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How to Become a Screenwriter: A Pro’s Ultimate Guide

The Exact 7 Steps You Need to Take to Go From Newbie Writer With No Connections or Track Record to Making a Sale

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by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriter Career
June 14, 2018 44 comments
HOW TO BECOME A SCREENWRITER

How to Become a Screenwriter: A Pro’s Guide to Unlocking Your Career

Want to know how to become a screenwriter? Here are seven steps that will take you from newbie writer with no track record to making your first sale.

We’re not saying learning how to become a screenwriter is easy. Far from it. But it’s certainly not impossible. If you have the drive and passion, you too can join the ranks of those who go from aspiring screenwriter to pro screenwriter.

The post is divided into 7 steps. Each one is a step along the road you need to take to learn how to become a screenwriter. It’s a long one, but the benefits will be tremendous.

In This Post You Will Learn:

♦  How to decide if screenwriting is for you

♦  How to make the decision to become a screenwriter and stick to it

♦  How to create a writing routine and stick to it

♦  How to master the craft of screenwriting

♦  Which practical things you can do to help your writing career

♦  What to include in a screenwriting portfolio

♦  How to research who to send your script to

♦  How to send your script out into the industry

So let’s get started!

How to Become a Screenwriter Step #1: Decide If Writing Is For You

From the outside, screenwriting can certainly appear to be an attractive career option. If you “make it” you’ll be pretty much self-employed. You’ll potentially be paid hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars to let your imagination loose. You’ll get the chance to come up with stories revered by people all over the world.

It’s no wonder screenwriting has seen such a massive rise in popularity since the 1990s. Back then big-name writers such as Shane Black made six-figure spec sales and the world seemed to be every aspiring screenwriter’s oyster.

However, there’s a flipside to the coin that aspiring writers need to consider while figuring out how to become a screenwriter. Not everyone is cut out for a career writing screenplays. This post should help you decide whether it’s something you’re destined to do, or whether you’d be better off focusing your energies elsewhere.

Some Cold Hard Facts

Let’s take a look at a few sober realities when it comes to starting a screenwriting career. Then we’ll return to the question of whether this is something you want to do and, if so, what you should do about it.

The truth is, a large percentage of fledgling screenwriting careers end before they even got started. Scripts are written, sent out to agents, managers, contests and so on. But then… the rejection emails pile up. Eventually, the writer gets despondent and gives up.

Now, we’re not saying this is going to happen to you. But this is the career trajectory of the majority of aspiring screenwriters out there.

There are many reasons for this. The super competitive nature of the film industry, sub-par writing skills, lack of dedication, lack of staying power, etc. But does this mean you should just give up now and save yourself the trouble of wasting all that time for very little ROI?

It depends. The typical journey of the aspiring writer described above doesn’t have to be your journey.

Is Writing a Part of Who You Are?

All of the obstacles described above can all be overcome if you have the desire to really learn how to become a screenwriter and put in the work required. First, however, you should decide if this career is for you.

Here’s how…

When Jack White from the band The White Stripes was a kid, he was so obsessed with music that his bedroom became filled with musical instruments and recording equipment. Eventually, he got rid of his bed to make room for all of it all and slept on a mattress.

That’s a big part of why he became a world-class musician while other singer-songwriters didn’t.

We’re not saying you need to take things to these extremes. But if you’d rather watch TV after coming home from work every day than write, maybe you should consider just how much you want to make it as a writer.

How Many of These Statements Do You Agree With?

♦  I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it for the joy of writing.

♦  Writing’s in my blood—it gives me more pleasure than anything else.

♦  I devour all forms of cinema: Hollywood, New Wave, Mumblecore, Film Noir, etc.

♦  If I’m not writing, I’m watching movies, reading about movies or talking about movies.

♦  I feel like if I don’t become a screenwriter my life will be incomplete.

♦  I’m willing to stop at nothing until I realize my dream of becoming a screenwriter.

If the above statements don’t really resonate with you, then maybe a screenwriting career isn’t for you.

If, however, you agree with all or most of them, then it’s time to consider the somewhat precarious life of a writer once you’ve actually “made it.”

The Reality of Life as a Screenwriter

Not only aren’t there any guarantees you’ll become a screenwriter, but there are also no guarantees you’ll be able to sustain a career as a screenwriter.

When it comes to getting paid as a professional screenwriter, things aren’t exactly simple. The six-figure pay deals of the 1990s can seem a very distant memory. The haphazard nature of a professional screenwriter’s salary, means most writers live from paycheck to paycheck. They exist with the constant fear that they might have to one day pack it all in and get a job in insurance.

Start by reading this post: Screenwriter Salary: A Quick Guide to Navigating the Choppy Waters of Screenwriters’ Salaries In Film & TV. It will give you an insight into whether you can handle the reality of life as a professional writer.

Still Here? Great, Now the Good News… 

There are many, many writers out there who had very few industry connections when they started out. Writers in a very similar situation to you right now, yet who’ve become successful.

What differentiates them (and hopefully you) from all the aspiring writers who give up, is that they held different beliefs. This meant they took different actions when they were learning how to become a screenwriter.

It doesn’t matter how few people become successful screenwriters if you adopt the same beliefs as successful screenwriters and take the same actions. Then becoming a screenwriter becomes much more probable. And this is what we’ll be taking a look at in this post.

script coverage

How to Become a Scriptwriter Step #2: Make The Decision and Commit to It

We’re now going to show you how to become a screenwriter with no track record in just one day. Yes, you read that correctly: No track record. One day.

We’re not saying you’re going to sell a screenplay or sign with CAA in one day, but we are saying you can do the number one most important thing right now that will help you become a screenwriter. And all it takes is one day.

How to Become a Screenwriter: Blake Snyder’s Story

The story behind how Blake Snyder, author of the Save the Cat screenwriting books, broke into the industry is a great example of a powerful mind-shift.

In 1989, Snyder had been trying to break into Hollywood for seven years. He was thirty-one, broke, and with only a few minor writing credits to his name. His girlfriend suggested going into teaching so as to have something to fall back on. But to Snyder, this felt like the beginning of a slippery slope to never becoming a screenwriter.

So, he decided to make a change… He made the decision to become a screenwriter. He set himself goals. He kept office hours with his writing: Monday-Friday, 9-5.

In other words, he finally took it seriously. He decided that if he wanted to become a writer, he had to put in as much work as all the others who were putting in seven hours a day. And that’s when things started to turn around for him.

How to Become a Screenwriter: Brian Grazer’s Story

Grazer, producer of A Beautiful Mind and Cowboys and Aliens, recalls a moment in 1975 when his entire career took off. It happened after receiving this piece of advice:

“My whole career has been built on one piece of advice that came from two people: [MCA founder] Jules Stein and [former MCA Chairman] Lew Wasserman. In 1975 I was a law clerk at Warner Bros. I’d spent about a year trying to get a meeting with these two men.

Finally, they let me in to see them. They both said, separately, ‘In order for you to be in the entertainment business, you have to have leverage. Since you have none—no money, no pedigree, no valuable relationships—you must have creative leverage. That exists only in your mind. So you need to write—put what’s in your mind on paper. Then you’ll own a piece of paper. That’s leverage.’ 

With that advice, I wrote the story that became Splash, which was a fantasy that I had about meeting a mermaid. For years, I sent registered letters to myself—movie concepts and other ideas—so that I had my ideas officially on paper. I have about 1,000 letters in a vault. To this day, I feel that my real power is only that—ideas and the confidence to write them down.”

How to Become a Screenwriter: Michael Arndt’s Story

Yet another great example can be found in Michael Arndt’s (Toy Story 3) breaking-in story. He was working as Matthew Broderick’s assistant, reading scripts every day and getting depressed because he wasn’t writing as much as he’d like. So, he decided to make a change…

He saved up enough money to survive on for a year. Then he quit his job with Broderick and dedicated himself to writing. Like Blake Snyder, he kept office hours and wrote every day. By the end of the year, he’d written seven screenplays. The last one was called Little Miss Sunshine

How to Become a Screenwriter: The Vagrant’s Story 

Near the beginning of the 1941 film, Come Live With Me, Jimmy Stewart has a conversation with a vagrant on a park bench. The vagrant’s advice?

“Once you’ve made up your mind, you’re in.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Stop Introducing Yourself as an “Aspiring Writer” at Parties

Introduce yourself as a “writer” instead. Think and act like a writer and you are a writer. This may sound simplistic. But if you are to have any chance of making it a reality, it’s important that you actually start to behave like a screenwriter before officially getting paid as one.

Commit to the craft and things will start to happen. Take a post-it note and write a positive affirmation on it. Something like “I am a screenwriter.” Or “By this time next year, I will have sold a screenplay.”

Stick it on your refrigerator. On your bedside lamp. Above your computer. Make sure it’s right there whenever you look up from your screen. Start to believe it more and more each day.

You can even set yourself a deadline. Say, one year, five years, or your 40th birthday. Commit to giving making it as a screenwriter your very best shot within that timeframe.

If nothing much has happened by the end of the time period, at least you can say you tried. At least you can look back when you’re older and not regret doing all you could to realize your dream.

This is the fundamental element that separates aspiring screenwriters who turn professional from the ones who don’t. And all it requires is making one psychological mind-shift…

Make the decision to become a screenwriter.

It’s simple but super effective.

How to Become a Writer Step #3: Draw Up a Writing Schedule and Stick to It

However, there’s no point in making the decision to become a writer if you don’t stick to the plan. And that plan means writing. It’s something of a cliche but the most important thing you should be doing if you want to become a screenwriter is write. And not just when the mood takes you, but every single day.

If you want to know how to become a screenwriter, you need to write each day for as many hours as possible, because there’re plenty of people out there doing just that who are getting the deals you could be getting.

How to Write Every Day

We all need a little motivation, though, from time to time and so here’s a tip from Jerry Seinfeld on how you can make writing every day a little easier:

♦  Go buy a calendar and a big fat sharpie.

♦  Put the calendar up somewhere conspicuous, like above your computer.

♦  Decide how long you want to write for every day: six hours, an hour, half an hour.

♦  Put a red cross through every day that you write for your committed time.

♦  Keep going every day without breaking the chain of crosses.

Even if on some days you only write for ten minutes, it all counts. You’ve written something. It’s much easier to commit to writing even for ten minutes than it is for an hour, and you’ll probably find that the ten minutes soon turns into twenty or sixty anyway.

Seinfeld’s trick is a surprisingly powerful tool to get you in the rhythm of writing every day. Stick to it and you’ll be putting yourself at a major advantage over the vast majority of aspiring screenwriters out there.

How to Become a Scriptwriter by Setting Goals

Set goals for yourself, minimum word or page counts to achieve every day and make sure you stick to them. The Seinfeld trick should help you with this. Take this step, and you’ve cracked one of the hardest parts of how to become a screenwriter.

We recommend a minimum of three hours writing a day, but it all boils down to how much you really want it. If, before they turned pro, writers like Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean) could get up at five am and write for three hours before going to work, what’s stopping you?

Check out this post on 45 Ways to Become the Most Productive Screenwriter You Know for even more inspiration.

How to Become a Screenwriter Step #4: Master the Craft of Screenwriting

Some writers are great at creating characters, but not so good at coming up with interesting plots. Others find it easy to come up with page-turning plots but create characters who fall flat.

To succeed as a screenwriter, of course, you generally need to be great at everything: characters, plot, dialogue, description, theme, formatting and so on. And this is no mean feat. So what do you do?

Focus on Each Aspect of Screenwriting

The advice to write every day is all well and good, but if you’re just writing away alone without any real direction you may run into problems. There’s a strong chance you’ll end up just making the same mistakes over and over, and that’s why you need to add some structure to your writing routine.

We recommend tackling each of the main areas of screenwriting: concept, character, structure/plot, scenes, theme, dialogue, description and formatting and mastering each, one by one.

A good approach is to spend a period of time, say, a month, and blitz one aspect of screenwriting—doing exercises, reading up on it, writing scenes that focus on it, etc.—before moving on to the next.

Here are some blog posts on each subject to get you started:

Concept

How to Write a Logline: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a Script Outline That Will Save You Months of Rewrites

How to Use a Script Analysis Worksheet to Bulletproof Act 1

Character

Why Your Script Characters Feel Flat and How to Fix It

Character Arc: The Secret Sauce to Demonstrating Your Character’s Growth

Why Creating a Character Bio Isn’t a Good Starting Point (And What to Do Instead)

Plot/Structure

12 Secret Script Beats You Should Include in Act 1 Of Your Screenplay

How to Use the (500) Days of Summer Script to Master Non-Linear Storytelling

Master Screenplay Sequences: How to Revolutionize Your Understanding of Structure

Scenes

8 Keys to Writing a Scene That Pops Off the Page and Grabs the Reader

8 Out of 10 Writers Have Been Told How to Write a Scene the Wrong Way

Writing a Scene: The Epic Technique Most Writers Don’t Use

Theme

Screenplay Theme: 3 Superb Ways to Express Your Script’s Message

Writing From Theme

John August On Theme

Dialogue

Script Dialogue: If Your Characters Are Just Talking You’re Doing It Wrong

On the Nose Dialogue Examples and How to Stop It Killing Your Script

Film Dialogue: How to Harness the Power of Your Characters’ Opinions

Description

35 Quick Edits to Improve Your Script’s Writing Style in 24 Hours Or Less 

How to Make Your Writing Style Leverage 100x More Suspense

Improve Your Screenplay Scene Description in 10 Minutes With This Method

Formatting

Movie Script Format and the Myth of Industry Rules

How to Format a Script If You Want to Break Into the Spec Market

Master Screenplay Formatting: A Clear Guide on How to Format A Screenplay

How to Become a Screenwriter Step #5: Do Practical Things to Help Your Career

As we’ve already mentioned, the best way to improve your craft is to write every day and master every aspect of screenwriting. But there are a host of other things you should be doing every day besides writing that will help you become a better screenwriter, too.

Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

Read Screenplays

You can’t really write a screenplay unless you’re intimately aware of how professionals write them. Check out the posts below to see all the benefits of reading screenplays and how to build a reading schedule. This will take a few hours out of your writing time every week but it’s definitely worth it.

50 of Best Screenplays to Read and Download in Every Genre

50 of the Best TV Scripts Online to Download in Every Genre

20 Best Comedy Scripts to Read and Download for Free

5 of the Best Scripts to Read From Each Genre

Write Outlines

This is a great exercise that will help you understand and master screenplay structure, plot, character, scenes and dialogue.

Here’s what you do:

Put a movie on, open your laptop and simply write a short summary of what happens in every scene. Each scene fulfills a function, and this what you need to capture in your outline. Keep each sentence to one or two lines and describe only the basics of what happens and the outcome of the scene.

We recommend starting with a location, say, “At Mary’s house” to establish the scene. Then, write down the major beats as you watch. Forget how characters are dressed or any small talk. Stick to the meat and purpose of the scene: what’s changed?

By the end, you should end up with about four or five pages of scenes—a “beat sheet.” Now it’s time to break the film down into acts and sequences. Once you’re done, study it. How does each scene, sequence and act fit together? Look for patterns. Learn how to tell a story, one scene at a time.

Build a database of outlines like these and you’ll soon master the inner workings of how to write a screenplay. In our online screenwriting course, Script Hackr, we go into more detail of how to write outlines and how they improve your screenwriting.

Read Screenwriting Books

Some professional writers don’t think screenwriting can be learned through reading books. We disagree. Why not read screenwriting books if you want to learn how to become a screenwriter? You’re more likely to learn something about the subject from Save the Cat than you are from not reading it.

The more screenwriting books you read, the more you’ll soak up. And the more you soak up, the more of it will come out in your writing. Choose from our list of the best screenwriting books and get started: The 10 Best Screenwriting Books to Read in 2019 for Aspiring Screenwriters.

How to Become a Screenwriter by Moving to LA (If You Can)

Many writers, including professional screenwriters, also have a negative view of whether you need to move to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. But you should seriously consider moving to LA if you want to break in.

If you’re serious about getting a start-up off the ground you should be living in Silicon Valley. If you’re serious about becoming a Country and Western session musician you should be living in Nashville. And if you’re serious about becoming a screenwriter you should be living in LA.

This is where it’s all happening and you’ll feel inspired just being here. Plus, you’re much more likely to meet people in the industry who can help. If becoming a screenwriter is truly your goal, you’re young with no major ties, have the resources, and there’s nothing really holding you back, take the plunge—move to LA.

Still not convinced? Check out this post: 4 Bad Reasons Screenwriters Give For Not Moving To LA (And Why You Should Ignore Them)

How to Become a Screenwriter by Finding a Mentor

Scratch under the surface of many professional screenwriters’ careers and you’ll find they have something in common: a mentor. Many of the most famous people in film, sports, art, music and so on, only got where they are with the help of a mentor.

Would Bob Dylan have become one of the most famous musicians to ever live without being mentored by Woody Guthrie? Would Woody Allen have become one of the greatest filmmakers of our time if he hadn’t been mentored by Sid Caesar? Would Bill Gates have become a tech giant if he hadn’t been mentored by Warren Buffett?

Possibly. But there’s no doubt that a mentor can play a crucial role in the development of a fledgling talent, and you should definitely pursue one if want to learn how to become a screenwriter. Target those in the industry who you think may be able to help and reach out to them. There’s really no harm in asking.

If you can’t find yourself a mentor through association, we have a screenwriting mentorship program in which you’ll be paired with one of our working screenwriters and mentored for a minimum of twelve weeks.

How to Become a Screenwriter by Getting a Job in the Industry

We often advise budding screenwriters (in their 20s and with no major commitments) to get a job in the industry at agencies or production companies if they can. Yes, the work in one of these offices is often hard and the hours are long, but the experience you’ll gain and contacts you’ll make will be invaluable.

Immediately you’ll have an advantage over other aspiring writers trying to break in because you’ll learn exactly how the system works. Plus you’ll make friends and a ton of useful future contacts. Here’s a list of screenwriting jobs sites that contain writing gigs, internships, development jobs, etc.

Stay Informed

Part of learning how to become a screenwriter means staying on top of what’s happening in the industry you want to break in to. What’s selling, what’s not? Who’s buying, who’s not? etc.

You don’t want to walk into a meeting and come across as clueless about the big movers and shakers in the screenwriting industry so make sure you read at least one of the following sites:

♦  Deadline Hollywood

♦  Done Deal Pro

♦  Variety

♦  The Wrap

Take a Screenwriting MFA

Two or three years completely immersed in the world of screenwriting could be another great move if you can afford it. Another option is to take a part-time screenwriting course, or an online course so you can work from home.

This post contains a list of the best screenwriting courses you should consider attending if you have the money and the means to do so: Top 6 Script Writing Courses.

Join a Writing Group

They’re not everyone’s idea of fun but joining a writers’ group can be another great way to improve as a writer. Find a local, small group of five to ten smart and savvy screenwriters who you can have critique your work and bounce ideas off.

Again, this is much easier to do if you live in LA than, say, Kansas, Joining a writers’ group will also help keep you disciplined to write as you’ll need to have pages to show the next time you meet.

Finding the right group can be difficult, however, so don’t settle for one in which people just sit around shooting the breeze or getting into arguments. Move on and find another one, or start your own.

You can find even more practical resources that will help you learn how to become a scriptwriter on our screenwriting resources page. There you’ll find lists of all the best screenwriting software, podcasts, websites and more.

Quit Your Day Job (Maybe)

If you’re young enough and without any major commitments, save up some money, move into a cheaper apartment and write screenplays all day. Give yourself a year to make some inroads, just like Michael Arndt.

Or move to Paris and write screenplays all day and gain some life experience in the process. One of the main things agents and managers look for when thinking about taking on a new screenwriter is life experience.

You’ll be that much more interesting a prospect if you have some life experiences you can explore in your writing. So quitting your day job getting out there and living in a different state or country could actually help your screenwriting career.

When Not to Quit Your Day Job

Be aware, though, we only recommend this if you’re in a not-so-exciting job and are young enough to handle bouncing around for a year or two. If you’re married with three kids, with a good job, it’s maybe not such a great idea.

If quitting your day job isn’t an option, maybe swap it for a less stressful one in which you can write during lunch breaks or during downtime. Or at least which you don’t take home with you.

Overall, if you’re in your 40s or older you may still want to give screenwriting as good a shot as possible, but think carefully before doing anything rash. A much better option, in this case, might be to simply make the time to write before or after work and on weekends.

screenplay course

How to Become a Screenwriter Step #6: Get Together a Portfolio of Your Work

Once you’ve been writing for a while and think you’ve mastered the craft, it’s time to get serious about getting a portfolio together, ready to submit to the industry. But first, how do you know when you’re screenwriting’s at a standard where you can start sending it out to producers, execs, managers, etc.?

The problem is, time and time again we see the same mistake repeated by aspiring writers—sending out a screenplay into the market when it’s not ready. So, here’s a by no means exhaustive checklist of some questions you should ask yourself about your screenplay before sending it out.

Screenplay Checklist

♦  Can you tell your story in two or three concise sentences? What it’s about, what the conflict is, who the protagonist and antagonist are, what their goals are, etc. These should all be easily explainable in a short, sharp “elevator pitch.”

♦  Is the concept original? Is this something I’ve never seen before on screen—and does it have high stakes attached? Does a life-changing event happen to my protagonist? Something that an audience can connect to emotionally.

♦  Does the script contain a clear protagonist with a goal? Do they have to achieve this goal in face of a strong antagonist? Again, are there high stakes attached to this goal? Do we care what happens to them because they’re well-rounded, believable characters?

♦  Are all the big plot points in place? Is there an inciting incident in the protagonist’s life right at the beginning of the script? Does each major plot represent a major turning point in their story? Is the climax a showdown between protagonist and antagonist?

♦  Is the protagonist’s journey through the script a real struggle? Or do they kind of float through it without coming under any real kind of pressure? Are their backs up against the wall? Or is there no wall in the first place?

♦  Are there clear A, B and C stories? Is the A-story the thing the protagonist must achieve by the script’s end, and the B-story the thing that helps he/she achieve it? Most scripts we receive are not nearly complex enough, and the main reason is a lack of solid subplots that impact on the main plot.

♦  Does the script fulfill its genre requirements? If it’s a Comedy are their laughs on every page? If it’s a Horror do the scares get bigger and more dramatic as the script progresses? Every genre has its own set of rules. Does your script follow them?

♦  Does each scene serve a dramatic purpose? Does it have a beginning middle and end and go from a negative to a positive charge or vice versa? Who’s the protagonist of the scene and what’s their goal?

♦  How does the dialogue stand up to a professional writer’s? If you open your script on any page and compare the dialogue to that in, say, Up in the Air, how does it hold up? Does every line have a purpose—either moving the story forward or revealing theme or character?

♦  How does the writing style stand up to a professional writer’s? If you open your script on any page and compare the action lines and description to those found in a professional screenplay, do they hold up? Do you write things like “The phone rings. Kaitlin looks at it nervously. She thinks about who it could be. She bites her bottom lip. Finally, she gets up, walks across the room and picks up the phone.” Or do you write, “The phone rings. Kaitlin nervously picks it up.”

♦  What kind of response have you gotten from an industry pro who’s read it? Have you given the script to someone who works in the industry as an exec, manager, agent, etc. and they’ve hands-down loved it? Have you had script coverage written on it by a professional script consultancy and received at least a “Strong Consider,” or preferably “Recommend?”

If you don’t have convincing answers to the above questions, keep writing until you do. Some people nail the craft of screenwriting after writing one script, but this rare. Be prepared to write at least six scripts and six drafts of those scripts before you get anywhere near cracking the art of screenwriting and selling a screenplay.

The last point on the list is super important. You only want to start sending your script out into the industry when you’ve gained some positive feedback at least two professionals who work in the industry—whether they’re an exec or manager, or a professional script consultant. 

Don’t make the mistake many aspiring screenwriters make by sending their work off to production companies, studios, contests, etc. before it’s ready. You’re only shooting yourself in the foot by establishing yourself as a writer who’s not worth taking seriously.

What Should Go in a Portfolio?

Once you’re confident your writing has reached the standard necessary, you should create a portfolio ready to send out to people in the industry and have ready to go if requested. This portfolio should consist of the following:

♦  At least two (preferably three) amazing screenplays that have been vetted by at least two industry pros. We say, two or three because there’s no point putting yourself out there with just one awesome script if that’s all you have. The first question you’ll be asked is, “What else have you got?” and you’d better be able to show them another script equally as good if you don’t want to blow your big chance.

♦  A synopsis for each script, including a title, logline and two or three pages outlining the story and characters. This is what people are going to ask for to save them from reading the whole script in order to get an idea of the project and your talent as a writer.

♦  A query letter for each script, outlining your achievements as a writer so far. If you have any, detail the project and something eye-catching about you as a writer. Give them a sense of your personality. Not everyone agrees you need a query letter in today’s day and age, but it can’t hurt. Many writers still get results by querying producers, execs and managers with query letters.

Overall, your query letter, logline, synopsis and screenplay need to scream “read me!” If the person reading your materials doesn’t get the sensation that this is a project they absolutely have to get involved in, then they’re not good enough.

How to Become a Screenwriter Step #7: Send Your Script Out

Once you have a portfolio ready to go, the real work begins. Research who to send your script to and actually send it. To do this, the first thing you’ll need is an action plan.

Proper research can take time, but it’s important not to skip it or do it half-heartedly. Putting aside some time to create a viable plan could save you many wasted hours pursuing the wrong people.

Agents vs. Managers 

There’s a misconception among many aspiring screenwriters that the first thing they need to do is find an agent. An agent, though, won’t help you market your script. For that, you need a manager.

These are the people who will take you under their wing, find opportunities and hopefully nurture your writing career. Good ones will act as the mentor we mentioned in the previous step. Read more and download our list of the top 130+ screenwriting managers working in Hollywood today.

How to Sell a Screenplay

Selling a script is all about being focused, organized and driven. It will mean contacting and networking with managers, producers and development execs as well as other aspiring writers like yourself.

To find out the very best practices when it comes to selling a script, check out our definitive guide: How To Sell A Screenplay. This post contains six tried and trusted options that you can use to sell your script.

How to Become a Screenwriter: Conclusion

Armed with your new knowledge on how to sell a script, it’s now finally time to let the world know about your talent.

Bear in mind, though, that you’re more likely to break in if you already have credits. Or have found some level of success in a related field. Write a novel or stage play. Create a web series, write a TV movie, pilot or commercial. Broaden your writing and you’ll also broaden your opportunities.

Also, remember to be the kind of writer people will want to work with. Don’t forget that any potential investor in your work is also investing in you as a writer. So learning how to become a screenwriter also means leaving your ego at the door.

No one wants to work with the kind of writer who can’t take feedback, pesters them constantly or has no understanding of how the industry works. Be polite, professional and send people examples of your stellar screenwriting ability and you’re bound to succeed.

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Are you struggling with how to become a screenwriter? Have you made a psychological mind-shift to try and achieve this? Have we missed any steps out you think we should include? We’d love to hear all about your thoughts on how to become a screenwriter in the comments section below.

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Enjoyed This Post? Read More on How to Become a Screenwriter…

How to Sell a Screenplay: 6 Most Popular Ways New Writers Make a Sale

How to Get a Screenwriting Agent and Manager in 10 Proven Steps

Script Coverage Example: How to Deliver What Readers Want

[© Photo credits: Pexels]

44 Comments
  1. Tim Aucoin says:

    Great advice. I’ve been calling myself a screenwriter for years, even though I haven’t actually sold anything. It’s all about belief and hard work.

    1. Good job Tim – that’s the way forward. I always tell people to introduce themselves at a party as a screenwriter rather than a cab driver or whatever 🙂

  2. Dustin says:

    Pleasee keep the advice coming! At this point I can’t afford office hours or schooling, still trying. I am trying to find a job in any media type job, let alone film making etc. Just stuck in a poopy rut.

    1. Keep at it Dustin. If you go for a job in an agency or production company you’ll make so many connections.

  3. prince sinha says:

    I have American spy story movie the Great Achiment in awarpan fav wine jack dainel old no7 in karchi bear bar he drink jack dainel old no7 some isi finally come by samjota express

  4. naman gupta says:

    this is so elemental, it slips often. thanks for taking us back to basics. really appreciate the good spirit!

    1. SRP says:

      Cheers Naman. Yes – the essentials get skipped over sometimes so always good for a refresh!

    2. SRP says:

      Thanks Naman – appreciated.

  5. Scott Koban says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I should not be self-indulgent about not writing each day. Most of the time I do write, on buses, trains, in coffee shops, on the floor, as well as on a desk. Have been writing for years on a project, but sometimes get exhausted from producing scenes from inside me. No complaining though. as I am very fortunate to have a mentor who’s got feature editor and story analyst for Paramount during 30 years, under his belt. Top of the line pro who loves what I’m writing. But I’m human, so some days I get waves of self-doubt and think, these are just words on paper, how can that be of value to anybody? Then I remind myself words can become movies that can change people’s lives…then I think, this guy, with his credentials and in a position of power in Hollywood, is taking me seriousely…so I will too. Calendar goes up today. Thanks again.

    1. SRP says:

      You’re welcome, Scott. Don’t worry, even the greats get plagued by self-doubt. Sounds like you’ve struck gold with your mentor – keep at it!

  6. Kennypoka says:

    As a Nigerian, how can I write a good script to fit into the America setting? I have some short scripts, I wish to get started with that before writing a full feature script.

    1. SRP says:

      Hi there, what’s most important is the story. I guess you could write a short that’s set in LA or wherever, or film it there if you can, but ultimately a short is going to get noticed if it’s good, not because it’s set in the States.

  7. Narayan Sharmah says:

    I have already started the phenomenal process!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck Narayan!

  8. Petal says:

    Very good information. It makes me feel encouraged. I am currently at university and looking for a job. I want to become a screenwriter but am so busy with studies I don’t even know how to balance the time.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Petal – it’s tough but you just need to make the time if you want to seriously give screenwriting shot.

  9. John Carey says:

    Study every screenwriting book at your local library. Study the books “Dr. Format Tells All” and “The Screenwriter’s Bible.” Read several scripts that have won Best Screenplay awards. Write every day. Get other screenwriters to trade with you to read each other’s work – such as in a screenwriting workshop. Get seven scripts finished and polished. Allow yourself to write a really awful script, and don’t worry about it being flawed and terrible. Simply get it up to 45-ish pages for a one-hour TV show, or about 95-105 pages for a film script. See if your local college offers screenwriting courses (but, you might learn a whole lot more by studying any 12 screenwriting books and forcing yourself to write a first draft of a script every month). Watch the screenwriting videos on YouTube. But, write every day. Finish scripts. Focus on stuff that film distributors and film financiers would be interested in.

  10. John Hamilton says:

    Great advice! I made a decision (out of the blue) to be a screenwriter and made that switch Dec 3rd, 2017. Since then, I’ve completed 1 crime/thriller, high-concept feature of 83 pages with one more rewrite planned to make it 90+, have 12 more in the works with various genres all in different stages of process, 1 TV sitcom pilot, and a few shorts. By this time next year, I hope to have at least 5-7 completed features, a 1-hour TV pilot and at least 1 short reel all professionally polished and ready for whatever comes. Representation, sales, options and/or writing assignments. I want it all.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      That sounds awesome – keep us posted how you get on, John.

  11. Chibuzor says:

    How to do i get an international agent to work with? I am in Nigeria

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi, not sure what you mean by “international agent?”

  12. Maria Pires says:

    This is literally the most helpful article I’ve ever read. Thank you so much!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Maria! Glad you found it helpful.

  13. Kumar sree says:

    Oh Dear Sir / Madam
    Thanks tons for providing such clear cut information. I was struggling with basics. I can say you have not only covered basics but also advanced concepts as well. Please provide information on interesting antagonist character

  14. mehdi mohamed says:

    I am Mahdi from Algeria. I have several scenarios with new ideas on how to sell them in Hollywood

  15. Richard Wilson says:

    I want to say this is a good breakdown of how to become a screenwriter. I am following all the points as laid out by you professionals. Have a blessed day.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Richard!

  16. Shannon Grimes says:

    Fantastic post. Thanks Script reader for taking so much time to put this together. Love it!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks so much, Shannon!

  17. Diana Thenerd says:

    The first step to becoming a TV writer is knowing all the ins and outs of writing for television. You don’t need a specific degree to be a TV writer, although having a journalism, English or creative writing degree will help by giving you a strong command of the English language. You should also take TV writing classes– where you can also develop contacts, read books about TV writing

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great advice – thanks, Diana!

  18. Gene Brzozowski says:

    Hello everyone,
    My question is this. I have written nineteen movie transitions and don’t know a thing about the industry. Is it possible to sell just a transition or does if have to be an entire screen write?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Gene, not sure what you mean by a “transition”?

  19. How to Become a Screenwriter says:

    Learn how to write a screenplay and make it perfect with easy to follow templates and examples. This book reveals the secrets of screenwriting from concept development, subplots, to format and beyond. No stone is left unturned which makes this the perfect tool for every screenwriter.

  20. Kia Furlong says:

    This post is fantastic feel like I have a better idea now of what it take to become a screenwriter. Blessings x

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Kia, that’s great to hear, cheers!

  21. James S says:

    I actually wanted to call you to speak to one of your readers before sending in my screenplay but cant see a phone number. HOw do I do that?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We don’t have a phone number but feel free to email.

  22. Dylan says:

    Wow, great article. I really like your examples from Michael Arndt and Black Synder, its so true.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Dylan!

  23. sunil says:

    Do you buy movie script
    I am writing a script for a movie
    Which is in hindi

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Sorry, no, we’re a script consultancy.

  24. Adrián Pérez M says:

    Hi! I´m studying a carrer on Chemistry Engineering but my entire life I have felt that I could work on this.
    I like my carrer (sometimes) but i don´t love it, however since I was a kid I did stories and always have love the movies of all kind and the production behind. I still not domine at 100% the english, but I will…soon.
    Other thing that take away hope from me is that I live in México and I don´t have enough economic resources like to move to LA, so…. I don´t know if i should accept that is practicaly impossible that my dream will become true eventually, but I don´t wanna die without accomplish it or at least try it.
    Well, Im thinking on finish the carrer, work for a while, get resources and in all these years writte everyday and eventually I will move to LA and going to test my luck. Thanks for the article, was incredible! 😉

  25. Bhagya Athokpam says:

    It’s very helpful to me me and I want to read more

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