Your writing community is your support system. If and when you come up against tough questions on your journey through the entertainment industry, it’s important to have good people to turn to for answers. Your peers are your assets and your team. They’re the people you champion, who uphold you too. You can learn a lot from other people’s writing, how they approach their projects, and what kinds of questions they’re asking.
Do you wish you could ask someone about real-world navigation of the screenwriting industry? Could you use notes on your latest draft? Is full-fledged writer’s block plaguing your general existence? Be able to ask people you trust and respect mutually. Building a community takes time, and it takes trying different methods of finding your people. You can get started or expand upon your existing circle by trying these:
A writing group typically meets on a set schedule of once a week, once a month, or twice a month. There are different approaches to reading material that your group will agree on beforehand. One method is bringing in a piece of writing each week to read out loud – usually up to ten pages, so everyone gets a turn. Another method is when groups sign up in time slots to have a completed screenplay/pilot/sample/outline read by their peers before the meeting, then discussed for their allotted time during the meeting.
It’s great to be part of a network of perceptive, intelligent people who invest in each other’s stories. The week-to-week procedure/format is adjustable to the needs of the group. There are many pros when considering this approach, like having a weekly writing deadline or hearing your work out loud; however, there can be drawbacks. Reading up to ten pages of a scene independent of an entire script before the script is finished can be counterintuitive to the writing process. Think of it like switching from writing mode – which is creative – to editing/analytical mode in the middle of your process. Sometimes criticism or opinions when your work is still raw and incomplete can make it harder to be creative. It opens the door to second-guessing during the middle of the work. Workshopping outlines or full pieces can work better because readers get a full picture of the story during their assessment of your work.
It’s important to receive feedback with open arms even when you may disagree, but it’s easier to digest when there’s a great deal of trust within the group because notes are focused on making your script the best version of itself (rather than changing your idea altogether). Always show up with respect for each other’s work. And know that when you open up yourself to the process, it’s an opportunity to forge genuine, powerful, and lifelong connections with other writers.
Workshops are formatted in a set number of meetings with a specific intention in mind. Some writing groups run like workshops, but workshops typically will only last for a set cycle rather than an ongoing weekly or monthly writing group.
Workshops are best kept small. You can go over two completed scripts per week, turning in your work the week prior to give peers time to read. Once everyone cycles through the first round, the group takes a break for rewrites and edits. The break is your time to implement the notes that resonate with you and work on your next draft. Each writer meets back after the break with the same script and workshops it again with the group.
This type of writing community works with completed material. Talking through notes in a group where everyone has read the entirety of your script makes for an easy conversation, and you can really dig into the meat of the story. It also motivates participants to write on deadlines. If you don’t yet have a completed script, but you have an outline that you want an accelerated draft deadline on, then you could use this format to your favor.
Online screenwriting communities offer the ability to reach out and build rapport with people all over the world. This is a great place to start if you’re struggling to meet people in person. Look to places like Facebook groups, Discord, Screenwriting Twitter, Screenwriting Reddit, and more. There are so many virtual writing communities where you can build a community with people who don’t have to be physically in the same location as you. Beware of faceless/nameless trolls dolling out advice without experience, but you generally will find a great group ranging from peers to professionals.
These are places you can commiserate, talk shop, ask questions, read each other’s material, and so on. For instance, feature film writer Dan Dollar posted his script to a tracking-board.com forum, which was how he got recognized for THE BOY AND HIS TIGER.
Sometimes a group setting might not be working for you, or you haven’t found a group of people that gels. You can find your people one by one. Find individuals you can talk to about your writing woes or call to work out an idea. These are people who understand what you’re going through and are supportive but honest. Whether these are brunch buddies or someone you email on a bad day, having writing friends is essential to your motivation and mental wherewithal.
When you’ve finally got a finished script, you can email it to two or three writing friends, who may not even know each other, to receive feedback. When the feedback comes in, take stock of which notes overlap and which are outliers. If you’re getting a lot of the same notes from different people, it’ll help you pinpoint the areas of your script that need to be addressed.
You can forge a screenwriting community in so many ways. While it’s great to meet in person, online offers easy access by shaking up physical barriers. Connect with big groups, small groups, or individuals. No way is the wrong way to approach it.