“You don’t know pasta from dog poop.”
The above statement was self-directed and came from an honest moment of introspection following months (more honestly, it’s been years) of endeavoring to be a successful screenwriter. Indeed, the road to “success” (I will explore that term in Part 2) is bumpy, replete with wrong turns and dead ends. Screenwriting is likely the #1 career path for anyone intent on excessively abusing their psyche.
You see, there are hundreds of screenwriting how-to books, seminars, podcasts and classes that share an objective of teaching one how to write scripts. But the shared objective is often one of the few things they all have in common. You can take your story idea and apply teachings on structure, character development, conflict, pace, tone, etc. and, eventually, a screenplay is born. But the next step is finding someone—other than a best friend, spouse or family member—to read it and provide feedback. That’s when things can really get interesting.
Send your draft (note: you never “finish” writing a script…watch for Part 3) out to five different script consultants and it’s almost guaranteed you will receive five very different analyses of what is right and wrong about it. Initially, you will find yourself wanting to send the analysis back from whence it came with a personal note, “You don’t know pasta from dog poop!” Before you do that, you must be aware that there is actually good news and good news about this feedback dynamic.
The first good news is that each of these analyses will provide some nuggets of value. Usually several. The second good news is that—over time and with more experience—you will develop the ability to discern the good/valuable critique, from the nitpicking and/or off-target comments that inevitably come because your script simply will not resonate with all consultants or analysts. They happen to be every bit as human as you are, and we all have our bad days.
So, I offer this tip. Regardless of what your writing background or skills are or were when you made the decision to write screenplays, start out with the attitude that, “You don’t know pasta from dog poop.” Then ride above the bumps and wrong turns and pick up all the little treasures scattered along the road. One day—with perseverance—you will arrive and find success.