How Screenwriting Is Like Homemade Wine and Why Most Writers Think Their Script is Better Than It Is

How great is your script…. really?

As far as I can tell, 95% of the screenwriters I speak with think their content is superior to most of the other scripts they’ve read and even the movies they’ve seen recently. I can assure you, comparing your script to big Hollywood movies and other screenplays is a colossal mistake in terms of trying to figure out what your script’s chances are in Hollywood.

On the other hand, the other 5% of screenwriters are crystal clear they don’t know whether it’s great or it stinks, and they realize they’re just learning the craft of screenwriting.  Yet a good percentage of them is also frequently shocked by how much development and rewriting their baby, their screenplay still needs.

As I see it, if you look at the situation objectively, it makes total sense why new screenwriters would think their script is better than it really is.

Let me explain.

When you know a great deal about a topic or have a lot of skill at something, at that point, you have expanded your insights and sensibilities about it. You have an eye for it and even an intuitive ability to do it.  Doing that thing may have even become second nature for you. This could be true about playing a sport like basketball or even growing roses.

If you know a lot about a topic, you are far more likely than a dilettante to see that what you are doing is not as good as it could be or needs to be.

To elaborate, imagine this. Let’s say you’re a wine epicurean, and you make your own wine. Chances are, because you’ve developed a taste for fine wine, your assessment would most likely be that your homemade wine taste like dirt.  Why?  Because you know fine wine well. Your taste buds are much more attuned to nuances.  You have more delineated expectations about what makes a wine great… and therefore you know that “this is not it!”

Be that as it may, in the event you are not a wine connoisseur and you make your own wine, when YOU taste your homemade wine, you are much more likely to think “Wow, this tastes pretty good for homemade wine!

You will likely be pleased with yourself for accomplishing this task of making drinkable, fermented wine.  You might even assess your wine as “amazing” for your first try.

Your wine, you see, might be like my cooking!  Sometimes I’m a little bit impressed with my culinary creations. But the question is what you see when you look at the professionals.

Although I am impressed with some of my own cooking, when I watch the TV show “CHOPPED,” I am reminded that by comparison to a cooking professional, I am clueless!  A writer who watches any given movie and thinks, “That’s nothing. My script is way better than that,” may very well simply not have enough knowledge and understanding to even be able to critique it — truly bad movies notwithstanding — but I hear newbies say this about all kinds of movies.

I hope you see what I’m trying to get at.  In case it’s not yet crystal clear, let me be completely direct… and bold and highlight and put this idea in quotes (lol):

Aspiring screenwriters who know the least about the elements of screenwriting — character, plot, dialogue, theme, structure — are most often the ones who think their screenplays are better than any movie made in the past 25 years.

In large part, that’s because they do not have the same level of distinctions as someone who is highly-trained and can articulate what makes a screenplay and the underlying story work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying this to be mean — and chances are I am NOT talking to you because you are not like that.

As a matter of fact, since you are still reading this and paying attention, I can almost guarantee that you’re not the type of person I’m talking about.  How do I know that?

Because writers like that do not listen to what anyone else says so they would have stopped reading before they even got to the big bold quote above!  They are the ones who need the most help and are least likely to take advice when they get it.

If they do things incorrectly, they usually insist they’re trying to bring a “fresh voice” or a “new way” to do the thing.

Now let’s go back to why I wrote this article and what I am trying to communicate to you, since you are probably not like the example I gave.

First, this article began as an action tip in one of my newsletters.  I had just dealt with a client that week who was almost the exact way I described — nice person… but, yes, like that.  I wrote the action tip, then I decided to expand on it, and here we are.

What’s the bottom line? What’s my point of value for you?

It’s to ask you this simple question:  How great is your script … really?

That’s it!

In light of what I’ve said, just ask yourself, how much do you really know about the craft of screenwriting, how long have you been doing it?

Do you really understand what plot, theme, and character arc are? Do you know what a premise is? The Inciting Incident, foreshadowing, central question, and climax? Turning point, character development, mirroring, repetition, and reactions are?  Really?

If you don’t know all those terms…

That just means those are things to learn about your craft, and that is absolutely okay. It’s great that you know enough to see that have things to learn (as opposed to thinking you already know everything).

If you do know all those terms well enough that you could explain them and give examples…

Then there’s the whole process of studying your craft and learning to apply them effectively: It would be like the difference of being able to name what a karate move is that you see someone do and being able to do that move well consistently yourself.

My whole intention in this article is to put things in perspective about how far along on your screenwriting development journey you might or might not be.

As long as you realize there is a LOT to learn about and a LOT to learn to apply, that is really the point of this article.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a beginner with a lot to learn. You have much more potential in your writing when you realize you’re a beginner than if you think you are an advanced writer who bypassed the learning curve and you think you know better than any professional.

I can help you if you have a beginner’s mind — whether you are truly a beginner, intermediate or advanced writer — but I can’t help  a writer who thinks their “homemade wine is absolutely off the charts and is the best they ever had.”   🙂

If you want to see where your script is in it’s development, contact me at Smart Girls Productions for a professional critique or to actually market your screenplay with an Email Query Blast or a printed Query Letter Mailing.  Or… if you’re ready to get serious now and feel like you’re ready to take some action, call me at 818/907-6511 or email me at to set up a time to talk and get you started!

Let’s do it!    


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