One of the most rampant misconceptions about screenwriting is the very scale of the process. Of course, talent, creativity, and commitment to the craft are all immensely important components of any successful screenwriter’s career. Being able to craft a phenomenal screenplay will (and should) always be your number one goal. However, it should also only ever be the first goal, of many, if you are serious about seeing your words brought to life on screen.
The fact of the matter is that, whether you like it or not, your writing is only one step in the process of achieving excellence as a screenwriter. What you are able to accomplish after you’re done writing is just as important. “A great story always finds its way to the screen!” is one of the most destructive myths in the writing community. Once you think you have finished your story, the marketing process begins. It’s only at this point that writers even have a shot at realizing their potential.
The Difficult Truth You Need to Know
The moment you complete your final scene and press the “save” button, it is absolutely critical that you immediately re-enter reality. And here, in the real world, you need to understand that everyone only ever gets one chance to make a first impression. That’s all you and your work are going to ever get as well. In my experience, one of the most difficult barriers to entry in screenwriting is that the vast majority of writers ruin their first (and usually only) shot by rushing their work. You simply cannot afford to show anything less than the best possible iteration of your work to the industry movers and shakers.
This leaves painfully little room for self-delusion. You need to be sure you have exhausted every possible resource at your disposal before you even think about shopping your work around. Ask yourself if you have done the following:
- Does your personal network sincerely enjoy your work? When you show it to your friends and family, is the feedback as good as it could possibly be? What do these individuals, your cheerleaders (or “CHEERS” for short) have to contribute to improve your work?
- Has your work received adequate recommendations and praise from your PEERS? Do the writers you respect and admire have additional input that you can use to make your piece even better?
- Did you earn at least one (but preferably more) recommendations from a highly respected script coverage service, script doctor, consultant, or mentor? These ROCKETEERS can be critical in launching you towards success.
- Have you entered and won (or at least placed well) in multiple, well-regarded screenwriting contests? Competition can help you better understand where your work stands in comparison to your peers, as well as give your work some real clout and prestige that can make a big difference in the eyes of future decisionmakers.
Writers are, by their very nature, almost always intensely passionate about their work. As a result, it can be hard to objectively understand when it is (or is not) truly finished. When you can satisfactorily answer all these questions with an enthusiastic “YES!”, you will finally know that your work is finally ready to be marketed.