Q&A: How Do I Even Begin?

This is a letter from a 15-year old who wants to become a screenwriter, but who wonders how – or even if – she should begin pursuing this dream.

I receive letters like this regularly, some from teenagers, some from retirees, some from movie lovers, and some from those who want to be novelists or speakers. But they all worry – or they’ve been told – that their dream is simply too crazy or too impossible to pursue.

So in addition to my answer below, I have a request:

If you have already begun this journey as a storyteller, HOW DID YOU DO IT? How did you find the courage or the time or the tools to begin, what worked best for you, and how did you overcome the voices or critical stares of those who for whatever reason tried to discourage you from this path?

Please leave your reply below. The answers you give will be an inspiration to those starting out, and to all of those struggling to follow their passion in the face of the inner and outer obstacles writers and storytellers face.

Thanks as always –



Hello –

My name is Hailey. I’m only 15 years old, head probably still stuck in the clouds, but it should be falling quite soon. My love for cinematic art and literature has weaned me over into wanting to become a screenwriter. Time is too short to waste a passion these days. On the other hand, I have no idea where to begin or how to sugar coat it; and with it, blogs and articles only add to the puzzlement. So I am seeking for a bit of enlightenment or guidance. How should one begin?


The girl with a head falling, shortly, from the clouds


Hailey –

Thanks for this heartfelt question. I will answer with some suggestions, and some unsolicited advice…

  1. Keep your head in the clouds. It’s where you’ll find the best ideas, and the greatest inspiration. Harsh reality, which is rarely as real as it seems, will only discourage you from your dream.
  1. Start by doing three things: 1) See lots of movies – and see the good ones twice or more; 2) Read at least a script a week, starting with those for movies you love, then expanding to those for movies that failed, for comparison; 3) WRITE! Write every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, and without judgment about what you’re creating.
  1. If you don’t have script ideas of your own yet, or even if you do, try a couple exercises: 1) RETYPE one of those scripts for a movie you love – word for word, exactly as it is – to give you a sense of the style and flow of a good screenplay; 2) Watch several scenes from movies you love and WRITE THEM IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Then compare your versions to those in the original scripts.
  1. Study the craft of screenwriting one book at a time (or one blog or one video or one lecture at a time), and try some of the things that sound worthwhile and fun to you before moving on to a second book or blogger. Begin with Writing Screenplays That Sell if you haven’t already, since it’s designed to guide you through the whole process. But after applying the principles you read there, surf around and try another resource that sounds helpful. Just don’t overwhelm yourself with a lot of information. You’ll honestly learn as much reading scripts and writing daily as you will from any book.
  1. As you go on this adventure, don’t talk about it a lot. Share your dream only with those you are certain will support you in pursuing it. Parents, teachers and even well meaning friends will often, out of love or jealousy, try to impinge on your dream, or discourage you from living your passion – and their arguments will always sound logical and convincing. But this is YOUR dream, so keep it your own, and let go of it only when the writing itself no longer brings you joy.

I hope that helps. I’d love to hear from you in a month or two to find out how it’s going, and to help in whatever way I can.

Stay in Your Essence!