The Truth About Contests

Where has the Single Screenwriter been hiding?! How could she be so cruel as to leave her adoring fans with not even a taste of her scrumptious words for over a month?! Was she run over by a bus and even now lay dying a long and painful death in a hospital bed? Or worse, did she drop you like a bad disease and hang up her single shingle at the first set of six-pack abs that walked her way?

You poor things. How you must have suffered without me. No, I did not have a brush with death (although at times it sure felt like it and I would have greeted the Grim Reaper with open arms), nor did I two-time you with some honey coated stud muffin. I had a few pesky little things called deadlines breathing down my neck, and I had to occasionally eat and sleep, and life crap demanded attention. All unfortunately took priority over sating you, or the Single Screenwriter would have had to adopt a new moniker - something like The Starving Homeless Screenwriter Turning Tricks To Pay For Brads - which frankly, doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely. And then there was the burnout. You know, the point where you are actually begging the Grim Reaper to skip the foreplay and get right to business. It was ugly.

Never fear, I am back with more useless much needed advice for the struggling screenwriter, nicely sugar coated and wrapped in a bow as only I can do.

Today's timely topic: Screenwriting Contests.

I know you entered them. It's that time of year. You may have proclaimed this fact to the world, or it may be your dirty little secret. Regardless, you have tossed your hat into the ring and are now sitting back waiting for the big break you know that contest win will surely deliver to your door.


I don't care if you entered the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship or Joe Blow's Screenwriting contest run out of van parked in a dark alley. Neither one will bring you the fame and glory and endless supply of sex writing work you are convinced is your destiny.

Sure, you may win. You may even bask in some industry attention for a while. But inevitably one pesky question will be asked: What else have you got?

If you have nothing, then why the hell are you wasting time reading this instead of writing something even better than your contest submission? A win only opens the door a crack. You need more to get your foot firmly in there where you can take down the bouncers without falling flat on your ass.

But writers often tell me that they feel trapped in some sort of writing limbo until they see their contest results. Get over it. Fast. You want a career in this business, you're always going to be waiting for a call, trying to set up a meeting, waiting for the opportunity to find out if what's in that guy's pants is real... Ummm, in other words, you'll always be in limbo. But it will be different then, right? You'll have had industry validation.

Don't be stupid. Because here's a hard fact - you may not win, or even place (or ever hear from the contest directors again in the case of Joe Blow).

Don't get me wrong. Validation is nice. More than nice actually. But if that's your motivation, you're in the wrong biz. You've got to be doing this because your story needs to be told, because you're the only one who can tell it, and because you're damn good. Not because you get a nice pat on the head from a contest win.

If this is what you're born to do, then do it. Hard. HARDER. Oh yeah, right there, baby. Do it regardless of contest placement and various other strokes. Do it because you can't do anything else.

I'm not dissing contests. The better ones offer legitimate hands firmly planted on your ass as they hoist you up over the Hollywood wall. But they are a tool to get in, not the holy grail. They may start your career, but you have to be able to deliver the goods. Don't be caught with your pants down and no follow-through.

And if you crash and burn in the results, then it sucks to be you fuck 'em. If you're going to let that stop you, or even slow you down, (24 hours of heavy drinking is fine, but not a second more) then you're putting way too much stock into the results when you really should be investing in your craft.

There. You've got your Single Screenwriter fix. Go write already!

cool image by Mugley