Before your novel or script to be bought by a publisher or studio, it needs to be entertaining. The biggest test of a script is not if it follows all the rules and best practices of character development or plotting.
It’s the outcome. It’s whether your story grips the audience and makes them turn page after page, or watch scene after scene, episode after episode when adapted to film or TV.
Of course, the story of Luke Skywalker sorting out issues with his dad makes a great story, but it won’t be as entertaining unless you throw in Princess Leia in a bikini and blow up some death stars along the way.
Even if your story is dark and serious, it should be in an entertaining way. And trying to write literary fiction without commercial intent is no excuse for writing a slow and lousy story that can’t keep the audience invested in what happens next.
So if you’re running around meeting with agents, publishers and studios and don’t seem to understand why your great story isn’t getting the limelight, then check if it passes the entertainment test.
If not, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rework on it. Also, there’s something else you need to understand.
Don’t Get Attached To A Single Manuscript
Many writers make the mistake of hanging all their hopes and dreams on one manuscript or screenplay. When no publisher or studio bites on it, they keep on tweaking and rewriting based on the feedback they get.
That’s a huge mistake. I have nothing against hard work and persistence, but there’s got to be a point you draw the line and understand that what you’re currently pitching is not going to sell. So may be you need to pitch something else.
If hundreds and hundreds of people have rejected your script, bury it for some time and start pitching something else.
You can bring it up again years from now when your novels and screenplays have been produced and published, and you’ve become big and famous. Any studio or publisher will be happy to give you a green light by then. Heck, they’ll be approaching you for what other scripts you have.
But until then, you’d have to swallow your pride and preferences and do more of what publishers and studios want. You’d never go big by reworking the same thing over and over, which brings me to the next point.
Always Be Writing. Write Everyday
The most important thing you need to succeed, and the thing that separates amateurs from authors is your writing habit. You should feel an urge to write every day. And you should write as much as possible.
In fact, you should be working on more than one idea in a given time period. Once you have finished one manuscript, split your time between fine-tuning the completed story and working on a new one.
Always be working on a new script when you have finished the previous one. This is because so much of your work is going to be thrown away.
You’ll write and like something one day, but may end up hating the same thing when you look at it a few days later. Or may be you still like something after a week or month, but the agents, publishers or studios don’t.
To thrive in such a system, you can’t afford to risk loving everything you write. Be prepared to get rid of or rewrite a lot of stuff you write and start over from scratch. Keep making it better, even if that requires changing it entirely.
You got to have a thick skin, and you should keep writing and rewriting. Don’t let it get to heart when you have to throw days worth of writing in the trashcan. Happens all the time, to everyone and sometimes for random reasons.
If a manuscript doesn’t sell, you need to have another one ready so some of your work is always under review without wasting any time. And even if it does sell, you need to have another one because the agent, publisher or the studio may like that one too.
In any case, after a publisher or studio is done with your script, their next question is going to be, “So what next?” So it’s good to always have a bunch of manuscripts.
To be a professional writer, you should always be writing. You should be able to write anywhere and anytime, without distractions. It’s okay to have a bad time or day, but don’t let one moment of weakness turn into several.
The More You Write, The Better You Get
That’s another reason you should always be writing. It’s only when you write over and over that you get better and better.
The more you write, the more likely that your next manuscript will be better than the previous, which is better than what you wrote before and so on. And the better your work, the more likely that an agent, publisher or studio will like it. So write many hours a day, each and every day, year after year.
Many aspiring writers think that their first script is going to be great and the key to fame and riches. It won’t be. Instead of putting all effort in making one special script as perfect as you can, work on another one, and then another. That’s how you get better.
Then after a while you can come back to the first script and you’ll realize that now you can make it much better. You can only improve a manuscript or screenplay significantly when you have had the experience of working on scripts other than that one. Not by sweating over a single script day in and day out.