I think every screenwriter (or aspiring screenwriter) will at some point have read this advice: “read the trades and see what type of scripts are selling. Then write one of those!”
Whenever I read that, I think: is the writer giving that advice deliberately trying to screw over the competition? I mean seriously, is there WORSE advice for a screenwriter? I think not.
Here’s the deal: if high concept science fiction scripts are selling today, by the time you’ve written yours, guaranteed that (space) ship will have flown, and the powers that be will be hot for another genre. That’s the way it goes.
Worse than that, anyone who reads your script will see that you are a nervous, insecure hack who will blindly jump on any bandwagon to get a sale.
And even worse, you’ll never do your best work.
That one’s the worst of all.
You want to write a script that sells? A script that stands out? That actually gets made and becomes a good movie?
Here’s what you have to do: you have to write what is in your heart.
You have to write the thing you’d write if no one was ever going to read it, let alone pay for it.
You have to write the truth as you know it and as no one else could ever say it. You have to write the thing that keeps you up at night, the thing that obsesses you, the thing that you couldn’t not write. You have to write what you love – truly love – not what you think is clever, not what you think will win you admirers, not what you think will impress. You have to write your soul.
I guarantee when you do that, when you tap into what is true and pure and honest, you will write something that gets attention, that makes people stop, that will make them passionate enough to help you get the movie made.
You may be a skilled screenwriting craftsman, but unless you write from your heart, you’ll never write anything great. But when you write from your flawed, honest, battered, unique heart, that is when you will strike gold. Guaranteed.