I believe the secret to writing screenplays is being prolific in writing them. The more you write, the better you get, just like with any other craft. Below is an article written by Martin Acuna that explains the road to prolificity. Take note and write write write write. He also has a free newsletter that you can sign up for that has other great screenwriting tips and tips for breaking into the industry. Be sure to check it out. The more you write, the better your chances of having the million dollar screenplay and also when someone asks, "What else do you have?", you won't come up empty handed.
Write right and write on!
The Importance of Being Prolific
by Marvin V. Acuna
Terry Rossio (co-writer of the Pirates of the Carribbean franchise) believes that
a trait of successful screenwriters is... Prolificacy.
Here are his specific thoughts:
Consider this: in the afterward of Stephen King’s book Different Seasons, he
explains how the four stories in the volume came about. Each one was written
after he had completed writing one of his novels.
He writes, “...[I]t’s as if I've always finished the big job with just enough gas
left in the tank to blow off one good-sized novella.” So he wrote The Body
after Salem's Lot. Apt Pupil after The Shining. Rita Hayworth and the
Shawshank Redemption after The Dead Zone. And Breathing Method after
Firestarter. Now just stop and think about this. Here's a writer who, after
finishing a bestselling novel, has the ability to sit down and knock out a
masterfully written novella in a matter of days. And three of these
“afterthoughts” have been adapted into major motion pictures.
Now that's prolific.
I often meet screenwriters that become obsessed with one screenplay and devote
years of their time and energy to it. Some spend more than a decade on one.
Other writers expend precious energy awaiting responses to query letters or
submissions. Months go by and the only additional writing done is focused on
follow-up letters or emails asking the horrid question: Have you read my script?
In my humble opinion, if you are spending that kind of time on one screenplay,
writing is a hobby, not a profession.
If screenwriting is a hobby for you, then it doesn't matter. But if you are truly
committed to screenwriting as a professional endeavor, then generating content
should be a ritual, a tradition, an absolute must.
Hobby or profession? Only you know the truth.
This is a competitive profession. It requires that you play your A-game even if you
are not yet an A-lister.
I've worked with various screenwriters who have written an entire spec and then
through the process discovered a character or an idea that was worthy of further
exploration. They have no issue discarding the screenplay and beginning a new
one based on their new discoveries.
Other writers submit their completed works and while they await feedback from
their representatives or the market itself, they begin work on the next screenplay.
Is it easy? No. It's not supposed to be easy. If it were easy everyone would be
Being prolific has numerous benefits. Beyond amassing an inventory of material
and developing a necessary habit, I believe you hone, shape and refine your skills
as a screenwriter.
I know many industry professionals who would agree with literary manager Jewerl
Ross, who said “I sell writers, not scripts.” He expects his clients to generate
content, to be prolific. Three to four screenplays a year is the minimum.
With these criteria in mind, let's bring all of this back to you. While not everyone
can be Stephen King, are you at least setting the table for your success? I've said
this before, but this is an industry where talent alone won't carry you across the
threshold to screenwriting stardom.
Instead, it takes that rare combination of talent, passion, and joyful hard work.
In other words, being prolific. My hope is that you have already incorporated this
necessary screenwriting trait into your writing routine, or you see the value in it
and will start applying it immediately.
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