Lots of Screenwriters say they’ve done everything they know to do and are still not achieving the goals they want, still not getting their scripts read.
This two-part article series is meant to help you set your goals and then break them down so you have actions to take on a daily basis.
Whether your goal is to get a literary agent and manager or to sell your screenplay, it is critical to set your goals and make a plan for how to achieve them.
How do you do this?
The first step is to understand the distinctions for the two types of goals:
- Results Goals: These are the final results you want, such as getting getting your script read, getting an option, selling your script, or getting literary representation. These results require others to make decisions in your favor. Part 1 of this article will focus on this aspect of setting goals for your results and actions.
- Action Goals: These are the actions you take to produce the results you want — actions that you have control over and can do on your own. Your action goals should center around doing the things you think will help you to achieve your Results Goals. Part 2 of this article will cover Action Goals more in depth.
Now let’s look at why you need to have both Results and Action Goals in your plan.
Your main Results Goal might be to sell your screenplay.
To accomplish that goal, you need to get producers or agents to read it. You can’t directly make someone request your script, read it, or buy it, so you need to figure out what actions you can take that might lead you to getting more producers to read it (and therefore more opportunities to get your script optioned or sold). So the question is: what actions (that are in your control) can you take that might lead you to getting your script read by more producers or literary reps?
Actions which don’t directly produce the results but DO feed into creating opportunities are called key indicators. Your action goals should revolve around what you identify as your key indicators — the critical actions that will create opportunities for your bigger goal.
Pitch Your Script to Hollywood Filmmakers
Let’s say you want to get more Hollywood VIPS to read your screenplay. To do that, you need to pitch your script to more producers, literary agents, and development executives… To be able to pitch to more of them, you first need to contact them by some means, such as through query letters, email queries, networking, pitchfest events, and so forth.
The important point is that you need to make a plan for how you will accomplish this. It’s not enough to just take one step and hope for the best. Your best bet is to have a solid plan and then execute a series of actions over time.
To get started, here are the steps to setting your goal(s) and breaking down how to achieve it.
1. Create your vision for your Longer-Term Results — approximately 18 months out.
What do you want to achieve in the next 18 months? If you really want to achieve it, you need to make a plan for how you intend to achieve it.
Yes, you could get lucky and have a windfall with something miraculous happening out of the blue, but to make sure that things move forward, you need to map out a pathway you think will get you there. Even though you don’t have control over the final result, the idea is to get as many factors working in your favor as possible and then amp up the actions as much as you can.
If you don’t plan the actions you could take to likely get you there or greatly increase your odds and your opportunities, then you are relying ONLY on a miracle to make it happen — like hoping that somehow your script magically gets passed along and eventually ends up in the hands of Quentin Tarantino or Steven Spielberg at just the right time when they are looking for your genre of script.
2. Break it down into intermediate milestone Results by Quarter.
Once you identify your 18-month goal, then start at the end and work backwards toward the present. Break down what needs to happen into quarterly milestones that need to take place before you get there.
For example, let’s say you want to get a literary agent or manager in the next 6 to 12 months. What are the likely things that need to happen before that?
- Prior to that, you will need to make sure you polish your script or even 2 or 3 of them if you have several.
- You should have your script reviewed and validated as ready by a professional script analyst (like myself! 🙂 to make sure it’s ready to send out to producers or literary agents.
- You will also need to plan how you will get the literary manager or agent. Will you attend some of the pitching events held in Hollywood every year or go to networking events? Will you send out a Query Letter Mailing?
Look at your longer term goal, then work backwards from your 18-month goal to the present day, identifying the major milestones you need to achieve along the way. For each milestone or accomplishment that is not directly in your control, identify what actions would create a foundation to get you there.
Then you’ll break it down further.
3. Set your Monthly Action and Results Goals.
Once you have worked your milestones back to the present, then work on the present quarter and break it down to what you need to achieve for each month of the quarter. Some actions might be to get a new screenwriting program or do your final research on your subject matter.
You might need to save money to execute your marketing phase to have Smart Girls Productions help you on the research or get a membership to IMDBpro and do it yourself if you know how and want to spend your time that way.
For each month, write in all the actions that you need to do that you think will help assure you reach your quarterly goal or milestone.
4. Set your Weekly Actions.
Once you know what you need to achieve THIS MONTH, now you need to break it into a week-by-week plan. What do you need to accomplish this week with your key indicators?
If you are doing a rewrite or a polish on your script, how much will you need to accomplish on a weekly basis?
Once you know what this month’s goal is, break it down to a week-by-week plan.
5. Set daily actionable goals.
Finally, you set your daily action goals. Write down exactly what you will do each day to achieve the current week’s goals. That will give you a road map for achieving that month’s goals, which in turn will affect everything forward from there.
Even if you can’t write every day, maybe on your lunch break at work — or on your drive time to work — each day you will reflect (carefully, while driving, lol!) on how to solve a problem or how to make a character more interesting.
Or maybe you’ll listen to a screenwriting podcast going to and from work to learn more about the business of Hollywood.
If you want to have some great questions to prompt you to take your script to the next level, you might want to grab a copy of my Analyze Your Own Script workbook from Amazon. It is filled with questions to help you take your script to a whole new level.
Get creative about what actions you can take to move forward toward your goal.
Summary of Part 1
The main point of part 1 is that you need to create a plan for how you will achieve your goal of selling your screenplay. You have to create opportunities for yourself and then seize them.
Many screenwriters fantasize about what it would be like to get the $250,000 or $1,000,000 payday for selling a screenplay or seeing a big star like Bradley Cooper or Charlize Theron in their movie, but many also feel like they don’t know what to do to actually start moving in that direction.
When you break these big goals down into milestones by quarter, month, and week, you’ll start to see actions you can literally take on a daily basis. Goals that are within your reach are far more inspiring and rewarding in the short term. Create your plan as described above in this article so that your daily actions are directly connected to your longer-term goal.
As you make your plan, think of what resources (other people, services, companies) you could all on to help you in your pursuit. High-achievers are only able to accomplish so much because they have a team of people on board with their vision, their goals. Likewise, you too might want to get assistance or even offload some of what you see needs to be done.
The point on this is that when you take responsibility, it does not mean that you have to do everything yourself, it means that you are the one in charge of making things happen — either directly or indirectly. You can hire people to help you if that’s what you want. If you need to meet with your agent and have a reset on your casting, that’s up to you, not the agent. You are the top level manager of your own career and it’s up to you to create a team of people to support you in your efforts.
Smart Girls Productions, for example, has helped thousands of screenwriters improve their script through a script consultation. We exist specifically to provide services to help you achieve your goals. Just like you might hire an attorney for their expertise — but you still have the final say — you might hire Smart Girls to analyze your script, research potential production companies, or write a query letter for you.
Look for opportunities to add people to your team where possible.
Another example… you might find the kind of support you need in my latest program called Big Juicy Project which is designed to have you take on a project for one quarter, plan how to reach it, then provide a structure for accountability in making it happen in 90 days or less. In the Big Juicy Project program we implement something along the lines of what is described in this article — and have lots of additional support structures to boot!
One of the most important aspects of the Big Juicy Project program is that each week you will be held to account to complete your promise. In turn, it becomes 1000 times more likely that you will follow through and finish it. You can learn more about it here:
When you create your goals and your plan for achieving them, one of the key elements for accomplishment is accountability. You can make all the plans you want but the follow-through can be a challenge if you don’t have someone to be accountable to.
While you need to be responsible for having a plan to fulfill your screenwriting goals, you don’t have to literally do everything yourself — YOU just have to be the boss.
No one cares more about your career than you, so it’s time to start planning how to reach your goals.
If you like the idea of taking a structured approach to your goals with accountability, then the Big Juicy Project! program may very well be a good fit for you. Go check out the page on Big Juicy Project and see if it resonates with you.
However you want to do it, the important thing is to take responsibility for making your plan and then executing it.
In Part 2 of Planning for Success in Screenwriting, I cover some of the actions you can take to produce the results you want.
When you’re ready, go to , which will cover some of the actions you can take to produce the results you want.