I’m going to share with you a powerful screenwriting secret. Take notes. Here it is: You can’t learn to write screenplays in a weekend. Don’t try. Don’t get dejected when you haven’t done it. It doesn’t matter how many tips, structures, frameworks, conflict patterns, ennagrams, secrets, approaches or anything else you’re given; it won’t happen. Here’s another secret: You can’t learn to write scripts by reading a book. There is no magic process to follow that results in a “script that sells.”

Am I saying don’t go to weekend courses? Don’t read books? No. Do whatever you want. There are lots of great books out there and lots of popular weekend courses. Some of them have valuable insights. But here’s how you actually learn to write scripts. Read scripts on an ongoing basis, write scripts, study scripts, rewrite, examine ideas about writing, write more, challenge your approach, strive to improve, sweat, think, imagine, write and rewrite more, hone, polish…repeat as necessary.

Writing is a complex and difficult process. It’s like playing piano. It involves hard work over a sustained period of time and it never gets easier, only better.

Nothing less will forge you into a real writer.

Got it?


  1. About reading and studying scripts — I think it’s important, especially for newbies — to make the distinction to read WELL WRITTEN scripts. I cringe at the thought of someone modeling their screenwriting style on, say, the Alien vs. Predator script. Not because it is a bad movie, but because it is so poorly written (the first page alone set screenwriting back about 20 years). Anyone writing in a similar vein would look amateurish and ignorant.

  2. Agreed, you absolutely must read quality screenplays. You also need to read some crap along the way so you know the difference.

    “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

    William Faulkner; Classroom statements at the University of Mississippi, 1947. Collected in “Lion in the Garden”.

  3. Hard to believe that a high percnatge of the Hollywood economy is the whole guru industry.

    In any other business outside of Hollywood, you’d be laughed at for doing such seminars.

    Until all these so called lottery winners in waiting realize that writing is about committment to filling up the blank page, tossing it and finding more blank pages to fill up…we’ll keep seeing more and more bad movies written by these weekend seminar denizens…instead of real writers.

  4. That “playing the piano” analogy to creative writing has been a favorite of mine for years.

    Expanding on it, I’ve said this to aspiring writers who ask me if reading a screenwriting book is worth their time and money:

    “Reading a screenwriting book –just reading it– will do you as much good as if you’d want to learn to play the piano and you’d buy Beethoven’s Sonatas just to thumb through them in the subway. You have to PRACTICE what the book says in order to learn.”

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