Write On! The Decision to Become a Screenwriter
by author Michele Wallerstein,
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

So, you decided to write a screenplay. Your motives may be good, bad, strange, silly, or desperate. You may not even know what they are. In any event, you’ve made that emotional commitment to become a screenwriter. Here come the important questions you now have to ask and answer. Just like a journalist you need to find out the who, what, where, when, and how you will be able to accomplish this feat.

Who?” Look within yourself to discover if you have the right combination of creative talent, and business acumen with a bit of  brio thrown in. Yes, you will absolutely need all of these personal qualities to be a successful screenwriter. If any of them are missing, you will be in big trouble. If you aren’t really creative, how will you be able to tell a great story, or provide fascinating characters? If you don’t have some business sense, how will you be able to know if your project is salable or marketable, or if your representatives are doing a proper job for you? If you don’t have the personal fortitude to push yourself forward on a personal basis, how will you be able to pitch yourself and your work to strangers? How will you be able to attend conferences, workshops, meetings, seminars, and countless other social situations with confidence and verbal clarity?

“What” are you choosing to write? Are you interested in romance, drama, sci-fi, thrillers, or comedies? If there are a couple of areas you are interested in, how will you choose?

“Where” deals with moving to the hub of the motion pictures and television industry. Can you really be a Hollywood screenwriter by living outside of California?

“When” is now! Writing is primarily thinking, so you may begin immediately. If you are serious in this endeavor, don’t put it off. You can even keep your day job and become a screenwriter. I love the Zen saying: “Leap, and the net will appear.”  Go ahead, if it feels right, do it. Procrastination is a terrible thing that can haunt your life forever.

The “why” is honestly defining your motivations. Are you someone who has always been a dilettante? Do you simply feel that every time you go to a movie you think; “I could write a better movie than that”? Do you imagine a glamorous life with cocktail parties attended by famous directors and actors? Finally, do you have the calling?

Now, for the really hard one: the “how.” How will you find your starting point and move on from there? This means making more right decisions than wrong ones which, in and of itself, defines success.

Of course you will need more than these things to discover about yourself, but these are jumping off points that are important to having a successful writing career. None of them can be ignored, but some of them can be learned.

You can learn to be braver and more forthcoming in personal interactions. You can practice, get into therapy, get help from seminars on self-confidence and find other avenues to learn to get rid of that terrible shyness.

You can also take steps to learn the craft of writing. It is actually imperative that you read the books, take the classes and most importantly, practice, practice, practice.

Writing takes sweat and tears. It’s a combination of a cruel and immensely rewarding occupation. It takes years to become a good writer. It takes a thick skin to listen to criticism and requests for changes in your work. It takes commitment and tenacity. If you either have the right answers to all of the above questions or you are dedicated to trying to work on the issues that you lack, then take that wonderful leap and see what amazing things can happen.

Michele Wallerstein was a literary agent for 25 years and currently works as a screenplay, novel, and career consultant. She is the author of MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career (Michael Wiese Productions). She will be leading a free seminar at the Borders in Sherman Oaks on Saturday, November 20.

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