Becoming a great screenwriter is so much more than locking yourself into a room and writing for days, weeks, months, and years. You have to cultivate yourself in as many ways as possible, and that often has nothing to do with actually writing screenplays.
Here are seven simple and easy things you can do to help evolve yourself into an even better screenwriter.
1. Build a Compelling Industry Twitter Feed
For a certain number of you, Twitter is a mystery. You don’t get it. You don’t need it. You don’t want to have anything to do with it.
In this politically-fueled society — both online and offline — the last thing some writers want is that social media distraction. Twitter can be a polarizing place to visit, yes, but if you build your feed right, you can enjoy some of the best film and television content and commentary around.
Many Hollywood screenwriters, directors, producers, and actors are offering advice and perspective each day. You can read about the day-to-day goings on of television writers. You can get behind-the-scenes information on what it takes to write a script, make a film, and navigate the industry.
Many screenwriting groups, industry bloggers, companies, festivals, contests, competitions, and fellowships have Twitter accounts that often share the best screenwriting articles, interviews, and industry news.
Some of it is informative and some are just plain entertaining. Regardless, if you follow the right Twitter accounts, your Twitter feed can create a positive and helpful support system for you.
2. Find Jobs that Keep You Creative
Let’s face it, the odds of being an Oscar-winning screenwriter are few and far between — a hard truth that most don’t even want to think about. But it doesn’t matter, right? We’re still creative, and that creativity needs an outlet. Screenwriting is an outstanding way to accomplish that, with the added benefit of maybe seeing that dream of watching your stories and characters come to life on the screen come true.
Until then, you have to pay the bills. Try to find a career or job that allows you to be creative — that will enable you to flex that muscle.
It could be working in advertising, marketing, or Arts education. You could be writing white papers, blog posts, articles, or trade commercials and training videos.
If you live in Hollywood or New York — as well as Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, Vancouver, and other growing film and television industry sites around the world — get a job anywhere within the industry. Even if you’re working as a barista on a studio lot or in accounting in executive offices, it’s a start.
Whatever the job may be, inside or outside of the actual film and television industry, find something where you can stay creative to keep those juices flowing.
3. Travel and Experience New Adventures
Your mind is a funny thing. The subconscious within is continuously intaking more and more inspiration, without you even knowing it.
Most great ideas come from a single question, a single subject, or a single mental image. If you live your life within the confines of where you live, where you work, and the commute in between, you’re not giving your creative mind much inspiration.
Now, we’re not saying you have to travel the world and the seven seas to write a screenplay (although what a great screenplay that would be). It’s expensive to go to certain places (and surprisingly cheap to go to some, just saying). But do your best to go where you can, even if it’s local hikes, tours, museums, restaurants, historical sites, etc.
For those more exotic or lengthy travel outings, you can always plan years ahead and find that when you do so, finding the money to travel is surprisingly easy.
The point is not the destination though — it’s the journey. Even a simple road trip to somewhere within driving distance can conjure endless ideas and inspiration for stories, characters, and concepts.
Read ScreenCraft’s 5 Reasons Why Screenwriters Should Be Traveling!
4. Find a Screenwriting Partner
Being a screenwriter can be a lonely world — but imagine what it would be like if you found that special someone (writing partner, not significant other) to bounce ideas off of.
Now, a screenwriting partner doesn’t always have to be someone that you co-write a screenplay with — they can be a sounding board as you develop ideas for your next, an amazing proofreader, a confidant that you go to when the screenwriting grind is grinding too hard, and, yes, someone you can collaborate with now and then as well.
In this virtual world we live in, it’s easier than you’d think to find someone that meshes well with what you’re trying to do as a writer. They can be a close friend, a fellow creative relative, or someone you meet through a writing group or event.
Much like a significant other can help balance your life, a screenwriting partner can help balance your screenwriting journey.
Read ScreenCraft’s 3 Intriguing Ways Hollywood Screenwriting Duos Collaborate!
5. Start a Blog or Partner with One
Whether it’s a blog that covers screenwriting education or a place where you can post your own trials, tribulations, and triumphs, a blog can be an outstanding way to keep those creative juices flowing — and perhaps build a readership as well.
Since the internet went wide in the 21st century, people have gone from blogging and podcasting to writing major Hollywood features and television shows.
And even if you don’t hit those heights, it’s an excellent way to explore your passion for writing. You can blog about the industry, share what you’ve learned, and sometimes research posts that end up teaching you something about the art, craft, and business of screenwriting that you can exploit and utilize.
6. Attend Writers Conferences and Film Festivals
Screenwriters matter. And there’s no better place to see that than writing conferences and film festivals.
If you’ve ever felt like the sole person in your world trying to chase this impossible dream, all that you need to do is find a great writing conference or film festival. You’ll quickly learn that you’re not the only one. And rather than making that realization a negative, these events often showcase the positive aspect of that fact by uniting like-minded individuals on all tiers of success in one conference room, theater, or bar.
If you’ve been to a major conference (ScreenCraft will and has held many in Hollywood, Nashville, Atlanta, and beyond), you know this is true. If you haven’t, be ready for a genuine moment of enlightenment.
The events are fun and informative. And with the many mingling opportunities in and around conferences and festivals, don’t be surprised if you don’t advance yourself as a screenwriter, and as a human being. That interaction with like-minded souls is necessary. It doesn’t have to be a constant thing, but it doesn’t hurt to get yourself out there amongst your peers and amongst those that have experienced the success you crave for each day and night.
Read ScreenCraft’s How to Network & Pitch at Pitch Fests, Film Festivals, and Industry Events!
7. Watch and Read
There is no greater inspiration for screenwriters than watching and reading content. Your creative mind needs it as fuel.
Watching Movies and Television Series
It’s not about stealing or copying — it’s about watering those seeds in your mind. Most Oscar-winning directors show specific movies to their cast and crews before production begins. The purpose of this is to visually and cinematically communicate a particular tone, atmosphere, pacing, structure, or performance that the impending production is striving for.
There’s no better inspiration to screenwriters than watching the content within the medium that they are writing within, be it movies, television series, or online narrative content — good or bad. You learn what to do and what not to do by ingesting anything and everything in and outside of the genre you are writing in.
Reading Screenplays and Books
Reading produced scripts will give you a sense of the interpretation that is necessary. Reading excellent unproduced scripts will get your visualization engine going. Reading bad unproduced scripts will teach you what not to do, and why.
Reading novels, novellas, short stories, and flash fiction will engage that visual engine as well, but also open your eyes and mind to different types of stories, narratives, subjects, topics, worlds, and character types.
Experiencing narrative stories in whatever fashion informs and inspires your creative mind and soul.
Build some excellent industry feed on Twitter, even if you’re not one that wants to Tweet. Find a job or career path that keeps your creative juices flowing. Make some efforts to get out of your daily grind and explore the world a bit, nearby or far. Find a screenwriting partner to share all or some of your journey with. Get your writing voice and perspective online through a blog. Venture out to writing conferences and festivals to meet your peers and mingle with the powers that be. And then go watch some movies, tune into some great shows, and read some amazing literature.
Those are just seven things you can do today to become a better writer tomorrow. Any more that you can think of?
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies