Take an honest look at how well you know your story

The art and craft of owning your story.


By Daniel Dercksen

Reading and evaluating many screenplays with great potential, it is interesting to find how few writers actually know what they are writing about and are strangers to their story.

Sure, you have written a screenplay. But what then?

Is it destined to become an entry at endless competitions, where most writers seek approval of how brilliant they are;  or receive a nod of approval from friends and family members, to boast what a great writer you are?

Sadly, most screenplays (or novels), remain imprisoned on paper for eternity until it reaches its audience through the film it is meant to be (or television); potential bestsellers never reach bookshelves, and budding plays are never performed on stage in front of a live audience.

Without an audience or readers the passion and desire to write a story is futile.

The reason for this is simple: most writers don’t know their story, or they think they do, until potential producers, publishers and investors reject it.

Or readers at agencies deliver a devastating blow with a reader’s report that indicates how little the writers knows about what or who they are writing about.

This rejection is not because the story is poorly written, but simply because the writer has no idea what is needed to take a story from page to screen, bestseller or the stage.

TOP SHEET 2That is why the Top Sheet rules king when it comes to finding out whether or not you know your story.

It is equally shocking to find that most writers, when confronted by the prospect of writing a successful Top Sheet, avoid it like the plague, because they have to take an honest look at how well they know what they thought they knew.

How can you expect anyone to invest in your story emotionally or financially if you, yourself, are a stranger to what you spent years writing?

The Top Sheet is a realistic wake-up call and true test of how well you know your story and characters, and to ensure that it embraces all the elements needed to secure a deal.

Let’s take a closer look at what a Top Sheet reveals:

  • Is your title alluring or dull and boring?
  • Have you taken ownership of your story?
  • Is the medium you are writing for the ideal one for the story you are writing?
  • Are you clear about your genre? Is genre suited to whom you are writing for?
  • Is it clear what the thematic purpose of your story is? Does the story promise a rich and rewarding inner life?
  • Do you have a premise that is unique and captivating? Does it embrace the universal human condition?
  • Does your concept provoke the imagination? Does it promise an intriguing story filled with vibrant characters, action and conflict?
  • Are you as a writer truly connected to your story? Will you be the right person to join the production team as writer and possibly advisor?
  • Can you summarise what your story is about without telling the whole story? Are you telling us what happens instead of what the story is about?
  • Do you know who the people in your story are?
  • Are the characters interesting and dynamic?
  • Will you as a writer be a welcome addition to the film, publishing or staging processes and development?
  • Will foreign producers and investors be interested in your story?
  • Is this a story that filmmakers, publishers and theatre makers will be willing to invest years of their life in?
  • Can producers, publishers and those who want to read the screenplay get hold of you?
  • What the process of development on your project is?
  • Are there any well-known directors or people connected to your project?

The Top Sheet is essential in getting your story out into the world, and turn words into action.

Without a great Top Sheet you will never know whether or not you know your story.

Writing A Top Sheet is Dealt with in The Write Foundation

Copyright © 1999 – 2021  The Writing Studio