To be a good writer, you must do two things.
1.) Master the craft.
2.) Have something to say.
That’s it! End of lesson.
No really, that’s it. Like Ferris Bueller at the end of the movie, “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.”
It is just those two steps. But, getting through Step 1 takes a gigantic, colossal, metric ton giant pile-o-work. Like a painter nailing the composition, mixing colors to get the correct blue green, or figuring out how to deal with light, and on and on, the control required to smoothly juggle those balls takes years to achieve.
Mastering the craft is in some ways the easier of the two. Skill means nothing if you don’t have something to shout to the world it damn well needs to know.
Recently, I went to an art gallery. Dozens of artists’ work on display. All was well done. All would look good over my sofa. Well, most of it. Some was, “Ewww,” but I could, even then, admire the quality of the execution.
An hour later I walked into an art museum. There was a long hallway hung with work by high school artists. At least fifty works in all media with all manner of subjects. To my delighted surprise, the majority were vastly more successful than the paintings at the art gallery! Why?
The gallery artists had mastered their craft, but few had anything to say. The barns looked just like barns, and the seashell looked just like a seashell… at sunrise. Nice. But there was barely any there there. Every high school student’s work was happy, angry, political, out there, dangerous, silly, on the edge, layered, goofy, exuberant, wild, fun, or energetic. They all had something to say!
Their work was compelling, inventive, dynamic, and a ton more interesting than 95% of the work in the gallery.
Amazing but true. I was slack-jawed with stupefaction.
Writers…! Advice for your first screenplays! Don’t write some giant-ass blockbuster like what’s in theaters until you’ve done other stuff first. Look up what Scorsese thinks about Marvel movies. Be like a high school student, with something to say. While learning to fly the Screenwriting F-22, get control of the controls while figuring out who you are as a writer.
If you’re lucky, both will happen on the same day!