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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

DcH, I've been told by others that I am a good writer, but it's hard to believe it when nobody buys my scripts.  A reader of an agent even recently passed on one of them.  Do you have any advice on how to keep going?


This week's Answer: 

Keeping Your Screenplay Afloat

Lawrence, I'm very glad to hear from you (or, rather, "see" from you if you want to be precise.  And who doesn't want to be precise?  I surely do, as I'm sure you do, too.  Right?  Precisely.)  First off, don't worry about the reader of the agent passing on one of your scripts.  Just be glad it wasn't the agent of a reader.  (Did you know readers have agents now?  They really don't, but it's an interesting thought.  If they did I could put it in a screenplay and tell my agent to show it to the agent of his reader.  Who might pass on it.)  You're fine.  Everybody isn't going to love your work.  Especially readers.  The last thing they want to do is read (your script and like it.  Maybe they should call themselves "coveragers" so they don't have to think about what they're doing or supposed to be doing:  reading.).   It's a beautiful business, wouldn't you say?  

My advice to you is to stop listening to anybody who has an opinion about your screenwriting unless they have a check for you (and hopefully a substantial one) for exactly that:  your screenwriting.  I know you're probably thinking that this is an extreme concept, that, at least you can listen to those with positive comments about your writing.  I wouldn't.  They're the worst kind.  Now you're probably even in more of a tizzy.  Or a dither.  (I don't know which one's worse.  I think dithers might be, particularly when it's raining.) What do you mean they're the worst kind?  I'll tell you why.  Now this may come across as quite blunt so you might want to put on some safety goggles or a catcher's mask.  Here goes:

As long as you depend on kind words you're sunk.

And to illustrate my point, I'm including a lovely image to remind you of this fact.


I hope that helps.  I don't mean to be harsh, but, if all you're looking for is flowery accolades about your work, that's all well and good; enjoy them to your heart's content.  But, without even noticing it, if you seek other's opinions, hoping upon hope that they will (please, please, please) like your screenplay, then you're not believing in your own.  You must ask yourself:

Am I writing to please them or me?

I'm not saying to not show your work to experts in the field who can assist you in improving your screenplays.  Not at all.  But, even there, you are not, or should not be, showing your work to garner praise.

Your only purpose for showing your screenplays is to either discover how to improve them or to sell them.


If you've recovered from my direct statements, I'll tell you the secret why this true.  When you're seeking opinions other than experts who can guide you, notice one tiny detail:

You're not writing.

And then one more following question (and I'll stop with the bold, dramatic font in the middle of the page):

Are you writing to please or are you writing to sell?


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