There’s no greater insecurity than the doubts that keep you from selling your creative work.
Is it good? Is it great? Or is it useless? Should I show it to anyone? To whom? Is it ready to sell?
I have found that as someone’s experience grows, often so does their insecurity about the state of their scripts. Many newbies are overeager to market undercooked scripts.
They don’t know their own abilities. They don’t understand what constitutes a great script, and they hope someone else will tell them.
If you feel this strong intuitive urge to get validation from a producer or agent, you’ve got to ignore it. Do more work yourself: read great scripts, keep writing, and over time you’ll separate the wheat from the chaff.
True intuition is built upon experience.
What Does Your Screenplay Need To Achieve?
Whether you are ready to sell your script – or not – has a lot to do with your intended objectives. If you need to make a living from your work, perhaps you have no choice. Cashflow forces you to get it into the market. Sometimes even premature scripts sell. (Seen any superhero comic book adaptations, lately?).
Suppose you’re not 100% happy with the story, but your writing style is supreme. If you need work urgently, your script may become the writing sample that will get you other work. So you go and sell. Story ready or not.
In all other cases, if you can afford to wait, then do so while you perfect story and script.
No Such Thing As The Honest Truth?
Each has their own opinion about when a script is done.
If you ask a script consultant, they may argue that your script needs more development. It is in their interest to keep taking money from you. Never ask a consultant who is desperate for clients. Instead, go to the busiest consultant you can afford.
Better even, affiliate yourself with an industry professional who can read scripts.
In fairness, not many can. And those who can, are often too busy. Find someone you can trust. This could be a producer, a director or an actor.
Your English teacher friend is not the person to ask. You may turn to them for a proofread on typos, spelling and grammar, but don’t expect them to understand the intricacies of a screenplay.
Everyone has an opinion. Not everyone has a clue.
Ready To Sell Your Script? Here Are The Signs
Your mom/partner/best friend loves it
Non-professional readers will read a script like a novel, without understanding the nature of drama and tension. Their feedback is hardly vital.
There is a good reason to have your fans at home read your work, though: to keep your confidence up. They should support you, and encourage you to rock on when times are tough.
Your gut tells you it’s ready to sell
It may be more reliable than your mom, but it’s surely not the #1 indicator to go by. Your gut instinct will give you a clue as to whether you have a gem or a dud. But don’t bet the house on it. Your intuition will get better over the years.
Your friend/manager/agent/producer is excited
No industry friends (yet)? Get networking! If you’re lucky enough to work with a manager, it’s easy. They will give you useful feedback, and tell you when they are confident the script will generate results.
It’s a really fast read.
The quickest reads are typically the best. I have found that really bad scripts can take up to a day to read, partially because it takes time to decipher, but also because of reader procrastination.
Feedback is about taste, not technique.
If most of the feedback comes down to a matter of the reader’s taste rather than specific craft-based notes, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being unprofessional. Everyone has a subjective opinion, even pros. And everyone will try to give you some advice, even if they’ve run out of objective notes. Could this mean it is time to sell, and send your script into the world? Possibly…
You are shortlisted in a big screenwriting contest
There are many contests, and thousands of writers enter every year. Fortunately you don’t need to worry about most of them, as only a few are truly relevant.
The best will introduce winners to agents and producers, and some real players do keep an eye on the award lists. So, winning an important contest is a big deal. Keep entering every year, and make sure your results keep improving.
Everyone talks about it.
You are very lucky when you find people become aware about your script, and talk about it. When I hear industry folk bring up my clients’ projects in conversation, it’s mostly a good sign.
There are probably tons of things about your script you can still improve. If you didn’t read any screenwriting books until this point – Good! You didn’t need them – this may be the time to check a few things that matter to readers. Look at the ebb and flow of your tension in the story. Weigh up the balance of description vs. dialogue. Check, double-check and triple-check grammar, spelling and punctuation.
These are the areas most beginning writers can improve the most without professional help. Use apps, take online classes. Become the very best.
You Make The Call
When you feel that the law of diminishing returns is taking its toll, it may be time to consider the 7 points above. And remember: you will never get unequivocal proof that your script is market-ready… until it is sold.
Until then, it’s merely a decision.
And that decision is yours.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.