don’t give up! We’re all struggling with keeping going and staying positive, but as the saying goes, “winners never quit, and quitters never win!”

      I read a wonderful interview several years ago with Harrison Ford, and he said the only difference between himself and the other talented actors who came to Hollywood at the same time he did, looking to break into the business, (and they didn’t make it), is that he refused to quit! He said most of the people he started with after a few years of failure, folded up their tents and went back home, but he stuck it out and eventually made it! 🙂

      Leona

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