Writer Talks: A Chat With Screenwriter Juliet Clare Warren

Today’s interview is with screenwriter Juliet Clare Warren, who’s working to make her name in the television and film industry. Here she shares her goals, what she really thinks about writer’s block, and why it’s so important to embrace the shitty first draft.

1) What kind of writing are you aiming to do professionally?

I'm working towards writing for television and film.

2) What kind of writing do you do for fun?

Currently, I am working on a grounded sci-fi series for the past several years. It's interesting creating a world that is similar to ours, but with certain fantastical elements highlighted.

3) What's your ideal writing routine?

This will sound strange, but I like letting my mind wander and then slowly loop back around to the script. So, I'll set myself up with several hours to just sit in front of my computer, catch up on the news, go off on a wiki tangent or cruise around various science and politics blogs, all while keeping Final Draft open on my desktop. Suddenly, an idea for a new scene or how to continue a scene I may have been stuck on will begin to form. I'll command + tab over to Final Draft, and continue writing until I finish the scene.

4) How often do you get to partake in your ideal writing routine?

It varies depending on what stage of a project I'm at. Generally, I try to sit down to work on the various story ideas I have running simultaneously about three times a week. However, if there's a festival deadline coming up and I'm making revisions, or I'm co-writing with a partner and we have self-imposed deadlines, it may be more frequent.

5) Do you believe in writer's block?

When I was younger and I couldn't seem to get any words onto the page, I would blame it on writer's block and walk away until I felt better. I've since learned that I need to push myself to write anything. Just something to have on the page. Most of it will probably be bad, but there will always be bits and pieces in there that will be useful for when I'm in a more creative mindset. I tend to believe there's something to salvage in most writing.

6) When was the first time you lost trust in your own work?

I don't remember the first time I lost trust in my own work, but it's certainly something that I struggle with. Every screenplay, every festival submission, every rejection, I question the value and substance of my work. I've found that a good way to keep the negative thoughts at bay is to save the great comments I've received over the years about my writing. Whether that's in email format from a friend who was kind enough to read my script, or feedback from festivals I have gotten into, or even evaluations purchased. I know validation should come from the inside, and that art is subjective, but just reading through those comments and reminding myself that, "I am a badass writer. I can do this" can really get me through the rough spots.

7) Do you ever daydream about doing something else with your life when you're having a bad writing day?

Film and television is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, especially as a screenwriter. There's this catch-22 we were all taught in film school, "You can't get an agent without selling a script, and you can't sell a script without an agent." When I allow myself to think about how frustrating this industry can be, and how, apart from becoming a better writer over the years, I haven't gained the professional traction I would like by now, I think about just giving it up writing entirely. Maybe work at a garden center — something outdoors. Or fashion photography — though that's probably just as difficult. Somehow, though, I'm always drawn back to writing. I can't seem to stop.

8) What are your personal and professional goals?

The long-term goal would be to have a network pick up my grounded sci-fi series. It's been my baby for several years now, and it's finally at a point where I can see this on TV. I can see the scenes playing out, and the characters are more defined than anything I have previously written. My short-term goal is to, at the very least, meet with someone of significance in the industry simply to discuss the series. Knowing that my writing is something that's worth the time to simply discuss means the world.

9) What's one piece of writing advice you got that still reigns true? What writing advice would you give?

The first draft is always shit. Always. Just get it down. Get your pages down, get your acts down. Just plop it all out on paper. Once you have it out there, then you can refine, then it will be easier to go back in and revise. The perfect first draft doesn't exist. You'll never finish anything if you're waiting for the mood to be right, and for everything to be perfect in your head before you touch the keyboard.

Amen to that! If you want to learn more about Juliet, check out her website here and follow her on Instagram here.