I’m in a tricky spot. I call myself a writer, and yet I’ve never been paid to write. I have business cards that say I’m a “Writer for Film and TV,” but the existence of such business cards belies the fact that I don’t have an agent to shop my scripts or find me work – I have to hustle on my own. So where do I get off calling myself a writer?
It’s simple. I write.
I am by no means established in the industry, but I know there are people on the Internet doing Google searches for “How to become a screenwriter” or “How to write a movie” or some other variation who are less experienced than I am. If you found yourself here with that Google search, I tell you this: you don’t have to be a professional writer to be a writer. You have to write to be a writer. That’s it. If you’re writing, you’re a writer.
There is no wrong way to write, as long as whatever your way of doing it is, it helps you produce material. For me, I can’t just sit down at my keyboard and type from scratch. I’m more kinesthetic. I have to pace around the room, and I usually have to use a white board or some other surface on which to physically write and draw things out. I spend a great deal of time preparing, figuring out what my story really is at its core, building the characters first, building the plot on top of that, and then I make an outline. And then I make a more detailed outline. I get more and more detailed until I essentially have a near-script-length description of what I want, and then I sit down and actually write the script’s rough draft from that. I have my wife Kelsey read it first; she’s an actor, so she has a great eye for issues with dialogue and character motivation, among other things. She points out the problems (because there are always problems) and I get to work solving them. I then give the second draft to other people to read, and repeat the process over and over and over until I have what I would call a serviceable script.
This is of course greatly oversimplified, but it’s what I do. I’ve done this same process for everything I’ve written – short films, features, pilots, specs, everything. It works for me. It might work for you, it might not. The only thing that matters is that I can produce material this way. If you can produce material a different way, do it that way. There is no wrong way to do it as long as you end up with a script at the end.
So you want to be a writer?
It’s simple. You write.