Grit: 10 Years for Overnight Success

By Michael Schilf · August 27, 2010

Fortitude. Courage. Endurance. Pick your noun of choice, but you must live it. Because if you want to be a screenwriter, it’s the only way you’ll survive.

You’ve heard the clichés: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, “There is no education like adversity.” But even though the quotes are overused and have lost some of their potency, they still carry tremendous truth. The fact is that writing a screenplay is HARD.

If you’re a screenwriter with a few scripts under your belt, you know this already, but if you’re new to the craft, brace yourself – screenwriting is an uphill battle on the front lines of a war zone. Everyday you’re under fire – character, story, structure, sequences, plot points.

And all while you’re securing the major corner stones of your script, you’re assaulted by a hail swarm of explosive tipped questions: How do I get my inciting incident by page 15? What about my first culmination? And my character, would he really do that/say that? Where can I use planting and payoff? Am I connecting with my audience? My voice – is it original? What about polarity? Do I have enough obstacles and rising action? Is my hero’s situation plausible? And what about my hero’s goal – clear and believable? Is the world of the story small enough? And then there’s the visual page? Am I maximizing script economy, white space, describing the shot?

And finally, when you complete the first draft – which is an almost impossible task – the “real” writing begins: rewriting. And here is where things get messy. You must be brutal – cut, slash, exterminate – and the ability to kill your babies is essential.

But if you work hard with “your nose to the grindstone” and follow a writing schedule while striving to incorporate The Three C’s and never losing sight of the Writer’s Triangle, you will endure. Your fortitude and courage to fight through the adversity of the script will only make you stronger. And then all you have to do is do it again, and again, and again… and eventually (in ten years) you will have overnight success.