But there comes a time when you need to let go of all the re-writing and editing and simply get it out to the Hollywood producers and agents who might want to take it on. So what can you do to make sure that you’re not marketing it prematurely?
Knowing when a script is ready is by no means a science. You may never feel it’s the absolute best it could possibly be. However, there are some things that can tell you that it’s not ready, and you should keep working on it.
Here’s an 11-point checklist that you should complete before you try to sell your screenplay:
Have you written your screenplay using the standard formatting that is accepted in Hollywood?
This is one of those easy and important things to make sure you do right. Some little mistakes are just downright annoying to a reader and can ruin it for an otherwise good story. Since this one is so easy, be sure your script has this part in order.
Is your screenplay between 90 and 120 pages?
With the shorter and shorter attention span of most people in the internet age, it’s more important than ever not to go over 120 pages.
Have you registered your latest draft with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and-or the U.S. copyright office?
This is straight-forward. Protect your screenplay by registering it with the Writer’s Guild. You don’t have to register every revision, but if you make major revisions since the last one, pay the $25 or so to register it again.
Have you completed at least 3 major rewrites on it?
This is a guideline. If you haven’t done at least 3 major rewrites, your script could probably be a lot better. Tighten up scenes. Cut some out. Develop the relationships between characters more. All kinds of things to do as you keep rewriting.
Have you had it proofread to be sure that you haven’t overlooked formatting or grammatical errors?
Get someone else who knows proper formatting and who also understands that grammar for a screenplay is not as formal as an English term paper. There is more stylistic and artistic license with the grammar in a script.
Are you confident that your theme comes through?
Basic fundamentals. Make sure you know what the depth and meaning of your script is. What’s it “really” about?
Are you certain that your plot builds momentum to a great climax and resolution?
One of the hardest things to do is to make sure your plot keeps building momentum. Too many times, in the second act, it becomes episodic. Make sure that your plot builds instead.
Does your main character have an arc? Is it complemented by your supporting characters?
Ultimately, audiences (and readers) need to care about your characters. The way you get people to care about them is to show their greatness and then to show a vulnerability that we can identify with. You character must have an arc in dealing with this.
And of course, your supporting characters must also be interesting.
Have you refined and polished the dialogue so that your main characters have distinct voices and speech patterns?
This is a particular place that most writers simply don’t spend enough time. You must make sure that your characters don’t all sound the same – a common mistake screenwriters make.
Have you had it reviewed by an industry professional who tells you it is ready to be marketed?
You can have various people read your script and give you feedback, but ultimately you need to make sure it is someone who really knows what they’re doing.
My suggestion is to work with a great script doctor who will take the time and give you in-depth feedback. Too many times an industry pro like a producer typically doesn’t have much time to give an aspiring writer feedback, so they simply give you a couple points and say “That’s all,” because they really want to get back to their own projects.
In your heart of hearts do you feel that it is time to try to sell your screenplay and that it is as good as you can make it?
At some point, once you’ve done all of the above steps, you just have to say that you’re going to market it, even though you could probably find another line of dialogue to tweak and so forth.
If you can answer yes to all the questions above, and you feel in your heart of hearts that it’s time, then go for it! If not, then keep working on it.
As you do your marketing, keep in mind that it may be a long process, so give it time and keep at it. If you’re written a great story, it deserves its chance to become a movie.