Little Miss Sunshine
Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear in
Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Photo: Fox Searchlight.

1. Be unrealistic.
Only a madman would sit down to write a script believing that it will one day become a successful movie. Be a madman. As the Book of the Samurai notes, “Nothing great was ever accomplished through common sense. One must become insane and desperate.”

2. Procrastinate.
The longer you put off writing, the more ripe your idea will be when you finally sit down to write. After carrying the idea for Little Miss Sunshine around in my head for years, I wrote the first draft in three days.

3. Don’t trust yourself.
This is crucial. A writer is only as good as the feedback they get. Set up an airtight feedback loop with the smartest people you can find. Trust your creative instincts; don’t trust your critical instincts. Let someone else tell you when your script is “finished.”

4. Be a coward.
I wrote Little Miss Sunshine with the intention of directing it. However, when—in our first phone call—my agents told me that would make it harder to sell, it took less than a second for me to toss my cherished ambitions out the window. “But I don’t have to!” I blurted. The film was subsequently directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who made a much better film than I ever could have.

5. Cast a comedy superstar in your movie just before he or she becomes a comedy superstar.
When the producers told me Steve Carell had been cast in the role of Uncle Frank, my first question was, “Is he funny?”

6. Pretend you knew what you were doing.
This is especially crucial around awards season.