When you're trying to break into screenwriting, you'll try anything.
And we'll be real. People do a lot of dumb stuff. That's why it's usually so easy to pick out who the amateur writer is, and who's the pro. I wanted to help our readers out, so I pinged a few professionals I knew, and asked what things amateurs do that bug them. I gathered their responses and aggregated them into the top five.
Check them out below!
Amateur Writers: Do NOT Do These 5 Things...
1. Send unsolicited ideas to professionals.
There was a long thread on Twitter on this subject, and it gave me the idea for the whole article.
Do not do this! It's wild to send things to people unsolicited but to send them ideas is a bad look. Most creatives are working on lots of projects, and it's illegal for them to look at your work, in case there's any overlap. It's also rude, but that might be beside the point.
The real annoyance here is worry over lawsuits and also misunderstandings. Most people want to find great screenplays, but they have no desire to get them jammed in their faces. Again, there are so many proper channels. The backdoors are closed for a reason.
2. Bug your reader.
If you send a script out to someone, wave it goodbye. They're now on their own schedule to get back to you.
Follow up with agents and managers in maybe three months. But I would suggest never. Once you query, it's over. They will get back to you if it's good. They just will.
You have no control, and that can be so hard to hear. But that's the world. If your friend said they would give you feedback, still don't follow up. People have lives. They will either get to it, or they won't. Welcome to Hollywood.
3. Complain about notes.
If someone is nice enough to sit and read your feature or TV show and give you notes—just listen. Listen to them and hear about their experience.
I can always tell someone is an amateur when they argue over the notes they hear. If you push back, not only do you lose a future reader, but you also look foolish.
Take the notes. Write them down. No one says they're right or that you have to agree, but you should be gracious. Plus, if a few people tell you the same thing about your script, they're probably right.
4. Lie about your writing or life experience.
Look, we've all finessed a resume. But one of the more disturbing trends I've seen in TV writing is people who lie about their backgrounds to get a job. There was a viral tweet series about someone lying about being in the military. And there are people who often fudge being an expert in something because they think it makes them have a better chance at a job.
It actually gives you a better shot at being fired. The same goes for lying about your professional level of writing experience. If you're just breaking in, lean into that. Ask everyone for some knowledge. Don't pretend you're a seasoned vet by making up the past.
5. Pitch celebrities in their personal space.
Let people have their space. Celebrities want to go out to dinner. They want to attend a movie or a sporting event or anything else without people coming up and pitching them. I've worked for celebs, and this happens all the time.
It needs to stop. If you want access to talent for your work, go through the proper channels. Contact agents, and make an offer. It can be long and frustrating, but that's why networking matters. If your material is that good, I truly believe it will get where it needs to be. No ruining dinner required.
What would you add to this list? Let us know.