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How Do I Become a Screenwriter?

By Michael Schilf · June 16, 2010

Years ago a good friend of mine did the unthinkable. He quit his well-paying marketing job that he hated to try to become something he always wanted to be: a screenwriter.

At first, he was terrified. He didn’t fully understand structure, but he had seen lots of movies, and when he began his first script, he based the main characters on people he knew. Without realizing it, he did what any screenwriting instructor would advise: write what you know.

Eventually, he finished a draft and came to me for some brutally honest feedback. He had good characters and a solid story idea, but the script needed a major rewrite. He was crestfallen. But he took the feedback on the chin like the best of them and pounded out a new draft.

This one was better, but it still had problems. Again, I had crushed his hopes, and then he blurted out, “Who am I kidding? I’m no screenwriter.”

I knew this was a crucial moment for my dejected friend, so I picked up his script – 109 pages of blood, sweat, and tears – and I asked him if he was going to do another draft? He nodded with frustration. And I smiled: “Then yes. You are a screenwriter.”

You see, becoming a screenwriter is no secret: you write, you rewrite, you rewrite some more, and when you’ve made it as good as you can, you start again – a new idea, a new script, a new beginning.

Writing is a lifestyle, not a diet.