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Producers, consultants, directors, actors, contest judges, co-workers, friends, family and fellow screenwriters have no idea what you’ve done. They don’t know the passion you poured into every page. They’ll never feel connected to the characters you create or the worlds they inhabit. The reasons for this may be complicated, but it might also be summed up in one simple sentence:
You’re afraid to show people your work.
Why? The truth is you have every right to be afraid to show people your labor of love. What if they hate it? What if no one understands the vision you described on the page? What if your screenplay isn’t good enough?
These are all valid questions, but being afraid of the answers isn’t the same thing as hearing them. As with anything in life, it takes courage to put yourself out there. The reason is equally complicated but still simple to communicate:
What if your screenplay is good enough?
A well-written yet unread screenplay is like a winning lottery ticket you’re afraid to cash in. In the end, it all boils down to confidence. As a reader, it’s easy to tell when a writer falls in love with his/her work. Every word leaps off the page, which brings us to the first way you know you’re ready to show someone your script:
1. It is the best screenplay you’ve ever written.
Perhaps it’s a cliché to step back and make such a declaration. In reality, every screenplay you write should be better than the ones that came before it. However, it is an important feeling to experience. You have to believe in your story. You have to feel proud of the characters you’ve created. Every page should make you smile. Screenwriting should be fun, after all.
You had infinite stories to choose from but this is the idea rose above the rest. This is the idea you spent months (or years) developing and crafting into the best screenplay possible. It’s ready. You’re ready.
2. You’ve done relentless rewrites.
Typing “FADE OUT” is merely the beginning. A sure sign you’re ready to show off your screenplay is the pressing need to perfect every sentence. You ask yourself the right questions, fill every plot hole with creative solutions, scrutinize every word and eliminate every typo.
If your screenplay has to be perfect, you’re ready for someone to read it.
3. You’re ready for criticism.
Criticism, when given constructively, can be tough to take but it can also be the spark you need. You already have confidence in your work. Criticism doesn’t have to be negative, especially when it’s negative. Use it to fuel your passion moving forward.
4. You want to improve.
Writers write. It can be frightening to show people your work but it will never stop you from writing. No matter what, you love screenwriting too much to stop. That’s why you’re ready to take the next step.
Sitting in a room writing a screenplay can be a satisfying journey of self-discovery. It’s an addiction. A feeling you crave. This feeling is amplified when you realize you’ve improved. Allow people to read your work. There are always lessons to be learned. You may go back and rewrite based on those lessons, or you may start something new.
Either way, if you have the courage to send someone your screenplay, nothing but good things can happen. Yes, even if readers do not respond to your words. The truth is, it’s easy to face (and overcome) disappointments when…
5. You believe in yourself.
Many screenwriters have confidence in their work, but belief in oneself transcends that feeling. It’s separate from the words on the page. Many people write screenplays they are proud of, yet still they are hesitant to send it out into the world.
Confidence + Belief = Enthusiasm
You’re ready to show someone your screenplay because it feels right and you’re excited about it! Only you can determine when it’s time. You can write an amazing screenplay. It’s time for people to experience your story.
Every completed screenplay longs to be read. It’s the reason they exist. There’s a big difference between talking about your screenplay and showing someone your screenplay. Why not give it a shot? The very worst that can happen is rejection, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rejection can help you grow as a screenwriter and a person.
Start by showing people you trust. It is OK to prepare yourself for criticism, but don’t forget to anticipate good comments too! Trust in your belief that your screenplay is entertaining, then let the pages do the rest.
Every boost or crushing blow to your confidence is a lesson in disguise, a lesson you can apply to your next creative adventure. You’ve already fallen in love. It’s time for readers to fall in love with your words too. You’ll know when you’re ready. So, are you? MM
This post originally appeared on the blog ScreenCraft. ScreenCraft is dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed through educational events, screenwriting competitions and the annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship program, connecting screenwriters with agents, managers and Hollywood producers. Follow ScreenCraft on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.