Do You Give Good Word?

Some exciting happenings have been rumored over at Casa Single Screenwriter, which might just explain the recent lack of blog action. A juicy, official spilling of the certified non-organic beans will be forthcoming ASAP, but for now you'll have to be contented with the fact that I'm back to dish some more of my signature B.S. words of wisdom for those crazy enough to dive into the screenwriting pool.

I've recently been mobbed harassed asked by a number of newbies how they can realistically evaluate the quality of their work. It seems that IT SUCKS isn't enough for the average writer. They want to know WHY it sucks and HOW they can improve it. But, more importantly, their fragile self esteem demands to know how their level of suckage ranks against their peers. "Does mine suck worse than most? Does the suck factor blend in with the masses, or, please God, might it suck just a little bit less than the average unproduced script? Please...?"

Yes, I love it when you beg.

But damn! What is with this writer need for external approval? It's not like we're actors or anything. Tell your self-esteem to grow some balls.

Okay, that was harsh. I truly do get it. Screenwriting is one of those careers where you work in isolation, sometimes for years, without having any clue as to how close you are to some sort of success. A few clear sign posts indicating you're headed in the right direction and not hopelessly lost along the path would cut way down on alcoholism, drug abuse and various perversions prevalent among writers be nice.

But the simple fact is, no matter how good you get, there will always be someone out there who hates your work. Hell, in the early days, everyone who didn't have the pleasure of shoving you out of their womb will think you suck. And until you're turning down free meals from A list actors on a regular basis, getting an accurate read on where exactly you are on the suckage scale will seem almost impossible.

So how do you measure your junk against the next guy's when there is no communal screenwriting urinal? Sure, you check out the various packages whipped out by your many writer friends, and you read produced scripts faster than you go through toilet paper, but how exactly you get from point A to point B is worse than figuring out one of those asinine math questions we all failed in high school.

If Joey's scriptwriting career starts at X and he writes at a rate of 1.7 scripts a year, how long will it take him to reach point S (success) if you assume it takes him 2.3 years to reach Y (sucks less) and another 3.2 years to reach Z (mediocre) with Q (talent and ability to learn) increasing his travel speed by 10 to the power of W (who the fuck knows)?

Are you reaching for that bottle of the good stuff you have stashed behind your porn collection yet? Oh, and BTW, no one tells you how to figure out what X, Y and Z are.

Okay, so instead of giving my routine YOU SUCK answer to newbies wanting to figure out how their manhood script compares to all the other packages in the screenwriting pool (many are padded, BTW), I've decided to take pity on the masses and give you those sign posts you crave. The easiest way to do this is to compare the stages of your screenwriting career with a much simpler concept to understand - love. This may shock you, seeing as I often compare writing to sex. But it is the logical comparison. Sex is to love as a script is to a career. God, I'm such a romantic.

1) The Base Starting Point

Remember your first kiss? I don't mean your first real kiss. I mean that first crush sloppy embarrassment that happened back when you were a kid ( or maybe 30 if you're a real loser). You still remember it fondly, even though it was a total and absolute disaster from any adult standpoint. Going through those adult motions you had no hope of understanding, added to the magic, whether it happened on the swing set, up in a tree, or on a dare while a bunch of kids pinned down the poor victim - but that's another story. The point is, violence aside, it was perfect for where you were. It wasn't real from any rational standpoint, but it sure as hell felt real to you at the time.

That's where your first script is. A stolen kiss at recess or a quick game of doctor behind the bushes that was ended prematurely by an old lady with an impressive crop of facial hair when she dragged you away by your ear, and shamed you enough so that you absolutely wouldn't try it again until well into your college years.

The point is, sure you could spend years trying to turn that first love into something real and meaningful, but why bother? You don't have the maturity to do it justice and won't for a long time. Pining over it won't make it happen any faster. And besides, think of all the hot sex amazing scripts you'd miss out on if you keep beating a dead horse. Let the dead horse stay magical already.

You've seen this type of scriptwriter out there. In fact, you might be one of them. You know, the type with a decade of experience and only one script to show for it - and I don't mean one produced script - I mean one completed script. And they play with it over and over and over. Don't they know that causes blindness?!

2) Level 1 Screenwriter AKA You Suck But You Have No Idea How Bad

Now think about your first REAL love. You were sure this was the one. You did things and tried things you never even dreamed possible, and you had no clue what you were doing, but there was no way in hell you were ever going to stop because it felt too damn good and no one had ever reached this level before and everything is perfect and you are king of the world 'cause YOU ARE IN LOVE!!

If this is how you feel about your script, you're a level one screenwriter. Think about how truly stupid and sloppy you were back then, and how you were blind to the red flags of an unhealthy situation. If you can't see how far you've come since those pitiful baby steps, then you've either never been in love, or my deepest sympathies go out to your current partner.

3) Level 2 Screenwriter AKA You Suck But You Look Pretty

After the tragic first love heartbreak, we all pick up the pieces and move on. A little wiser, a little disillusioned. We either toss in the towel altogether or man up and try again. The second time around (and sometimes the third and the forth or the tenth and the twentieth) we make all the same mistakes, but this time, we know damn well we're making them. We learn tricks to disguise them, and come across on first glace as much more together than we actually are... but at the end of the day, we can't hold it together for the long haul.

Same goes for scripts. Many one hit wonders emerge from this group.

4) Level 3 Screenwriter AKA You Suck Less But You Don't Care

Heartbreak leads to frustration, and frustration leads to bad behavior. At this point, most people get kind of ugly. You talk a good game. You look like the whole package, but there ain't no soul behind it. You have a string of bad relationships where you're just going through the motions. You can't get hurt if you don't try, right? Sound in theory, but you also never address the underlying fundamental issues that are holding you back from moving forward. You give good word, but nobody wants to show you off as their plus one.

The majority of bad comedies are found in this group.

Many people get stuck here. But with some soul searching, some balls, and perhaps years of therapy, you move on to -

5) Level 4 Screenwriter AKA You Suck But At Least You're Honest About It

At this stage, people KNOW they have something to offer. They don't rush in, but they also don't hold back. They know they suck but are willing to put the time and effort into making something work. At this stage, you're likely to start seeing some real success - the kind that is the foundation for something long lasting.

But, with most things in life, there's still plenty of room to screw it up.

6) Level 5 Screenwriter AKA The Suck Master

It takes years to reach this level, if not a lifetime. You're in it for the long haul and you know damn well you suck. Instead of depressing you, you've transformed your suckage into the thing that gets you out of bed every morning. You're resigned to the fact that you will die sucking, but each day, you try to suck a little less, and it pays off. You have mad skills, the type that people would pay big money for, and you're not even recognizable as that drooling kisser from yester-year. But that isn't enough for you. You know that if you ever start toying with the idea that you may not suck, it's time to retire 'cause no one sucks quite like you, and that's what makes you great.

Okay, so this analogy was way too long, and didn't clarify much of anything. Especially considering most people in love think they're great at it. So forget I posted, kay?

I'll stick to sex. Admit you suck. Embrace it. And one day you too will have your name scribbled on bathroom stall walls be known around town as the one to call when they want good word.

Accurate image by it's life