Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

Don’t Make The Same Mistakes These Writers Did

You know the phrase: Hindsight is 20-20. We all make mistakes that we wouldn’t have had we known better, but we can all make fewer of them by learning from those who’ve trodded paths before us in this information-sharing era. Lucky for you, we found some generous creatives who were willing to share some of the biggest mistakes they’ve either made or see made in the entertainment industry. These are career-killers, not just “oops” types of errors. With that said, readers take heed!

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Ahead, you’ll hear the top six mistakes writers make from Monica Piper (producer, writer, and comedian, with credits on “Rugrats,” “Roseanne” and more), Danny Manus (who actually gets paid to stop you from making mistakes through No BullScript consulting), and Ricky Roxburgh (a writer who specializes in animation, with Disney and Dreamworks credits).

Mistakes Writers Make

1. Not Setting Deadlines

“What are some of the biggest mistakes writers make that prevent them from having a career? The biggest mistake, I think, is not setting a deadline for yourself to get it done,” Piper began. “Because if there’s no pressure to get it done, it’s just so easy to say, “It’s not ready yet.”

Need help creating a writing schedule and deadlines? We’ve got you.

2. Not Having a Process

“You have to do so many drafts and get notes and get feedback from people who know what they’re doing,” Manus continued. “Really find the process that’s going to work for you, from your outlining process, to your writing process, to your pitching process, to your querying process. Too many writers just rush those processes, and they’re never going to find success because they’re not ready to find success.”

Do you have a creative process to take your idea to completion? If not, don’t worry. It comes with time and practice, but the only way to find what works is to put in the work. Looking to try a new process on for size? Check out how these writers approach their craft.

3. Not Writing Enough

“[Writers] write one thing, and they feel like that’s their calling card, and they feel like that’s good enough,” Roxburgh cautioned. “They think, oh, that was really hard work doing that first script … they don’t understand that it’s always hard work, and you have to keep working.”

No writer’s work is ever complete. You have to keep learning, evolving, and getting better. It’s part of the beauty of writing! We’re continuously improving. Need help sharping your skills? Look no further.

4. Not Being Happy For Others’ Success

“Something a writer can do to really screw himself up is, if he’s on a show and in a writers’ room, be arrogant, not a team player, not feel the joy when someone pitches a great joke,” Piper told us.

It can be so painful to watch someone else succeed at something you want nothing more than to succeed at yourself. It stings even more when you know you’re working harder for it. Luck, time and place, and all sorts of other factors play into someone’s success, but you need to cheer on the people who are crushing it. Being outwardly jealous or arrogant will get you absolutely nowhere in the entertainment industry. So, how do you get over those bad vibes you may be putting out? Take note:

5. Not Being Likeable

“When you meet with somebody, if you’re meeting with someone to be a writer in a room, or just a producer or something, they’re not just saying, “Do I like this person’s writing?” They’re saying can I hang out with this guy for four years or three years,” Roxburgh continued.

As I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, entertainment is a relationship business, and word travels FAST. Be someone who other people want to work with because of your fantastic attitude, incredible skillset, and unbelievable work ethic. Be authentic (cringe word, I know, but it’s true). It will take you far.

6. Not Doing Your Homework

“You really have to be focused in your approach,” Manus finished. “Know who you’re pitching, know why you’re pitching them. Know how you’re going to pitch them. Know what you’re going to pitch them. So, you just have to be prepared and do the work, and honestly, most writers don’t.”

It is a VERY rare occurrence these days that you can’t find information about someone online.  Whether that’s their work history, current projects, or even where they live (yikes), there’s no excuse for showing up to a meeting or reaching out to someone without learning anything about them ahead of time. Save the surprises for in-person networking, where no one expected you to Instagram-stalk the entire room before arriving. If you are lucky enough to land a meeting or pitch a producer or executive, be ready. LinkedIn, IMDb Pro, and even Twitter are all places to quickly find background information to show someone you did your homework.

In conclusion, making these mistakes now that you know them ahead of time would be another big mistake. Save yourself the drama and keep it for the page! Pursuing your creative passions is already hard enough. I hope these lessons from the pros will save you a world of hurt in your creative endeavors and help you reach the upper echelon that much faster!

 Lesson learned,

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