8 Skills Every Screenwriter Should Possess

Sep 27, 2023

Being a screenwriter is no small feat. While it can be fun and interesting, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Just like any other profession, you need more than the core storytelling skills to succeed in the world of screenwriting. Below are eight essential qualities that will aid you as you embark on your screenwriting journey.

 

1. Passion

Screenwriting is not a path to choose solely to pay the bills. It requires a deep passion for cinema and storytelling. Successful screenwriters often start as avid movie enthusiasts, pondering how their favorite films were crafted. They have a genuine passion for learning and improving their writing skills daily. Their dedication to their craft drives them to do justice to their stories. The greater your passion for the art form, the more resilient you are to withstand the gruesome days when they come calling.

 

2. Persistence 

Every screenwriter encounters moments of doubt and uncertainty. Whether it’s writer’s block, discouragement from others, or the dreaded imposter syndrome, persistence is your ally. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your script is flawed; it might just mean the right eyes haven’t seen it yet. 

Take Derek Kolstad, the writer of John Wick, for example. He started writing as a teenager and moved to Los Angeles at 24 to pursue a career in screenwriting but found very little success at first. He kept working towards it till he sold his first script – John Wick (2014). His persistence paid off, and it can be for you, too.

 

John Wick shows off his skills

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (2019) | Summit Entertainment

 

3. Flexibility

Flexibility is an important skill for a screenwriter. Projects can encounter various issues, and it’s your responsibility to find solutions. You may need to adjust or remove scenes due to budget constraints or at the request of producers. The key is to determine what serves the story best and adapt accordingly.

 

4. Thick Skin

Receiving feedback and criticism is a vital part of improving your script. However, writers often grow attached to their work, making them sensitive to criticism. Developing a thick skin is essential. Not all feedback will be constructive, but learning to handle both positive and negative comments gracefully is a valuable skill.

 

5. Research

Research is a fundamental aspect of screenwriting. Delve into genres, genre tropes, script structures, and your subject matter. Reading existing scripts, especially those of renowned screenwriters, can provide valuable insights. Research ensures your work meets standards and captures the essence of reality.

Joining valuable communities where screenplays by other writers are discussed, like Albantsho’s ScriptLive, can be very helpful in your journey to becoming an expert screenwriter.

 

Temi Otedola shows off her skills in Citation

Temi Otedola in “Citation” (2020) | Netflix

 

6. Keep writing 

Continuous writing is essential for growth as a writer. It provides valuable experience and enhances your skills. Even during periods of writer’s block, taking a break and returning to your project later can help you overcome obstacles. 

 

7. Consistency

Consistency is key in the world of screenwriting. As you strike up the habit of writing regularly, strive to be a screenwriter who a producer or movie studio can count on to deliver on a project within an agreed timeframe. The last thing you want is to get a reputation for being inconsistent in show business. 

 

8. Networking

While many writers may be introverts, successful screenwriters must break out of their shells. Building a network is essential in the entertainment industry. Look for connections in the field, attend film festivals, join workshops, and participate in competitions. These avenues allow you to meet people who can help advance your career.

 

Which of these skills speaks to your natural strengths and which one(s) would you have to start learning? Tell us in the comments below.

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