“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”
Franklin P. Jones
Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great grew from an idea born while critiquing screenplays. I discovered beginning writers consistently make the same mistakes. Mistakes which, in Hollywood, can cause the reader to… (gasp!) stop reading…
They can do that, you know.
I found myself telling writers the same things over and over: “Don’t have character names that rhyme.” “Every character’s voice sounds just like every other character.” “Your hero doesn’t have a clear goal.” Repeat ad nauseam. I decided to create a simple checklist so, before sending me their screenplay for notes, writers could do a rewrite, cleaning up this nuts and bolts stuff, and then we could discuss plot and character and structure, instead of wasting time on generic stuff like, “Run your damn spellcheck.” That short checklist turned into this book.
“I read to the first typo.”
Welcome to Hollywood.
To someone at a computer or pad of paper or typewriter far from the agent’s desk or the producer’s office… it is impossible to conceive of the staggering volume of material the system has to contend with. You’re one writer sitting in your room, or at a park, or coffee shop, writing your screenplay. There are thousands of people sitting in parks all across this great land of ours, writing screenplays too. So, what you’re writing has to be really good.
While the competition you face is gigantic, it is not monolithic. There are chinks in the armor through which a well-written script can wriggle. But it has to be extremely well written. If your script isn’t perfect, or as close to perfect as you can get it, then it doesn’t stand a chance. It is supremely arrogant to think that something you dash off in a couple of weeks, and don’t rewrite, is anything more than a waste of your time.
Writing a spec screenplay [writing on “speculation,” hoping to sell it] is all about the reader, not your mom, or a friend who critiques your material, but someone who is paid to read your stuff. You know, a reader with fifteen scripts to plow through each weekend.
While it’s true a reader really, really wants to unearth a fantastic screenplay, and opens each one with that uncrushable hope, she is also dying to quit reading so she can flop by the pool with a delightfully refreshing umbrella drink. Therefore, if you give her any excuse to toss your script, she’ll take it. And, poof!, all your effort will be for naught.
Listen. I can’t make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But, if you keep trying and don’t quit, I know I can make you a better dancer.
All That Jazz
written by Robert Alan Aurthur and Bob Fosse
If you follow the Your Screenplay Sucks! checklist, by the time you finish, you’ll be a better writer. No problem.
I hope you find the book incredibly useful.