Are you wondering if now is the right time to share your screenplay with someone else? There are a few schools of thought on this topic, but I think I'm partial to Danny Manus' advice. He is a screenwriting consultant, after all, and the owner of No Bullscript Consulting, so he's used to seeing screenplays at all life stages.
His wisdom says to seek outside help sooner than later. In fact, it's never too early to start considering it.
As I always say, screenwriting is a collaborative craft, and the collaboration doesn't necessarily begin when you type FADE OUT. Don't be afraid to ask for help early and often! It can make your story more robust and relatable. Or, helpers can also point out glaring errors or plot holes that you've overlooked. Even inexperienced friends and family can help, in that case.
Here are some places you can turn to for screenwriting help you can trust:
A screenwriting consultant will offer all kinds of different help for a fee, of course. Take Danny Manus' No Bullscript Consulting, for example. He provides basic to comprehensive notes, first act consults to ensure your script is on the right track from the outset, and even brainstorming and outline help! How's that for early help.
You can also pay a fee for screenplay coverage, where a company will read your script and give you a book report-like summary back. It could include suggestions, point out weak spots, and give you an overall pass or fail grade that signals to a manager or producer whether the screenplay is worth their read. It's usually more suited for someone who has already written their final draft.
Facebook groups (such as our SoCreate Screenwriting Facebook Group), Reddit, and other online forums are great places to turn for honest feedback. Plenty of people will be helpful, but plenty will also be less than useful or downright rude – haters! Keep in mind that you are hearing from a range of writers, amateur to professional, so be selective when choosing what notes to address and which to skip. You'll also want to make sure you copyright or register your screenplay before letting it loose out into the online world.
You can find actors and other writers willing to do table reads through some of those aforementioned online forums, or contact your local theater group. Let them read your script out loud to see what dialogue is singing and where it may be falling flat. It is a different experience to hear your dialogue out loud than to imagine it in your head.
It's so easy to network with other writers online these days. Find a screenwriting buddy and offer to read their draft screenplay and give feedback in exchange for them reading yours. Or, during the writing process, ask for help and offer to provide it in return! You'll make a friend and learn something in the process.
Questions to ask yourself to determine if it's time for outside help include:
Have I shared my story idea or script with anyone yet, and is it solid enough to do so? If you're unsure about your script's direction, whether you've started writing or not, share your story with someone else to see if it's an idea that hooks them. Get your thoughts, or draft, in order first.
Will this script resonate with people? Are the themes big enough? If you're wondering if anyone could relate to the story you're telling, it's time to get some eyes on it. Are the themes large enough to impact people, touch them, and make them feel invested?
Am I stuck? It could be a bad writing day. Or, you could be totally stuck. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're not getting anywhere.
What do I want to do with this screenplay next? Ask yourself what you want to do with that script – sell it, enter it in a contest, or something else? If it's anything that involves putting your script out there in the public eye, you may want some paid, trusted feedback on it first.