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How do I know when my screenplay is finished?

I got this question recently:

“I have been writing a fantasy screenplay and have been rewriting it for the last 9 months. How do I know when it’s ready to be pitched and sent out to the industry?”

There’s an old Hollywood saying that goes something like this: “A screenplay is never finished, it’s abandoned.” I think there is some real truth to this. Even the screenplays that have made it into production as I watch the finished films I often second guess choices I made and come up with ideas to make it better. So at some point you have to let go and push your creation out into the world and see if it flies or not.

In general as I’ve written more and more I’ve gained a feel for where a screenplay needs to be before I send it out. I have a pretty good system in place to push my first drafts through, which will help me in the rewriting process. You should build a similar system.

I have a few trusted writer/producer/actor/agent/manager friends who I send my material to and get their feedback. In addition, as I develop material I usually bring them into my writers group. (If you live in the Los Angeles area we’re always looking for great writers to join us so check out the group’s webpage at: http://www.deadlinejunkies.com/). In the group actors read the material and the other writers give me notes, sometimes harsh, so I can go back and do more revisions. So by the time I feel like my material is ready to go I’ve heard actors read the lines and I’ve gotten quiet a bit of feedback from industry professionals, and usually made several major revisions.

The point is you can get to close to your own material so you need to get feedback from outsiders who are industry professionals. If you don’t have this sort of network yet you might spending a few dollars and hiring a script consultant.

I recommend Script Quack which is run by several of the writers in my group. They give a discount to my readers so you just enter the discount code “sellingyourscreenplay” (without the quotes) on the discount page which can be found here: http://www.scriptquack.com/discountpage.html.