Q&A: When Are You Ready to Get Your Work Out There?

Q&A: When Are You Ready to Get Your Work Out There?

One of the biggest mistakes early writers make is sending a script or project out for industry circulation before it's ready. Let me paint a little picture…


You finally type “END” on the first draft of a year-long journey and truly believe you’ve produced a work of genius. As a writer, you’re excited that this brainchild of yours exists in a seamless, beautifully executed script, and you absolutely should be thrilled with the accomplishment. Of course, you would want to get that masterpiece out as soon as possible! Any manager or producer will be able to see the potential in the concept.

How could they not, right?

After one chaotic rewrite based on the gushing notes given to you by your BFF, you enthusiastically convert that FDX file into a PDF and search for the film and TV professionals who will become the luckiest people alive when they see your script sitting in their inbox. You find a few unsuspecting reps and hit “SEND” without so much as a “Hello, my name is—” before launching into your logline and dictating why they need to move this script to the top of their read pile because in a mere two weeks, it will be sold, and they'll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is the next big thing!” You scream into the universe. Surely, the universe will answer you back …

Two weeks fly by, and you’ve hit refresh over one million times by now … Maybe the responses slipped into the junk folder? Nope. Nothing. With an air of annoyance, you reach back out to the lucky people on your list and ask if they read your script yet—two weeks is MORE than enough time!  

Two more weeks roll by … and you realize that you’re getting that classic “Hollywood Pass,” which is simply a non-reply. “These dicks didn’t even read my script! How could they pass on it if they actually took a minute to read it?!”

The simple fact that you were behaving in a self-privileged manner was likely enough for them to pass on your project. So, you do what ever newbie writer would do in a moment like this … You send it to another unsuspecting producer who is even luckier because the first chumps passed on a goldmine! (Did you think you might have learned from your mistake with the first try? Try again.)

Now, I could continue this visual for a prolonged period because usually that’s the amount of time it takes for a writer to get a hold of their ego and update their obnoxious behavior with some humility. But for the sake of cutting months (maybe years) off our wait, let’s just assume that after many failed attempts, you are given an amazing opportunity—someone responds with feedback.

Finally! A response!

Wait … This feedback isn’t gushing. Instead, it absolutely RIPS apart your script, limb from limb in brutal horror-movie fashion. You're a muddy puddle of shattered hopes and dreams. You go through three of the first four stages of grief, then sit down to re-read your script with this harsh perspective in tow, and you slowly begin to realize an incredibly difficult truth … your script is actual crap, and you just flung that crap all over the industry.

Congratulations, now no one will answer an email from you ever again.


Most writers have experienced some version of this scene. However, with a little bit of time and callouses, you will recover. I promise.

The purpose of any bad experience is to learn from it, right? So, how does one not only determine when a project is ready for circulation but also when YOU ready to step out into the chaos that is the film & TV industry?

Spoiler: the answer is never. So, why wait?

I realize that advice sounds contradictory, but there are three levels of “being ready” to get into the game and take a swing.

Level 1 – Is This Project Ready?

If you rush through a rewrite (like we described before) and start sending a half-baked, typo-riddled, poorly executed, plot-hole-filled script out there, naturally it will not be received well. And MOST industry professionals (including your alumni “connections”) will offer one read as a favor, but if you disappoint … Ouch. That’s a bridge burned due to a lack of patience. Sad.

Please, for the sake of your future as a screenwriter, do NOT send out a script that has not been rewritten multiple times and has not gone through multiple rounds of polish. The notes that you receive on your work should be full of helpful critique that will make your project STRONGER. If you’re only getting notes from your BFF or someone who doesn’t care enough to say anything more than, “This is great!” then the feedback you are receiving is crap.

Now, that doesn’t mean you take your script to someone who simply wants to crush your soul but be sure that the readers/writers who are willing to give you notes are savvy in their craft. Also, be sure they want to help—don’t twist anyone’s arm.

Finally, take a hard and genuine look at your project and ask yourself the hard questions. Would a producer buy this? Does this concept and its execution stand out as unique? Is this script breaking new ground or just a riffing on well-trodden territory? Is this a marketable screenplay or a writing sample? Is the writing stellar or simply average?

Cards on the table, it is very difficult to answer these questions honestly, which is why you should direct them to that reader/writer who is willing to help with a solid set of notes. Take those notes seriously and be willing to blow up your entire script in order to get the best possible version of your story. Once you consistently begin receiving strong and positive feedback from multiple legitimate sources, then your project is ready, and it is time to get it out there.

Level 2 – Is the Writer Ready?

I have frequent conversations with writers who are looking for managers to jumpstart their careers. So, when someone asks me the inevitable “How do I get a rep?” I always followup with a couple questions. If you check off all of these boxes, then you are “ready” to get yourself out there.

Question #1 – How many scripts are in your portfolio?

While one great script is enough for some managers to sign you on the dotted line, most reps will want to see three or more projects that demonstrate your range and abilities as a writer. So, if you have several strong—and completed—projects underneath your belt, then give yourself that checkmark.

Question #2 – What kind of writer are you?

If I get an answer along the lines of, “Oh, well I write everything!” Then that is the wrong answer. Sure, there are writers who have an impressive range of genre, but if you do not know your own strengths/weaknesses as a storyteller, then you are going to have a very difficult time selling your abilities to a producer. You should know your style, your voice, your genre-of-choice and even your overall “brand” as a writer. Hollywood loves loglines, so if you were to give one to yourself … What would it be?

Know thyself. And if you do, give yourself that checkmark.

Question #3 – What kinds of writing communities are you plugged into?

If the answer is zero, then I finish the conversation with a long list of organizations and resources the writer needs to comb through in order to meet that “ready” criteria. Learning the film and TV industry requires constant interaction and immersion in said environment. If a screenwriter attempts some kind of lone-wolf routine, they will get as far as their lack of a “hello.” Don’t be the lone wolf.

Film and TV is a social industry. Be social and get that checkmark.

If you end up with three out of three on this list of questions, then you are ready to go and play the game, my friend. Just keep in mind that when you attempt to sell your first TV or film project, you are also selling yourself as a writer.

You are the product. So, make sure you a representing yourself in the best way possible.

Level 3 – Realize That You Will Never be Ready.

The final phase is recognizing you have a massive, inconceivably large, unfathomable heights and depths, tons of crates and carriers amounts of knowledge that you do NOT know about the entertainment industry ... yet.

Film and TV is always changing and evolving, so must you as a creator in the visual arts.

If you're fearful to take the leap, remember, so were all those now famous screenwriters when they first started out. Which is why waiting for permission, or some sort of validation, is a complete waste of time.

Ready. Set. Go.

*Feature image by Cristina Conti (Adobe)

Ruth Sabin has a secret identity: children’s book author by day and by night... a screenwriter who loves a gritty adventure. Makes for an eclectic portfolio and a fun career of creative consulting.
More posts by Ruth Sabin.
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