How Do You Break Into a Writing Career?

Writing that screenplay.


This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Answer by Alec Berg, writer, producer, director: Silicon Valley, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm:

It’s sounds really stupid, but if you want to be a writer, you need to write. That’s honestly about 99 percent of it. Write and write and write. Classes are fine, but I think the most important aspect of a class is that it forces you to write.

Books are fine if they inspire you to write. But learning to write from a book written by someone who is dissecting screenplays is a little like listening to demolitions experts to learn about architecture: They know how to take things apart, but that doesn’t mean they know how to build them. You can only really learn that by doing. So do it. A lot. Get scripts of your favorite movies or TV shows, read them, learn their format, then write your own.

I wrote a lot of samples. The first ones I wrote were unreadably horrible. That’s the process. I think a lot of the scripts we wrote from Season 1 of Silicon Valley would be tossed out today. We’ve gotten better by doing.

When I was starting out, I called a lot of people and asked them to simply give me 10 minutes of their time to tell me how they got their start. If we hit it off, I asked them to read my stuff.

You have to remember that asking someone to read something is a big imposition. It takes a lot of time and energy to read something critically and give thoughts. You need to be respectful of people’s time.

The simple operating procedure here is: Don’t be an asshole. Honestly. Just don’t.

Also, before you send somebody your material, for God’s sake proofread it. Again, this sounds silly, but it’s the honest truth. If I start reading someone’s sample and it’s full of typos and formatting errors, it makes me feel like he or she didn’t care about his or her material enough to reread it. Why should I care? I just read someone’s sample, and there was a typo in the first line. It definitely colored my impression of everything after.

How did you break into your career? What advice would you give those who want to follow your path? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora: