Carson Reeves of Scriptshadow has written a fantastic article about the five screenwriter stages — not the stages of writing a script, but the stages that the writer him or herself goes through as they develop their skills and begin a career in film. These stages ring incredibly true for me, and I’m guessing more than a few of you will be able to identify yourself on the spectrum. According to Carson, the stages are the Arrogance Stage, the Fog-of-War Stage, the Stage of Death, the Tiny Star Stage, and the Supernova Stage. Read on for advice about how to move from whatever stage you’re in to the next:
I read so many screenplays and most of the time after I finish, I think, “If this writer doesn’t change, they’re going to be stuck in this stage for the rest of their lives.” Part of being a good writer is recognizing where you’re at and working to fix your weaknesses. If you’re not willing to do this, stop writing now. You need to be a student of this craft, as well as your involvement in it, if you want to succeed.
STAGE 1 – THE ARROGANCE STAGE
WRITER NICKNAME – “THE CONTEST SUPPORTER”
The Arrogance Stage represents one of the most common misconceptions about screenwriting – that it’s easy. People see movies like “Need for Speed” and know, for a fact, that they can write something better. So they write a script, maybe two, and start hawking them around town, waiting for everyone to hail them as industry saviors. These scripts are the worst scripts I read, by far, as there’s a lethal combination of suckitude going on. One, the writer is using the industry’s worst movies as their bar. Therefore, everything is written to be only slightly better than that terrible movie they saw. The irony is that even though these writers THINK they’re better than the writers who wrote Need for Speed, they’re actually a lot worse. So they’re giving us an even suckier version of an already sucky movie.
And second, the writers have never studied storytelling on any level. It’s such an arrogant oversight that it actually infuriates the reader. It would be like wanting to be a surgeon but never studying the inside of the body. These scripts always lack original concepts, build, suspense, rhythm, character development, structure, or anything resembling what makes a story work. To add to the fun, there is so little respect for the craft, that the scripts are often riddled with misspellings, misused words, grammatically incorrect sentences, and more. I call these writers “Contest Supporters” because their scripts typically comprise of 75% of all contest entries and therefore fund the contest for the real writers.
To Break Out: To break out of The Arrogance Stage, you need to come to terms with reality. Your first scripts probably aren’t any good. They might be. But you need to operate under the assumption that they’re not. One of the biggest steps a beginner writer can take is admitting that being a professional screenwriter is hard. Once they do this, there will be a tectonic shift in the way they approach the craft. They will now put some real time and effort into the practice, and this should thrust them into Stage 2 in no time.
Head over to Scriptshadow to read the rest of the screenwriter stages.