An excerpt from my script review for Misery which will be available 01/01/20:
1.) Marketability of the Idea
Words to paper. Fingers to keyboard.
However you want to think about it, consider me your Annie Wilkes for this early portion of 2020.
Understandably I can’t lock you up and force you to commit one of your ideas to paper or the digital realm, as much as I’d like to, but it is time you did something about it if you’re serious.
What I can do is plant the seed in your head that you can rationalize however you choose to go about this path to everyone else but yourself. Each morning you’ll be forced to look in mirror and make it a long, hard look at whether you’ve started the work necessary towards accomplishing your dream.
That might suck, but you’ll know the truth.
And before we go too far, we’re going to address this section in terms of writing, in that nobody should be wasting their time on an idea if it’s not going to advance your writing career if that’s your end goal.
You’re the rule, not the exception.
Write that down and stick it somewhere in your workspace.
Once you’ve accepted that little nugget of harsh truth, it’s time to do some research.
Write something that can sell.
If you’re ready to argue with me that you can only write in a single genre, or only have one idea, I call bullshit. Everyone has untapped creative potential, so stop selling yourself short, and the possibilities in your mind will probably surprise you.
However, if you feel that truly is the case, maybe this isn’t the right goal to set yourself.
There are several ways to go about this, first and foremost are subscriptions to industry trade magazines. They’re expensive, and I don’t necessarily recommend them, given the other options.
Personally, I’ve used The Tracking Board in the past. Here you can see specs that sold, and search by various attributes, specifically genre (at least you could).
Lastly, there are cheaper weekly options, and I still get one in particular, InkTip’s preferred newsletter. Each week they send out a short list of companies and the genre/budgets those companies are looking for. Most of them are looking for low budget and contained queries, but if you follow it long enough you’ll see trends develop.
Lastly lastly, if you’re just looking for this reviewer’s honest opinion, I still stand by my view that writing a low budget horror thriller is the best way to sell a spec.
It’s a popular genre, and the potential buyers come in all shapes and sizes.
If you can’t do that, for whatever reason, action thrillers, biopics, and “movie of the week” scripts seem to be in demand over the last few months.
Understand who’s buying what.
Just as you begin to grasp what’s selling, so too should you be looking for trends on particular buyers for particular genres.
If you’re leaning towards one “hot” genre, start to see what production companies, managers, agents, etc. keep popping up with inside that category.
AND THEN go back to that little note that’s now in your workspace…
Understanding you’re the exception, so you’re not going to take your rom-com spec and try and sell it to Blumhouse.
“I know they’re big into horror, but they’ll see how touching and funny this story is and have to buy it!”
They won’t, and you’ll be wasting both someone there and your time.
(Don’t worry. You’re not the only writer to ever think this.)
Don’t procrastinate with research!
This is probably the biggest time waster yours truly is guilty of.
Sooner or later you’re going to need to sit down and write.
Should you read scripts, both successful and not, in the genre you’re delving into?
Should you read books on screenwriting?
Yes, if you’re just beginning your journey.
Should you take a screenwriting class?
Perhaps, but these can be expensive, and depending on timing, could lead to more delays.
My suggestion here, as with all amateur writers I’ve had the pleasure to chat with, is pick three scripts that relate to your story and/or genre. Then making sure they’re a proper mix of good, bad, recent, and past.
Once you’ve had a good look at those, using some sort of reviewing format, hash out some of the ideas floating around in your head.
If it’s a particular scene you just need to get down, start there. If you want to start at the beginning, that’s fine too. Shit, even if I could never do it, start with the ending and build backwards.
Once you’ve started writing though, the thing becomes real, and human nature generally wins out convincing you to finish it.
Whether you choose to heed this advice or not, I wish you the best of luck and a prosperous New Year.
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