Screenwriting Wisdom (Vol. 3): Your Screenwriting Career

Every once in a while, I will talk to a writer who will share their frustrations that they did not receive what they would consider to be an objective opinion on their screenplay or TV pilot when receiving notes from colleagues, reps, or when paying for coverage. But the truth is that… there is no such thing. This is a business of opinions (even if there are those opinions that I, along with others, don’t agree with). Everyone’s opinion is uniquely theirs, whether or not said opinions align with the one you’ve got. Every screenplay that ever won a huge screenwriting competition failed to move up elsewhere. For every company that purchased a particular screenplay, there are dozens of other producers and production companies that chose to pass on it. Most every writer who ever got signed by a rep got rejected elsewhere. That doesn’t make those production companies, studios or reps wrong. It just makes it… their opinion. And knowing just that, I’ve always been in the business of collecting opinions from people I high respect. 

With that in mind, you might have seen my Screenwriting Wisdom blog posts (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 previously published) that focused entirely on the craft, but with the next two installments I am turning my attention to my sweet spot: the career side.  As a reminder, I approached a few working writer clients with the following question:  

What are a few simple (or not so simple) things that every new writer should know or keep in mind going into this (this being screenwriting)?

Here is what they shared: 

Iturri Sosa, a graduate of WB’s TV Writers Workshop whose TV credits include NarcosThe Deuce and Mo, had this sound advice to share: 

“Don’t try to be a jack of all trades because you might wake up one day and realize you are a master of none. If you love watching a particular genre – like mystery – work at being really good at that. Read every script you can get your hands on in that genre.”

The brand conversation seems to be ever-present. Should you stick to one genre, or try your hand in different genre spaces? While at the start of your writing journey you may want to explore writing in various genres to discover where you are most successful, as you build your body of work you want to hone in on a particular brand or genre and become an expert in that space. Not forever, but certainly for the start of your career. Additionally, it’s important to get to know other works in that genre, be they screenplays, movies, podcasts, books or TV shows, so that you can become a subject matter expert in the genre you’ve built your body of work in. Still not sure? Check out what my friends in representation had to say about picking your lane


Crosby Selander broke into the industry when his screenplay, Bring me Back, sold for 7-figures in a bidding war in 2020. Since then, he’s been spearheading a pilot for Village Roadshow. Crosby shared this with me when I posed the above question to him: 

“The process of being a writer is a lifelong one. Breaking in is just the first step. It’s like arriving at base camp on Everest. Nobody dreams of just making it to base camp. You’ve still got your mountain to climb. Be prepared for the whole of the experience – not just the arrival.”

Agreed! Whether your first break is securing representation, a big competition win, a spot in one of the prestigious network or studio writing programs, an open writing assignment or a seat in a writer’s room, that will be where the hard work begins, so come prepared. Prior to breaking in, study structure, explore your voice and develop and refine your own process so that you can bring those to the table when opportunity knocks, while also exploring various methods for breaking story, from beats to outlining and beyond, as those may be required from you, so you want to be confident in your ability to execute. 

Hussain Pirani
, Story Editor on FBI International and graduate of NBC’s Writer’s on the Verge shared this with me:

“Stack your rejections like it’s a point of pride. I think reframing how you look at a “no” isn’t just a survival tactic, it’s the key to longevity in this industry.”

Hussain is absolutely right. There is no getting your work out there without opening yourself up to rejection (painful though that might be but, again… opinions!) and it’s going to take a lot of No’s to get to that one, all-important difference-making Yes! Remember: Your work does you no good sitting on the shelf, so once you’ve gotten enough notes on it to cohesively vet the work, be sure to decide on your best strategic approach for exposure, getting your newly completed material out there (during non-strike time if you’re going beyond representation, of course) and start collecting those rejections in order to find those reps, producers and executives that will fall in love with your work and your voice. 


Amadou Diallo, currently an Executive Story Editor on the upcoming Sammy David Junior bio-series for Hulu, who previously wrote on Billions (Showtime) and Parish (AMC), said this: 

“You’re not going to get hired or repped based solely on your writing. Yes, great samples open doors, but walking through those doors means convincing people that you are someone they want to work with. Being kind, curious, and humble goes a long way.”

To learn more about those soft skills that Amadou is talking about, check out his previous guest blog post!


Finally, my work wife and producing partner Greta Heinemann, a graduate of CBS’s TV Writers Mentoring Program, whose TV credits include Good Girls and NCIS New Orleans as well as mini-rooms for Netflix and Apple+, whose feature pitch Dakar sold to Amblin in a competitive situation and who currently has shows in development at Netflix and FX and a movie in development at Amazon, said:

“It’s a long road with many small steps. I think young writers often expect a big break. I.e.: You win a competition, your script is read. It sells, tomorrow Spielberg is directing it and twelve months later you’re sitting next to him at the Oscars. While we’ve been fed these stories by Hollywood they’re not the norm and often not true. A writer’s career consists of many small steps in the same direction. A script might sell in a flashy bidding war, but never get made. A staff job might land you on a splashy show and you won’t get hired after. It’s a long journey and those who do not quit and always proceed with awareness as to where they’d like to head usually advance.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Breaking into and building a career in screenwriting is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, you have to celebrate every small step, look to build on every opportunity. It takes time and effort, but writers from every walk of life, all with varied lived experience, come to see their screenwriting dreams realized. So find the advice, nugget, opinion or pearl of wisdom that motivates you, grab onto it, and commit to working both consistent and smart. That’s how you’ll see your screenwriting career come to life.