In Episode 6, my guest talks about when she decided to write, and how she taught herself to do it through sheer will and practice. It’s true—writing is one of those skills where you have to keep practicing, keep churning out stuff you’re not proud of, until you slowly and steadily improve. Everyone has a different tactic: write every day, stick with what you know, seclude yourself in an isolated cabin until you emerge with a heart-wrenching biopic that Steven Spielberg will beg to direct.
That being said, you’re not at it alone. I’ll outline some helpful tactics and resources to help you start or continue your journey to the Oscars 2021 (three years is realistic, right?)
You can write and write and write, but if you’re not getting feedback from another set of eyes, it’s going to be really challenging to grow. Good script notes help you recognize what your doing well, and where you can improve. Sure, nobody likes learning that the five pages of witty banter they spent three days on is not actually a bit…long, but constructive notes aren’t an attack. They’re gems of helpful advice. It can be challenging to take back and read your own work impartially. That’s what notes can do.
Only ask for notes from people you trust. If someone is going to help mold your baby (your script), then you don’t want them telling you that every scene should have three farts or that you should cut out the protagonist entirely and write a script about a robot.
Be conscientious with your requests. After all, you’re asking someone to take the time to read your work-in-progress and give feedback. Wait to send the script until it’s ready, don’t ask them to read a new script every week, be specific about the type of feedback you’d like, and don’t rush them.
It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to take every note. Just because the reader thinks you should add a love interest in the second act doesn’t mean you must. However, recognize where that note is coming from. Does the second act stall? If so, address that.
If you want professional notes, I’m happy to help. Check out my new page.
There are a plethora of books about writing for the screen , and everyone has a favorite. Here are some of the ones I’ve found helpful:
Writing classes can also be helpful if you have the budget and schedule to make it work. If you’re in LA, or another major city, there are a plethora of options. For example, in LA a lot of writers swear by both UCLA Extension writing courses and Ben Axelrad’s independent courses. If you’re into sketch, comedy theaters such as UCB and The Pack have a number of options. If you’re not in a major city, check out online classes.
Not only do classes give you tools, direct feedback, and introduce you to a community of peers, they also often force you to work on a timeline. In fact, if you don’t take a class, you should still give yourself a weekly timeline. This is so valuable
When you’re learning how to write and honing in on your skills, take the time to read the scripts of your favorite movies and tv shows. A lot of the popular pilot and film scripts are published online. Not only will this likely inspire you, it’ll help you learn what works.
You can do it!
Learning a new skill, or improving an old skill, takes work and dedication. It’s not glamorous, but hopefully you like doing it, even when it’s late, you’re tired, and you’re wondering why you would even want to save a cat because you hate cats. Keep on it!
As always, let me know if you have any questions.