5 Skills You Need to be a Successful Screenwriter
July 21, 2020
Most professional screenwriters will agree that writing is only one aspect of their job. Many emerging screenwriters are surprised to find that once their screenwriting career takes off, they devote more and more time to other aspects of the business; taking meetings, pitching on projects, and developing material can take up just as much time as putting words down on the page. Here are five skills that successful screenwriters need in addition to being, well, great writers:
Time can move at a glacial pace in the film industry — some projects can take years to get off the ground. One of the most useful skills a screenwriter can develop is the patience to embrace the time it takes to get a movie made. One way of doing this is to make sure you always have a new project to be working on. You can’t control what happens once you send material out into the world, so having a new project to turn to can help make the wait time a little less arduous.
Screenwriting, and indeed moviemaking, is very subjective. How many times have you gone to the movies with friends and they loved it and you didn’t? We experience this almost every day in our lives and understand that people have differing viewpoints, but when it comes to our own writing it becomes more personal. Looking at people’s views of your work objectively takes the sting out of rejection; it helps you deal with notes and feedback in a more calm and professional manner, too.
Filmmaking is a collaborative business. No one wants to work with someone who is closed-minded and isn’t open to ideas and feedback from other people. Being inflexible is a quick way to make people not want to work with you. Cultivating a spirit of open-mindedness and curiosity will keep collaborators coming back to you.
A wise man once said, “Nothing worth doing is easy.” Screenwriting, like all artistic pursuits, can present difficulties, obstacles and challenges to the artist. It is how you navigate through these steps of the process that will determine whether you succeed in the long run. Remember that some of the most successful writers on the planet, from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling, received many rejections before they finally made it in their chosen profession. They managed to keep going in the face of adversity because they had the next quality on this list.
A wise man once said that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Screenwriting is like any other pursuit in life: You are more likely to succeed if you come from a place of love, passion and curiosity. Enjoying the process and coming at it from a passionate place will make the journey more enjoyable and ultimately, productive. After all, a life lived passionately is already a successful one.
Written by: Kathy CharlesKathy Charles is a Los Angeles based screenwriter. Her screenplay THE KINGS OF MAINE appeared on the 2016 Hit List and Black List.