Planning a writing career is no different than any other business plan. “But I am a writer, I’ll leave the business to my agent” I hear you say.
If you already have an agent, you already have a career, so you don’t need this article. But if you are starting out on planning a writing career, read on.
First steps in planning a writing career?
With all plans and projects you need a measure of success. An indicator that the plan has been successful and to start a new plan or phase. You will also need some ‘milestones’, things that let you know you are on track of reaching your goal. Let’s use the standard “5 year plan”.
Where do you want to be and by when?
So in five years where do you want to be in your life and career? Let’s make a plan for the “I want to be a Hollywood writer” standard aspiration.
Let’s define Hollywood.
What type of films and budget are you wanting to write. Find 20 films that are the types of films you want to write. They should have been produced in the last 5 years. Now find the writers of those films and look at their careers and where they are based. You will probably have to replicate this. If they all live in Hollywood, you’ll probably have to move to Hollywood at some point.
Where did they start out? Did they do small independent films, did they work at studios or agencies? How did they start their journey?
Analysing this will give you a model to follow. Look at the most common route. Don’t hang your hat on one thing. Someone won a writing contest and that was it. There are thousands of contests, not all the winners have careers. Someone started with a YouTube channel. There is more YouTube content in one month than can be watched in a lifetime. So don’t bank on that. We are trying to find a well worn path.
Draw a line and draw six points along it. These are the milestones for your five year plan. On the last one write “Living in Hollywood as a full time writer”. Now work your way back. How long did most of the writers live in Hollywood before getting their break? Put that on your timeline. What sort of qualifications do they have. You may have to do some study. Put that on your timeline.
This may all seem really hard and time consuming. But if you are not willing to do this kind of work you are not meant to be a screenwriter. Screenwriting is lots of work that sometimes gives you no return for your effort. This is one of those moments.
My plan is simple. It doesn’t involve a timeline. It is based on a series of events. Get some feature films produced that show the style of my writing (I researched films that I could be sure would sell). For this to help my career I have to be happy with the producers. I have to be sure that they can produce a quality film based on my writing. I currently have two in play. This may be enough to be a launch pad. If not I will keep pushing until my body of work is enough to get me representation.
For me representation is two fold. I would like their support for my independent work as well as getting me writing assignments. This is going to be hard to find as I personally do not intend to relocate to LA from Sydney.
That is my phase one plan. Get representation and get writing assignments. In the background develop a library of my own projects.
The reason I have had the success that I have had so far is that I had a plan. The first plan was to identify the style of film that would be easy to sell. Writing these films meant that I would probably have multiple options and offers for my work. This meant I could choose the best person, the producer that would make me look good.
This gets me something to show people as a sample, which is another part of my plan.
This type of thinking isn’t restricted to writing. Once Lee Iacocca decided he wanted to be the CEO of Ford, he did the same type of research. He found that not one of the CEOs came from production, they all came through marketing and sales. He immediately resigned as an engineer for Ford and became a used car salesman instead, less money, but on the right path.
Good luck with your plans.