Stop reading this.
I mean it. Stop. There’s a little red button on the corner of your screen. If you have Windows, there’s a little X on it. As the pirates from my childhood drilled into me: “X marks the spot.” Go on and click it, treasure whatever it is you dream of besides spending any more time reading this page.
Still here? You might want to check this out. Leave this site and call your therapist.
Wow, you’re a tricky one. Fine, I guess I’ll have to convince you.
You’re a screenwriter, young or old, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you have a job in Hollywood, maybe in a writer’s room. You might just be interested in reading about screenwriting. About how to format the perfect script, make loads of money in Hollywood, and party with Meryl Streep (who wouldn’t?).
This is not that place. I am not the person to teach you these things.
1. Stop reading this because writing is not my job.
I’m not a professional writer. I have never made money selling my work. Never submitted a script to a film festival. Never even had one read by anyone other than my mom. The closest I have gotten to writing for money is misspelling a customer’s name on a paper cup.
My mom would tell you I have amazing writing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an inspiring woman who’s taught me many things about life, love, and womanhood. But she’s a liar and has no barometer for good writing. A few weeks ago, I tested her just to see. I swapped one of my scripts with Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. She messaged me back days later:
Worse: I’ve never even been close to the industry. Many people work in the giant creation machine that is Hollywood, from gaffers to executive producers. And their knowledge is valuable; even just being on set near the magic is a bit of insight into the process. I have never touched Entertainment. The industry is Justin Bieber, and I am a twelve-year-old-girl with Bieber-fever.
Safe to say, if you are looking for profound insights into the biz, I am not your guru.
2. Stop reading this because I have little to no understanding of screenwriting.
OK, so you’re not a professional writer, I hear you say, but you at least have mastery over the medium, right?
Sure, I have written a few scripts here and there. In television, there’s a little thing called a spec script (which is different from spec scripts in film). It’s used as a sample piece to showcase your skills and ability to match a show’s writing. I’ve done maybe a handful, from start to finish.
I mostly have half-finished skeletons for potential specs littering my Google Drive bin. Like actual human skeletons, they are dead and cannot be used for anything – the shows have since moved on or ended. Sabrina the Teenage Witch will never kill Shakespeare in a chilling moment of Verfremdung. Your loss.
I have never written a pilot. Nor a movie. Nor anything beyond the aforementioned masterpiece and a handful of shorts from my teens.
I don’t have any wise words hardened by years climbing the peak of Final Draft. I am not your writing Yoda. Go find your friend who always tells you about this great idea he has. He promises you’ll love it. Pinky promises.
3. Stop reading this because I don’t have a degree.
No one ever said you need a degree to talk about screenwriting. But no one told me when I was six that my parents swapped out my betta fish with a new one whenever it died. Old Goldie lasted three years and changed colours seven different times. Things go unsaid with the expectation that you will get it. I am generally clueless.
That being said, a degree is not the proverbial colour changing betta fish. You don’t need one to talk about writing. I know this because I spend a lot of time on r/screenwriting. People break in all the time without a university on their resume. The only fancy paper you need is a killer script (and some connections never hurt).
But I am degree-less. At least, not in film. I am piss poor. And, as we’ve established, I have no connections to the industry and no insight into the realm of screenwriting.
Go take a class from someone who can teach you.
4. Stop reading because I am busy as hell.
So maybe I’m working on a degree. Not in screenwriting or anything related to film. Something a little more boring, with little transferable skills besides research. Nevertheless, college is a drunk frat boy, and my time is a keg. He chugs the barrel dry. Sometimes, I spend my time with a frat boy and a keg. Cue the pull quote.
But this isn’t about my bad decisions.
College takes up most of my screenwriting time. I also work (not in the industry, mind you). So combined, most of my writing happens in the morning before the sun wakes up. I squeeze a few words in between classes as zoom starts to lag. At night, I get in what I can handle before my body shuts down and crashes into a tiny bed.
I don’t have the time to network with Hollywood execs or interview wiser women than I.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t take long classes about act structure or write about my Big Mouth idea all day. If I did, you would not be ready for it. I kill off three major characters and replace them with thinly veiled figures from my childhood (see reason #2).
So stop reading this! Seriously, I get it. I won’t get butthurt. I’m just as busy.
5. Stop reading this because you’re John August.
All of what I’ve said is a lie. I’m a fantastic writer with centuries of experience in the biz. I crafted the first play to screen, the first screen to play, and played the first screenplay.
You need me, August! Call me.
Well, you’re persistent, I’ll give you that. If you’re here, then I haven’t convinced you to leave yet.
Damn, I guess if you’re reading, I’ll keep writing.
Well, I’m glad to have you here. You’re probably not a famous writer, nor a big producer. Those people are busy making big decisions and eating caviar, or whatever it is important people do. I imagine you’re not an expert either. I would have nothing to tell you that you wouldn’t already know. You’re definitely not John August, because then you’d be busy hiring me on your newest project.
But maybe you’re someone like me. Well, not like me. My mommy tells me I’m special, and I’ll believe her for now. You might not have a ton of money to spend on writing classes or coverage. You might write on napkins between shifts or on the bus with a laptop balancing on your lap. Maybe you’re just beginning your journey and not sure where to take it yet. And that’s ok.
It can feel like there’s a whole world of knowledge held behind the writing room’s closed doors. Listicles scream out which books to read and which to burn. There are people on every screenwriting forum on the internet, promising you their secret to “making it.” It’s confusing, contradictory, and daunting as hell.
But we can try to learn, sifting through what we can find — piece by piece, word by word. And I hope you stay with me.
Now, stop reading this. Start writing.
the Roomless Writer.
(we’ll work on a better tag)