When To Shelve It / by Jared Jones


You wrote a script. You rewrote it. You got notes (hopefully) then you wrote some more. Finally, you type FADE THE FUCK OUT* and you’re finished. You have a completed script conjured out of your imagination sitting before you in all its splendor.

*(copyright, BALLS OUT written by Malcom Spellman & Tim Talbott)

You post your script on the Blacklist or any other reputable site (are there any?). You query reps and execs. You enter your script into legit contests. You do everything you can possibly think of to get your script “OUT THERE”.

[NOTE: While all this is happening you should be working on the next thing(s). If you’re pinning all your hopes on one script, you’re really setting yourself up for failure and wasting time you could be writing a new spec.]

So… A week passes. A month goes by. Two months. Six months. A year. And–

Maybe you place in a contest or two, but don’t take home the gold. Maybe your ratings on the Blacklist are mediocre and no one is requesting it. Or maybe it has been requested via your queries or off the Blacklist, but you’ve gotten a mixture of Passes and silence.

So after a good amount of time has passed there have been no bites. No traction. Nothing. Your script, by all accounts, is a dead fish. So now what?

At this point you can do one of two things…

ONE, you can stand defiantly before the empirical evidence before you and shout, “You guys just don’t understand my art! I will get repped! I will sell this script! And as God (or my cat in this scenario) as my witness, I will be vindicated! You will rue the day you crossed Writer X!”


TWO, you can take a step back to process what the universe is telling you despite the friends and family who have told you how absolutely groundbreaking your script is.

The truth is that you can ignore the rosy reviews from your sister’s boyfriend who once interned at Lionsgate who thought it was ready to shoot tomorrow. 

And you can probably ignore that writer who worked on that big show that everybody loved who said it was “GREAT!” because I’ll bet they were probably just trying to spare your feelings. Some writers don’t like to give notes because they can’t stomach saying anything negative.

That said, they may truly love it, and that’s great. But, unless they’re passing it to their reps or slipping it to an exec (and they have NO OBLIGATION to do either) then their accolades are nice, but they’re not gonna pay the rent.

So your script seems to be dead in the water and you are now faced with the cold realization that, “Hey, maybe this script isn’t any good.”

So what now?

Maybe your script wasn’t requested because of a badly written query or a poorly crafted logline. The script might be fantastic, but no one is going to request it if either of these is the case.

Think of a logline like grocery store packaging. Each item in the picture below contains the same thing, but which one would you buy? Okay, yes, neither because it’s luncheon meat, but I’m trying to illustrate a point here. Stick with me.


[NOTE: You can find so many sources on how to craft an excellent logline. Please utilize the Googles should you want to learn more.]

But, maybe your logline was HOLY SHIT SEND ME YOUR SCRIPT NOW amazing! But, once they got the script the response was, “Pass,” which leaves only one culprit: your script.

Can the script be saved? Possibly. Was it a good premise, but maybe you executed it poorly? Can you rewrite it from a different perspective? Genre switch? Tone switch? Was the structure wrong or story muddled? You can save a bad script with a good premise. Just takes a kickass rewrite.

But, if your premise is no good, you’re kind of fucked. You can probably deliver a decent draft of a horrible premise, but no one is going to want to read it. The foundation your house is built on is weak. And if this is the case there is little you can do except chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.

Or maybe you really do have good script, but it is too similar to movies already made or projects in development. But, if the writing is that good somebody would have most likely have requested more of your work. Or set up a meeting or two to see if you’re the real deal.

A good script, even though it may be “unmakeable”, can get you repped or in rooms with execs because it shows you have voice and talent. Please see: The Blacklist. But, if execs and reps are reading your work and these things haven’t happened then it’s because your script didn’t blow them away.

So if you can fix your script, fix it.

Otherwise, it may be time to put this one of the shelf and focus on your other scripts.

[Post Script: This post isn’t meant to suggest that you’re a bad writer. Only that the script you’ve been pushing just might be “bad”.]

Source: http://writercalvin.tumblr.com/post/124020...