Since I am still early in the process myself, some of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn are very fresh in my mind. I’ve decided to share them in the hope that I can help someone. Sometimes we just need to know we’re not alone.
SCREENWRITING IS A CRAFT AND NO ONE IS BORN KNOWING HOW TO DO IT.
If you’re a new writer and you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “Yeah, but that doesn’t apply to me. I’m smart. I’m talented. I learn quickly.” If that keeps you going through the tough times, you go ahead and hold on to that for as long as you can. But if you are at the stage of your writing where you have started to realize you are not the Mozart of screenwriting, after all, then this may be as much of a comfort to you as it was to me.
SCREENWRITING IS HARD FOR EVERYONE.
Some of us are talented, others not so much. But a craft is learned. No one instinctively knows how to write slug lines or manage act breaks. Occasionally, a genius may seem to know how to play the piano, or paint a picture or write a great book, without being taught. I have never heard of anyone who could write a screenplay without going through an extensive learning curve.
If someone had told me how much work was ahead of me just to learn to write screenplays, I wouldn’t have believed them. Actually, that happened. They told me and I didn’t believe them. It’s a good thing, too, because if I had believed them, I probably wouldn’t have started. By the time I figured it out, I had logged in far too many hours to bail. My stubbornness kicked in and saved me.
The good news is it gets easier. The bad news is you have to finish stuff, from beginning to end, with many drafts in between. It doesn’t matter how many fantastic ideas you have or how many first drafts you have under your belt. Not even your mother can see the potential in an unfinished screenplay, and it’s certainly not fair to ask a studio exec to look for it. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s a bad idea to show my work to anyone before it’s at least nearly done. The only exception is a teacher or an evaluator that you pay to see the potential. It is highly recommended that you do, because they will tell you what it needs to make it better, so you can finish.
It’s a bitter pill, I know. Somehow, it helps to let go of the denial and face reality. It’s all part of becoming a screenwriter. Each hurdle we get over brings us closer to our goals.
It would be awesome to hear about whether this post helped anyone, or some of the other hurdles overcome along the learning curve. See you next time, when I talk about the importance of ending your writing sessions on a positive note. Happy Writing ’till then!