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October 21, 2013

Not Ready to Let People Read Your Script? Here Are Some Tips on How to Get There

So, you've finished your screenplay. Maybe you're still tweaking things here and there, but for the most part, that lovely swell of satisfaction has washed over you and you're thinking that it's about time to show it to people. Or is it? That's a question that all screenwriters think at one point or another:
"When is a good time to have people read my screenplay?" The natural answer would be, "Uh -- when it's finished," but there might be more to it than that for a lot of you, especially if you're like me and terrified to show anyone. Continue reading for a few thoughts from ScreenCraft on how to know when you're ready to make your screenplay known.

Unlike the actual writing of a screenplay, showing one to people lets them inside the world you created and be a part of it; to form their own opinions and judgements about it.  If someone were to come up to me and say, "Oh man, I really want to write a screenplay. What should I do?" I'd say, "Write the damn thing." But, if that same person told me they wanted to show people their screenplay, I'd ask them if they were ready.

So, what does "ready" look like anyway? Different for all people, I'm sure, but ScreenCraft shares 5 distinguishing things that indicate that you might in fact be. Here are a few selections from the list:

It is the best screenplay you’ve ever written

When you're in the throes of the creative process, it's okay to be a liar -- especially to yourself. Tell yourself that every idea is phenomenal and you're a writing god. Do whatever you have to in order to get your thoughts and ideas down on the page, because once it comes time to edit, you have to start being honest.

When you sit there with your completed script, ask yourself if it's the best screenplay you've ever written. If the honest answer is "no," then you're not done and not ready to show anyone. You can do better. You owe it to yourself to do it better, because you should be madly in love with your story when you're through. ScreenCraft says that "every page should make you smile," and if they don't, don't expect them to do much for anyone else.

You’re ready for criticism

This is huge, because it's probably the single biggest thing that keeps us from sharing our screenplays in the first place. We don't want anyone telling us we have an ugly baby. It's natural to be protective of your script at first, but good constructive criticism, whether you agree with it or not, reveals places where your story might need some work.

Wanting your script to grow and become better are pretty clear indications of being ready to receive criticism. Try to make it a point to not take yourself or your work too seriously; it'll make it easier to find a way to use their praise and criticisms to become a better writer.

You believe in yourself

I believe in meI know that sounds trite, but guess what -- cynicism isn't your friend. Believing in yourself and your capacity to produce good work is integral to your success, because if you don't have the confidence to put yourself and your script out there, well -- that's it -- that's pretty much game over.

ScreenCraft suggests that it takes even more than sheer confidence, but enthusiasm. People feed off of other people's emotions and moods, so if you're enthusiastic and passionate about your story, chances are other people will be, too.

I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is that not showing your screenplay to people gives you nothing, whereas showing it could potentially give you everything. We're mostly afraid, because there's this ever-present voice whispering, "Oh god, what if it sucks," but -- what if it's actually really, really good? You could be robbing yourself of the career of a lifetime. ScreenCraft says it's like a "winning lottery ticket you’re afraid to cash in."

Where are you at? Are you ready for people to read your screenplay? If not, what reservations do you have about letting others read it?

[Typewriter image by Flickr member Nicole Lee]

[Superhero image by Flickr member Modern Alliance]

Link: Is It Time To Show Someone Your Screenplay? 5 Ways To Know You’re Ready -- ScreenCraft

Your Comment

6 Comments

The more relevant question is, "How to Respond When Someone Asks You to Read Their Script?" What writers expect of friends and contacts when they give them their screenplay is an ambiguous thing. Well, not really. What they hope to hear is, "It's a brilliant script, here's a million dollars!"

That said, the best solution I've found, when someone asks me to read their script, is to ask them, "Are you basically happy with it, or do you think it needs help?" That dictates what kind of feedback I give them.

If it's the former, I'll only critique hard errors, e.g., "You refer to this character as Cindy for the first 50 pages, but then you start calling her Cathy." I find that most screenwriters pretty much only appreciate this kind of note.

If it's the latter, and the writer honestly feels their script is broken, then I'll tell them what aspects could use some fine-tuning. But the main point is to never tell other people what *I* would do with their stories.

October 21, 2013

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Those are great questions and they also bracket the critique into the solving technical issues in the script or the aesthetic choices of the writer.

October 21, 2013

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Jerome

As a measuring stick, one should make - ask politely, I meant .. or plead ... or beg - his "reference points", be they friends, relatives or coworkers, read the already produced screenplays, at least, in the same genre. If you're writing horror, make them read "Creepshow" or "Scream". Comedy - try "Hangover", the original "Producers" or "The 40-YO Virgin". A romcom, try "When Harry Met Sally" or the"Groundhog Day". Better yet, ask them to read more than one screenplay, as chances are you're not in the Harold Ramis or Stephen King class yet (and may never be) and it's good to compare your work to a variety of the well known scripts, from the classic Oscar winners to the most recent flops.

October 21, 2013

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DLD

If you're going to ask someone to read your script, I hope they're a really, really good friend and already know screenwriting. Pretty much the only person I ask to read my work, and the only person who's work I'll read, is a really close friend from college that's a working screenwriter who has a great command of the craft.

Asking someone to read your script is a big time investment for them. Don't waste their time with a sloppy first draft. And this is super harsh, but it's the reality and required food for thought: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2009/09/i_will_not_read.php

October 21, 2013

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Terry Rossio has an article on his Wordplayer site titled "23 steps to a feature film sale" that covers every step from a complete beginner to the first sale.

"Submit script for comments" is only step number 17.

October 21, 2013

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Mick

I think there's a point where you need to get out of your own head and show the script to someone - 100% ready or not. What makes total sense to you might not make sense to anyone else - and the sooner you know that, the better.

October 24, 2013

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Paul