Trainee Writer

Adventures of a screenwriter in training…

Shades Of Grey

Though the name might suggest I plan more discussion on characterisation, I actually want to discuss another grey area in screenwriting. The near-sale.

Just as there are three acts to a screenplay, there are three ‘acts’ to the career of a screen writer. Act one, as always, is the beginning.

In act one, our hero – you – has decided that s/he wants to write a screenplay. To do this, they have certain things they must accomplish before setting out on their journey towards success. They must learn the craft, the format and the art of storytelling. They must find their story and work out how they’ll tell it, planning meticulously as they do so.

In ‘act 3’ we find our conclusion as the hero finally makes a sale, finally sees some money in their pocket, their name in lights and earns the title of ‘professional screenwriter.’

My focus today is on the second ‘act’ of the screenwriter’s story, which I call the ‘grey area.’ As with a screenplay, act two is often the most torturous, emotional rollercoaster on the writer’s journey. It has highs and lows, twists and turns, brings happiness and heartbreak. The grey area is the longest part of our story, but it’s also the one with the greatest learning experience along the way.

The grey area covers that wonderful time between our initial education and our first sale, a time when we’re regularly completing scripts and trying to market them. How long does this period last, you ask? As long as a piece of string. Some get lucky, selling their first script within weeks. Others, myself included, wait years within touching distance of that first sale.

For years we plug away, knowing that what we produce is good enough. But still the producers don’t call, the agents don’t respond, the futures looks bleaker. It looks bleaker, but it’s an illusion. The future doesn’t ever get bleaker; we’re always learning something new to take us forward and make our futures brighter.

So why write this particular post? Hope, I guess. I wanted an excuse to renew my own, but also to give other screenwriters in the same position, who feel stranded in the ‘grey area’ a little hope of their own. To reach out and to tell you – all of you – that you’re not alone. That your frustrations are understood by your peers.

More importantly, I wanted you to know that, if you keep plugging away, that first sale will come. It will. That much I promise you. And should I ever sound like I’m losing that hope when I post here, I want you, all of you who read this, to jump on me and remind me of what I said.


September 20, 2011 - Posted by | lessons, screenwriting, specs, Theory, writing | , , , , , , ,


  1. If writing screen plays is the goal, then write screen plays. If however, the goal is to be involved in the film industry, then learn as much as possible about each cog that makes the big wheel turn. Oh, and don’t lose hope.

    Comment by Jane Frost | September 21, 2011 | Reply

    • I thoroughly agree Jane, and I hope to be able to go into more thorough detail about the importance (especially for the writer) of learning everybody’s jobs – the cogs and gears, nuts and bolts – in the near future. Some people are unaware that when a producer is reading a script, they aren’t just looking for a great story. Sure, that’s a large part of it, but in the back f their minds, they’re thinking of the technical aspects of producing the script also. While that underwater fight scene on Mars may seem like a great idea at the time, a stunt coordinator, SFX guru, director, actor, viewer, editor, continuity director, DOP, etc. may have serious problems with it.

      That’s a lesson I need to figure out how to teach, and one that isn’t covered by any screenwriting book or course I’m aware of.

      Comment by Kriss Sprules | September 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the reminders, and the inspiration.

    Comment by houseofparadise | September 22, 2011 | Reply

    • If I’ve inspired, I’ve achieved Thanks for the kind words!

      Comment by Kriss Sprules | September 23, 2011 | Reply

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