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Ask the Coach: Odds & Ends — Building a Script Library, Seeking a Universal Script Structure Method, and Finding Courses

As writers, there’s a lot to sort through — advice out there in the world about how to go about marketing our work (including mine!), what story creation methods to follow, and what courses to take.

Welcome to “Ask the Coach.” As a writing coach, I answer questions from writers about making the work of writing happen, tackling craft, business, and personal questions along the way. (Have a question you’d like answered? Check the details at the end of the article about how to submit one.)

Ask the Coach - Odds & Ends — Building a Script Library, Seeking a Universal Script Structure Method, and Finding Courses-Script

Today I’m addressing a collection of shorter questions.

Here’s our first, in response to last month’s article regarding having more than one script when querying:

“You wrote that marketing your script ‘will involve making sure you have at least two marketable scripts before querying.’ Why is it important to have TWO scripts?”

While it's absolutely not a requirement to have two marketable scripts before querying, it’s a smart strategy. It means you’re ready if an industry pro or executive likes your writing but not the specific story.

A common question in that scenario is “What else do you have?” and having a second script ready to pitch positions you to respond well. This shows they’re interested in you as a writer, even if the current story isn’t for them.

Having more than one script may be most valuable when you’re looking for representation. A manager or agent will be better able to get a sense of your range as a writer and your ability to deliver more than once. It also shows that you’re treating screenwriting as a professional career, not just a one-off endeavor. Plus, you’ll grow as a writer (and as a person) with each script you take on.

And, there’s nothing stopping you from pitching one script and seeing how it goes. A great script can open many doors, regardless of how many others you have under your belt.

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Here’s our second question, about using a unified story structure method:

"I started screenwriting full-time two years ago and read Save The Cat, Story, Screenwriter's Bible, The Idea, Anatomy of a Premise Line and The Story Solution. I've created spreadsheets and Word documents in an attempt to unify all of these good story methods, but have found that certain formulas work for certain types of stories and not others. . . . Has anyone pulled together a unified story structure that is universal or is there certain story structure concepts for certain genres or story types? Or in other words, is there any such thing as a script method unicorn?”

This is a fun question, because my guess is that each of these methods would purport to be The Universal Method (though I know — because he’s a colleague and friend of mine — that Jeff Lyons always says, “Listen to everyone, try everything, and follow no one (including me) — you are own guru”).

[Ask the Coach: Odds & Ends — Finding Your Voice, Getting Unstuck, and Abandoning Scripts for Books]

To date, my personal experience with script writing and story structure is much like what you described — taking aspects from different methodologies and merging them to create my own approach.

My feeling about writing methods is that each creator has their own window into the process that works for them, and the rest of us can lean on their methods as we’re developing our own processes. In other words, no, I don’t believe there’s a single script method unicorn, except perhaps the one you ultimately create for yourself.

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Here’s our third question, about next steps with writing classes:

“I have recently done a beginner’s creative writing class. So what do I do next? Are there any advanced classes for creating writing, if there are those, and if not, what should be my next plan? Currently, I am doing content writing too.”

There are absolutely more writing classes out there — more than I imagine ever having enough time to take! In addition to the online classes at Script University for screenwriters, there are courses offered through Writer’s Digest for novelists and memoirists, not to mention endless numbers of classes at websites like writers.com and writingtheother.com for creative writers too. You may also find creative writing classes in your local community and through university programs. I suggest a Google search for “advanced creative writing” and seeing what you turn up. The writing possibilities are endless.

[Ask the Coach: Odds & Ends — God or god? Horror feedback? Script formatting? + more!]

Think about both what you most want to learn next and what kind of experience you want to have as a student and creator, as you’re deciding what courses to pursue. You might want online, self-paced courses to work through on your own schedule. Or you might want to be in a small intimate class with just a few other students where you can get lots of individualized feedback and share work with your fellow students. Or you might like being in a larger class with more discussion and less sharing, but with instructor feedback. There’s no one right answer, or right plan, but rather thinking about what your personal goals and needs are.

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That’s a Wrap

As writers, there’s a lot to sort through — advice out there in the world about how to go about marketing our work (including mine!), what story creation methods to follow, and what courses to take. My takes here are based on what I’ve learned from other writers and mentors, as well as my own experiences — but at the end of the day, trust yourself. Your instincts and inner guidance are among your most valuable tools as a writer.

Thank you for submitting your questions, and until next time, happy writing!

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Screenwriters, what challenges do you run into that you'd love to see us address in our articles? Take our short survey here.

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Submit your question to be answered anonymously via my online form here or send an email directly to askthecoach@calledtowrite.com. Look for answers to selected questions in my monthly “Ask the Coach” column on the third Thursday of the month. And reach out to me on Twitter to share your thoughts: @JennaAvery.


Learn more about the craft and business of screenwriting from our Script University courses!

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