Ten Traps That Screenwriters Need to Avoid

Ten Traps That Screenwriters Need to Avoid


Screenwriters tend to trap themselves or fall into the traps of others. There’s no shame in it. It’s part of the learning curve and all screenwriters — even those at the top of the totem pole — have done it or continue to do it throughout their careers and screenwriting journeys in some way, shape, or form.

Sometimes screenwriters don’t know that they’re in a trap. Sometimes they can’t see them coming. Sometimes such traps could have been avoided, if only someone had warned them from ahead of the trail, “Watch out! It’s a trap!”

Consider the below ten screams of warning to all screenwriters. And be sure to spread the word so others behind us on this sometimes treacherous path can be forewarned — perhaps avoiding days, weeks, months, and years of confinement.

1. Don’t Wait “By the Phone” for Results

We’ve all been there. We’ve submitted our scripts to major contests and we’ve waited, counting the days until the results are released. We’ve checked the websites over and over to no avail, wondering, hoping, and maybe even praying that we make that first cut. And then the second. And so on.

Stop waiting. Once you click submit and you’ve entered that contest, leave it to the fates to decide. It’s out of your control now so why torture yourself? And furthermore, the true trap here is putting all of your eggs in that one basket. Whether it’s hope, emotions, or with you stopping all of your marketing and submissions waiting for results from one single contest.

This also applies to marketing your scripts to the powers that be in Hollywood — development executives, producers, agents, management, and talent. Once you give them a solid query email (and even after you’ve met with them in person), don’t put all of your hopes and dreams on them. It’s torture. It’s the worst of traps as far as getting your hopes up and having high expectations, only to find those hopes and expectations shattered. And it’s out of your control anyway. If they respond to the logline, if it’s what they’re looking for, if they’re engaged and intrigued… then, and only then, will they connect with you. It’s okay to follow up, but don’t sit and wait by the phone for them. Submit, submit, submit and let the fates decide.

2. Don’t Follow Any Single Guru, Formula, or Teaching

Bruce Lee offered a brilliant quote:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

To follow a single guru, formula, or teaching, whether it be to Save the Cat! or focus on Story, can only hurt you. It can only narrow your horizon as a screenwriter. You need to seek out your own style. Instead of subscribing to just one, it’s much better to feed your brain with many different teachings, viewpoints, and perspectives. Take what works best for you from each, if any, and discard the rest. Yes, adapt what is useful to you, reject what is useless to you, and add what is specifically your own.

Too many screenwriters become entrapped in a single point of view. Rest assured that there is no single formula or path to success. There never has been and there never will be.

3. Don’t Leave Your Head in the Clouds 

It’s wonderful to have a dream and to set lofty goals for yourself, but you have to remain grounded if you’re going to survive the grind of the screenwriting dream.

Your first script is not going to star you and you’re not going to hoist the Oscar up for your first rodeo. Your first script is not going to sell. Most don’t. You will hone your craft, fail, and fail again until you write that one marque script that finds itself at the right time, in the right place, with the right person. And even then, there are no guarantees.

The clouds can be a heartbreaking trap and one of the worst a screenwriter can experience. It blinds you. And the fall is near fatal for most.

Hope for the best, but don’t expect it.

Read the full article on Screencraft.org

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