“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.”
Hollywood agent

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.





9 responses to “WHY A BOOK?

  1. Michael Darby

    It’s a great book. It even taught me a new meaning for the word ‘sucks’. Just one question: Who is the main character in Romeo and Juliet? Or to put it another way, what if you have two main characters? Or a protagonist who is not the main character (can’t think of any examples, but there must be a few)..?

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      RomeoJuliet is the main character! Good question Michael. Depends on your definition of Protagonist, of course. I was taught that that was the guy who was the hero… but, we had Steven de Souza talk to my screenwriting class about DIE HARD. He said the protagonist is the one taking action. The antagonist is the one reacting… which means that Hans Gruber is the Protagonist, and McClaine is the guy reacting to it… the antagonist. I’ve never heard it put that way. So, in that case, the Protagonist is not the hero. Is Butch or Sundance MORE the hero? Sundance has the girlfriend, but they seem pretty equal. What about THE WILD BUNCH… maybe William Holden, since Robert Ryan is looking for him… hard to say. It’s a hell of a good question!

  2. Nope

    13th paragraph: “you’re” should be “your.”

    You’re welcome. (Or is that “your” welcome? Har har.)

  3. Scottmontreal

    Hi Mr. Akers, You almost ruined my Cuba vacation, lovely beaches, amazing coral fish, great people and conversations. But I couldn’t wait to get back into “Your Screenplay Sucks” – especially the Structure, Scenes and Dialogue chapters. I stopped working on my first draft script a while ago. It was fun, but an egg short of a dozen. Your INSPIRING book is helping me “write (my) way out of a hole”! I wish I had read it earlier.

    Best wishes,

    ps. Agree with you about Patti Smith. One of her concerts was unanimously agreed by those of us present, as the greatest concert we had ever experienced.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Verrrrrry sorry I ruined your vacation! I’ve done worse things. I’m so glad you got out of a hole. Once you know you can, it’s very free-ing. So glad you finished your first draft. Um, did you? Hope so.

  4. I cannot WAIT to get this book!…ordering it now!

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Sorry, Belinda… was away from the Internet. Did you get the book? What do you think?


  5. James Moore

    Mr. Akers:

    I want to let you know that I have read your intro and enjoyed it. I also plan to read your book, especially if I win a copy at the seminar I’ll be attending in Norfolk, VA this weekend.

    I have also read a few posts on your blog. Your suggestions and instruction have already made me a better writer.

    Thanks for the information so far and I hope to meet you at the seminar in Norfolk.

    James Moore

    • yourscreenplaysucks


      Looking forward to Norfolk! Please tell your writer friends about the seminar!
      Hope you win the book… and if you don’t win, hope you buy a copy. I think you’ll find it very helpful.



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