Sammy Montana has worked in different capacities in Hollywood… Read more. To get Sammy’s free screenwriting advice subscribe to his YouTube channel. For his high quality and fast turnaround script consultation services contact him on Linkedin.
Aspiring Screenwriters often search Google about actions that successful screenwriters stay away from. These screenwriters do so in the hope of finding some secret formula that only the successful and motivated are privy to. More often than not they are subject to numerous amount of misinformation thanks to the vast influence of the world wide web. There is no secret formula. Period. However, a writer can implement some actions that create his own destiny in the long term. Some of the actions that successful and truly motivated screenwriters stay away from are: Arguing with requested script feedback, doing things that are tried and true, harassing contacts with update requests, not keeping themselves motivated, staying in constant touch with naysayers, and wasting time. A great article to bookmark and read on script feedback is at this script coverage article
Stop Arguing With Script Feedback
In my experience and from what I have heard numerous amount of times, most aspiring and some mildly successful screenwriters argue with script feedback they themselves had requested. I am not going to “out” friends I know because they know who they are but I will give examples since that is the only way for anyone to know what I mean exactly.
A director friend of mine who directed a wonderful feel good foreign film asked me to give him feedback on a script he wrote. Naturally I agreed and the result was not good. I answered his questions as to why I felt the script had issues in certain areas. He proceeded to argue with me. It is as if I am attacking him instead of giving him feedback on an imaginary story that he wrote! So in other words, the logic in his reaction is fallible. However, in his defense it was not intentional that he react that way. His ego took a hold of him and on an unconscious level tricked him into believing that the feedback was a direct attack on him.
If writers were to take a second and delay their reaction they would realize that their defensiveness in the form of an argument is due to personal insecurity. After all an secure person has nothing to prove. No matter the legitimacy of any feedback a writer receives it is never personal — even when it is. What I mean by that is if it is personal it is a problem with the reader’s ego NOT the writers ego. The reader may have a big issue with a topic concerning animal abuse as an example. So why would a screenwriter argue with someone else’s feedback that may be derived from the reader’s past life experience?
It is also possible that the feedback may feel inaccurate at first but may be in fact very accurate if the writer were to sit on it for a few days or even a few weeks. A writers immediate reaction to script feedback is seldom the right one. By the way, if, after some time of pondering the feedback, a writer feels this reader was not the right person to critique his script he should use a new reader next time.
Stop Doing Things That Are “Proven”
Screenwriters love searching for articles online that pertain to what successful actions screenwriters have taken to get to where they are today. In other words they are looking for what’s “tried and true.” What’s tried and true for one screenwriter might yield no results for an aspiring screenwriter. This is because the circumstances that led to a screenwriter’s success can never be duplicated by someone else. Why? It’s simple. Every individual has different needs, goals, abilities, and present circumstances.
Some screenwriters may be more outgoing than others. Some are good at making their scripts contest friendly. Some want to be straight action writers. Some want to focus on character driven action scripts. Even though they are both considered in the action genre, they do not necessarily sell to the same audience in the same exact way. And so on and so forth. This is why one of the best pieces of advice, and the most true is that, a screenwriter must think outside the box of what’s tried and true. It’s a good idea to use the tried and true methods as an inspirational springboard to create new ideas with career plans that fit the individual person.
Some people write and produce shorts. Some enter competitions. Some raise money through Kickstarter. Some scout contact info on angel investors to fund their script due to a social topic of interest to this financier. Almost any legitimate idea within the boundaries of the law is worth trying.
Stop Harassing Your Contacts With Update Requests
Frequently, screenwriters harass their contacts with update requests. There is not much to say about this other than: do so at your own risk of alienating your industry contact. People are busy and mean well even when they say they will read a script “tonight” or “this weekend.” They always underestimate how quickly they can do things. The industry as a whole is notorious for being fast paced but never fast enough. In other words there is never enough time to read scripts.
I do not know of a single agent, manager, producer, or reader who says this with malicious intent towards the writer. Now it may upset the writer that this is what these industry people do, however, getting upset zaps energy that is better spent writing. Too often writers use their energy to fight “what is” instead of going with “what is” so that they end up eventually with what “will be”. And what “will be” is successful in the long run. The reason that writers feel this way is because they have a sense of entitlement. A great article on this is number 11 on the Huffingpost website. Keep in mind that you are allowed to follow up in three weeks regarding your script.
A second follow up in four weeks is okay. These are estimates only. What is a fact is that any more than two follow ups for a particular script is generally counter productive. Nothing reeks of desperation than a writer that constantly requests feedback. And that begs the question if a writer is that good why hasn’t she been discovered yet? Yes, yes I know. It’s not easy to break in this business. Just keep in mind when you think this way that the majority of the industry folk do not think like you.
Stop Discouraging Yourself
Why screenwriters do not keep themselves motivated is beyond me. Motivation does not happen in a vacuum. Please remember that. Chew it. Digest it. Swallow it. And live it. You must write to become motivated. Yes write crap if you have to. If you luck out and are motivated before you write then all the better. Just keep in mind that is not always the case. I covered motivation in my previous article here: Big Mistakes Screenwriters Commit That Kill Writing Motivation and here about throwing in the towel.
Eliminate The Naysayers
There is no shortage of naysayers who will be there for you as long as you stay in touch with them. These naysayers will quote statistics on your almost zero chance of success as a screenwriter. Or they will always have something negative to say about your writing. Usually, they will have negative things to say about anything in life. In other words they are the people that tell you why an idea will not work. They rarely present a positive and negative scenario to you. Avoid these people like the plague, or better yet, eliminate them from your contact list if you must. They are usually friends and family. Sadly enough, they may mean well but they are coming from a place of ego where they “know better.” Truth is, even if they do not mean well it is usually because of lack of adequate knowledge about the industry or fear of what will happen to them or you should you succeed. I had plenty of naysayers before I got my first job in the industry. Guess who has the last laugh now? Those same people are very supportive of me in the current moment.
Do Not Waste Time
Many writers get sidetracked between taking breaks from writing, between writing days, or even during the writing process. If you take a 15-30 minute break please do not let it turn into an hour. That’s not an excuse to start watching a movie and finish it! It does not mean spend time on Facebook or Linkedin or Instagram. Nor does it mean make a phonecall. It means RELAX! Take a break! Breathe! Meditate! Nap! Pray! Stare at the wall! But for god’s sake make sure it is relaxing so you can get back to your writing with a clear head. Take an example from bodybuilders. They must take breaks between sets or else their muscles won’t grow. Runners must take breaks from running or else they will need surgery from ripping some muscle or tendon. Parents need a break from taking care of or hanging out with their kids so that they can recuperate and be better parents. Everyone needs a break! Take it. Don’t feel bad or ashamed. The results of your writing draft will thank you.
Do not take what I say at face value here. Try eliminating at least one of these six actions at first and see if that does not work for you. I have a feeling it will work wonders. Best of success to you and those that deserve it!