There’s a common dream among novice screenwriters. They think if they write a screenplay, it will be ready for sale. While some first-time screenwriters might find success with their first screenplay, it’s far more likely that your first screenplay will be a complete wreck that’s barely suitable for lining the bottom of a bird cage. That’s because screenwriting is a skill and like any skill, you’re going to be pretty bad at it in the beginning.
Think of the first time you tried to ride a bike, juggle, or cook. Even the simplest tasks can trip you up when you’re a complete novice and have no idea what you’re doing. The way anyone can get better at any skill is to keep practicing, falling down, getting back up again, and practicing some more. That means your first screenplay you complete will likely be bad, the second screenplay you write might be a little better, the third screenplay you write should be better still, and the fourth screenplay you write even better yet.
By the time you write your fifth, sixth, or seventh screenplay, you should start having a good idea what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and where you need additional help. By your tenth screenplay, you should be fairly competent and your screenplays ready to be marketed to the studios.
So the biggest mistake you can make as a screenwriter is to write one screenplay and stop, then focus all your attention on getting someone to buy your first screenplay. Unless you’re lucky, your first screenplay will likely be garbage. If you write five to ten completely different screenplays (not variations of the same screenplay) then you should see improvement far beyond your first screenplay.
The trick is to force yourself to write the best screenplay possible, then finish it to the best of your ability and start another one. Keep trying to sell your last screenplays while working on the next one. Take a cold, objective look at each screenplay you’ve written to see if it’s really good or not. The more you write and complete each screenplay, the more comfortable you’ll get with the format. The more comfortable you get with screenwriting, the more you’ll likely master the basics so you’ll be able to focus on the details.
Screenwriting is a skill that anyone can learn but you can only learn any skill by continually practicing it. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Just focus on improving each time you write another screenplay and one day you’ll find that your latest screenplay should be good enough to sell. Then you’ll look back at your earlier screenplays and wonder how you ever thought that was the best you could possibly do.