Updated for 2016

Can't get read? Yes You Can!

1) No Unsolicited Material?

I hear all the time from Bang2writers who say they can’t get read, citing the “no unsolicited material” a lot of prodco and publishing websites carry as the reason. Sometimes these writers will point out some agents will only consider referrals; other times they say independent producers won’t read their work either.

These writers cite their lives as the epitome of *that* old Catch 22 “no work without experience; no experience without any work.”

The answer? GET YOUR WORK SOLICITED! Le duh.

Or, get your project produced without an agent. YES, it can be done! CHECK THIS OUT.

2) It’s Tough Out There

Yes, some agents, producers, publishers and companies will ignore your queries; some may even be rude to you. Some may even request your script, then never get back to you ever again, even if you follow up politely.

This is the nature of writing and submissions; all of this has happened to me and more over the years. It shouldn’t happen but it does.

But you CAN get read and it’s easier than you think. It’s ALL in the strength of your query – I know it sounds glib, but it’s 100% true.

3) You Need Your Own Identity

Now of course the argument is, “Ah, but you have an “identity”, people know about you or Bang2write – AND you have an agent, it’s EASIER for you.”

Yes, having an “identity” and an agent now helps, I’m not going to lie about that. But I’ve been lucky enough to get read from the moment I started sending stuff out, yeeeeears ago, before I had even finished uni and was a completely green writer.

Yes, long before I had an agent or Bang2write even existed.

Long before this blog started.

Long before I even had anything much of worth to offer, including the actual scripts themselves (and they were pretty terrible, LOL). Yes really!!

So I have a stack of rejection letters and printed-out emails dating back to the early noughties, in fact. From agents, producers, production companies, some publishers when I first tried a novel back in 2002 – some of them small, but some of them BIG – some of them had even said “no unsolicited material” on their websites, too. TRUE STORY!

4) It’s Harder Now

And okay, things are a tad harder now than they were *back then* in terms of getting noticed. The internet is great, but it DOES mean the pond is even more crowded. Someone starting out now has to contend with a WEALTH of knowledgeable peers thanks to all those writing MAs, not to mention people doing all the various courses and events like LondonSWF. Plus all these writing blogs and sites means the spec pile at least LOOKS better than it did in terms of format (if nothing else) than ten years ago.

What’s more, all writers at every stage of their careers have websites, so it’s harder to “stand out”. The list of places with open door policies has shrunk; TV is now the Holy Grail of new screenwriters in particular, when only a short while ago it was all about film and even “art”. Loads of things have changed.

So yes, it’s hard, but it’s NOT IMPOSSIBLE. It’s all in your hands!!

5) So Remember:

There are some things that NEVER change:

– Talent will out

– People ARE looking for good stories/scripts

– If you can’t get in through a door, it’s possible get in through a window

6) “I’ve Written A Script … Now What?”

The most Googled phrase bringing writers to this blog, in fact! So, CHECK THIS OUT.

But next, if you *think* you can’t get read?

7) Send Those Queries Anyway!

Ashley Scott Myers has some really good advice on his blog this week: query everyone, anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Nothing. What’s the best that happen? They might read your script. Yeeehah!

Sure, you might end up rejected but a read is a read. Plus the more people who read your work, the more people who know about you… and the more of an “identity” you forge!


8) You Need to Play The Long Game

I think the more you spaghetti you throw at the wall, the more chance it will have of sticking, so always send multiple queries. Just yesterday, I sent out 12 in one morning. I’ve ended up with four requests for reads, plus two “thanks but no thanks”. That’s a return of half; I’m satisfied with that as a good return.

If you get NO replies or bites, even to a large mail-out, as Ashley says: you need to think carefully about how *strong* your a) query is and/or b) whether the script’s story itself is enough to pique others’ interest.

9) On ‘Making It’

Forget about this mythical notion of ‘making it’ … All the industry REALLY is? A bunch of people bandying together to write and make stuff. THAT’S IT. But hey, don’t take just MY word for it here, check these out too:

Build It And They Will Come: Lucy V’s Wager 

How To Make It As A Writer AKA This Shit Ain’t Accidental

Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet 

Self Belief: Can Do Attitude

In Writing, *This* Is The Tip Of The Iceberg

10) It’s About STRATEGY

This is the thing: if you haven’t got a strategy? You got NUTHIN’. You need to decide the following:

  • What you want to do
  • Why you want it
  • How you’re going to get it
  • And by when

Simple,right? Yes … and NO! Here’s some more links to help:

5 Career Strategies For Writers

Surefire Writing Strategies For Those Who Think They Can’t Write

It’s NEVER too late to start writing your masterpiece … here’s why

11) Enter Writing Competitions

Winning or placing highly in a writing competition of some kind is ALWAYS going to help your career and/or get industry pros to notice you. Whether you’re into screenwriting, filmmaking, short stories,publishing or whatever, there is a competition for you!

But there are lots of writing competitions now – literally, hundreds. Whilst winning a BIG contest can be a real step up, just placing in ONE contest is not going to cut the mustard with agents, producers and publishers anymore.

It’s impossible to GUARANTEE a competition win, but there are things that can help your chances. Also, it IS possible to try and ensure you place in LOTS of writing competitions to show industry pros your writing is worth a look. On this basis I recommend determined Bang2writers who want to make a splash in writing contests do the following:

  • Set aside a certain amount of money for competition fees
  • Find out the BIG competitions in your genre/ style/ medium
  • Enter at least FIVE of those contests – and this is the crucial bit – in the same year.

4 Tips For Building Your Screenwriting Competition Submissions Strategy

A Look In The Spec Pile: 5 Winning Screenplays (Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition) 

8 Useful Tips To Win Screenwriting Competitions

12) A Note On Freelance Writing, Blogging & Self Publishing

Good news: there’s JUST as much great advice – free and paid – on self publishing and freelance writing as screenwriting. And these are ALL great avenues!!!

B2W now offers some advice on all three of these routes, but make sure you follow the links to other experts online:

How Do I Become A Freelance Writer?

10 Ways Being A Freelance Writer Prepares Me For A Screenwriting Career

4 Steps To Building A Successful Freelance Writing Career

10 Reasons Your Blog Sucks

How To Do Social Media … And How NOT To! 

6 Ways To Find Success As A Writer With Your Blog

12 Things To Think About Before Rushing Into Self Publishing

3 Ways To Transform From “Self Publisher” to “Indie Author”

Authors & Book Rights – 5 Key Truths by Tom Chalmers of Legend Press 

5 Indie Storytellers Who Are Doing It Right

13) Unsolicited Material Welcome

There are ALWAYS places a writer is welcome to send their work, unsolicited and it’s just a question of tracking them down. Hayley Mackenzie from Script Angel has THIS LIST for starters. There will be others you can find, too.

It’s all very well discounting places like the BBC Writersroom, but can you afford to? I’ve always had excellent feedback from them in the very least and who knows – it could lead somewhere else in the long term. They offer fantastic schemes, too. Why not give it a shot?

Similarly, try and MEET as many producers as you can, especially in “real life”, but online if you live in the middle of nowhere; don’t discount anyone.

You’d be surprised by how many producers *are* looking for scripts … if you just stopped going after those who will obviously be showered with them! Find producers at the same ‘level’ as you … and this has never been easier. Online, try and connect with as many filmMAKERS as possible. IRL, try to go to:

  • Film festivals (local and national)
  • Networking nights in pubs and clubs
  • Short film nights in pubs, cafes, churches etc
  • Stage your own networking nights
  • Ask producers (from Twitter, Facebook etc) out for coffee

14) Do It Yourself!!

If you *just can’t* get excited about sending your work off – then don’t. Make it yourself. YES REALLY!!! There are loads of people out there, just itching to collaborate. If short films aren’t your thing, then think about what is, because GET THIS: you can do whatever you want.

So figure out what you want!! And go do it. But check these out, first:

How To Maximise Your Portfolio

“It’s A Catch 22!” How To Get Produced Without An Agent

5 Ways To Start Writing Collaboratively 

6 Things You Need To Know As A Screenwriter If You Want Your Scripts Made

8 Ways For Screenwriters To Get Collaborating & Making

15) It’s All About The £££$$$

Get this. In the UK, a first timer is JUST NOT going to get given X million quid to go off and make a film. Hell, the likelihood of this happening in America is remote, too.

Look, I’m not saying it’s all impossible, – far from it – but if you want to IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES RADICALLY then you need to learn about budgets and what is possible. So here’s some good stuff to get you started:

3 Reasons To Write A Low Budget Marketable Screenplay

10 Lessons Of Making A Microbudget Movie

How To Write Your Script To A Microbudget And Not Make It Look Microbudget On Screen

6 Things Low Budget Filmmakers Must Do

6 Ways To Make Your Screenplay More Likely To Get Made

16) Ultimately, It’s About Perseverance & Strategy

So don’t feel downhearted or disempowered; no one wants to keep you out. There’s just LOADS of scripts and stuff doing the rounds and it’s difficult to tell who is in for it the long haul. We ALL have to prove our worth somehow.

Instead of targeting all the *usual* routes or people then, sometimes it’s wise to “move sideways” and think of alternative routes in. We hear a lot about “breaking in”, as if this means having a door opened for you by luck or talent, when really this part – the “SELLING YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK” PART – is about sheer BLOODY-MINDEDNESS … Not to mention that all-important STRATEGY.

Oh and here’s What NOT To Do When Meeting Agents, Producers & Directors, Other Writers.

Good Luck!

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3 Responses to Can’t Get Read? Yes You Can! 16 Top Tips On Becoming A Writer

  1. Tim Clague says:

    All good advice. But I feel that writers who are completely fresh to directing should stay away from being a writer / director for their first films. It wouldn't be the best way to learn about either as you can't dissect where you went 'wrong'. I started by directing other people's ideas first.

    • Bruno Catarino says:

      I feel like directing somebody else’s script first is most useful only if you want to be a director and being a writer is a secondary goal.

      If you want to focus on writing and especially, if you want to get your own work as a writer produced, directing your own script makes more sense to me and it’s more effective.

      But I guess it may be as Lucy says: it depends of the person, how they learn and their goals.

      In my only experience as a director (there will be more for sure!), directing a short I wrote was the best screenwriting lesson I had in a long time. Editing the movie myself was also extremely valuable to improve my storytelling skills, so I definitely advise anyone to try it (or at least to sit with the editor as he works).

      I feel like these lessons were useful only because I wrote the script myself. If I was directing somebody else’s script, I probably wouldn’t notice where I went wrong as a writer.

      In the end, any of the two means getting work done, valuable experience and film credits. Much more useful than do nothing at all 😀

  2. Lucy V says:

    Thanks Tim – yes, I've heard that from other directors too, though others have also said the best learning curve has been on their own work! Myself, I don't think I would ever direct – but producing has been a real eye opener (and I had written the first one). So… jury's out for me. Perhaps it depends on the person?? Argh, feels like a cop out… so probably true!

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