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The Reasons You Will Fail As a Screenwriter and What to Do About It

Literary manager Sammy Montana gives advice on how you could fail as a screenwriter, improve your screenplays to make them market ready and increase your odds of success.

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.

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The Reasons You Will Fail As a Screenwriter and What to Do About It by Sammy Montana | Script Magazine #scriptchat

Every writer has produced a screenplay or TV pilot (with a bible, of course) of epic proportions. The next masterpiece! The next Taken, Braveheart, or Beasts of No Nation. Right? Attention all writers: Implant this sentence in your head: Your script is a big Glad™ garbage bag! Why will most agents and managers think it sucks before they have even read it? It sucks until you have received enough feedback to make it saleable and then for it to be produced, released into theaters, become a box office hit, receive rave reviews and win an Oscar® or Golden Globe®. That is what you are competing with.

This type of “masterpiece” thinking that writers mistake for “confidence” is “misplaced confidence” that will ensure that the newbie fails as a screenwriter. The good news is that failure is not a foregone conclusion. First, as an aspiring screenwriter you need to adjust your internal dialogue from misplaced confidence to an open pragmatism. Second, you need to develop a marketing plan that is deliberate and individualized.

Most writers tout their script as a “heart-pounding thriller.” Others write in their queries a “gut- wrenching drama.” By doing this, writers strongly believe that their confidence will help sell their script. It won’t. This kind of hyperbole turns off most readers and conveys inexperience and desperation. This overconfidence can hinder a writer’s critical eye.

To avoid this pitfall, your internal dialogue must change to “How will I make this better even at the tenth draft? If this were great enough to sell what would it look like?” Pick the best verbs for your scenes. Pick the best nouns, the best adjectives and the best and deepest subtext regardless of the script’s genre. Enrich your characters with paradoxical qualities. Structure your scene most effectively. Pick the best way to reveal plot and character information. Learn how to weed out bad feedback. Hone your skills by reading and analyzing several hundred scripts. There is no shortcut for this. By changing your inner dialogue, asking the questions discussed here, and dissecting every word, action, and plot choice, you will have a finished project that will compete in the marketplace. You will not need to use fancy words in a query or pitch that are normally used by critics to pump up audiences to attempt to persuade an experienced reader to read your script. Instead, create a great logline and convey (if applicable) your background relating to the script. Readers enjoy queries that are written in this manner. Keep in mind that even better than a great query is a well-edited, poignant relatable script.

A marketing plan is integral to your success as a writer. Not just any marketing plan. A deliberate and individualized marketing plan. Research online recent sales by first time writers and notice how they marketed and sold those scripts. The Tracking Board website is a fantastic tool and a must for writers.

When the script is about one draft away from being market ready, start creating a marketing plan. Create a plan very early, and it might not be applicable by the time you start pitching the script. The market changes very quickly. Next, remember that a marketing plan must be individualized because each script is different, each writer is a different personality, a different gender, and each writer has different circumstances. Frank, a 38-year-old introvert that works 9 to 5 will need to work on different skills and have a different approach than Suzie, a 22-year-old college student.

The best way for all aspiring writers to create an individualized plan is to consult with an experienced agent, manager or producer who can work with your strengths and weaknesses through the framework of understanding the business. You can either take business classes taught by these insiders or work towards acquiring representation which was covered in detail in a previous webinar I taught called Everything You Need to Know Before You Seek Representation. Writers can also research books through the library and The Writers Store that cover this particular topic.

Meticulously editing your work, researching the business, and individualizing your marketing plan will give you a solid foundation for success as a screenwriter.

© 2015. Sammy Montana

For more insights from Sammy Montana, get his on-demand webinar
How to Develop an Individualized Marketing Plan for Your Scripts!



At a Glance:

  • This live webinar is geared toward screenwriters, TV writers, and other writers transitioning into Film and TV
  • Discover and implement a marketing plan that fits your personal needs and current daily schedule
  • Learn how to advance your career on your own terms now and in the future effectively