InkTip Advice: What to Write Next
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NOTE: The article has been updated since this was originall written to reflect the latest in-demand genres.
The two questions I think I get asked the most by writers are: what genre is hot right now, and should I be writing in that genre?
The answer to the first question changes practically every week, and I can't answer the second one without knowing your strengths as a writer. But what I can tell you right now is what you shouldn't write next.
You absolutely should not write anything that you don't want to write.
Here's why: let's say you specialize in a genre. Remember the first script you wrote in that genre, how fun it was to come up with the outline, how hard it was to finally finish it, and how you eventually went back later and realized it still needed work?
Also, don't use a typewriter if you don't want to.
Well, you're going to constantly improve as a writer, and you're going to constantly look back at old scripts and think they need work - that's just part of being a writer. And it's really going to suck if you find yourself going back to a script in a genre that you don't like. Writers get burnt out all the time when they make this mistake.
So if this is you, STOP! Take a break. Catch up on some reading. Watch some re-runs of your favorite show. Knock out a couple chores that've been on your to-do list for way too long. Clear your head.
Then take a look at your movie viewing history, note the top couple genres of every film you've watched in the last year or so, and see if you can find a pattern. If you're an action writer but you tend to watch a lot of action/comedies, horror/comedies, and thriller/comedies, perhaps you should take a shot at writing a comedy. Or if you specialize in romcoms but enjoy character-driven dramas on your days off, maybe you should start a new character-driven drama.
Because you know how everyone says you should write about what you know? Well, this applies to the genres you know as much as it does to everything else.
That said, here are the top five genres that producers have searched for on InkTip *in the last six months or so, with a couple comments:
1. All genres. Believe it or not, we have a lot more producers looking for "a good script" than we have looking for "a good script in the ____ genre."
2. Thrillers. Note that the subgenres constantly change, like producers might to be looking for female-driven-overcoming-obstacle thrillers one day only to suddenly need male-driven action/thrillers the next. But one thing they all seem to appreciate is a contained thriller script; if you can write a thriller that takes place in just two or three locations, with 90% of the story taking place in just one of those locations, you'll be able to get that script read by a lot of producers.
2.5 Horrors. Oddly enough, horrors didn't seem so popular when I wrote this article, but Mike in Marketing just pointed out to me that this genre has made quite a comeback in the last six months or so. Which isn't terribly surprising, horror constantly comes and goes. The thing to always remember with horror is that it's popular because it's cheap, which means if you're writing a horror script, it behooves you to keep it cheap. Try to set as much of the story as possible in a single location, and the more generic the location, the better.
3. Drama. But note that it's the subgenres that matter with dramas. I never seem to get calls from producers looking for straight up dramas; they always want a specific subgenre, like character-driven family dramas or faith-based contemporary dramas or contained heist dramas or... you get the picture.
4. Comedy. Betcha didn't see this one coming, did you? I know, everyone says it's hard to sell a comedy overseas, and everyone's right about that. But comedy writers have a knack for something that a lot of other writers don't even comprehend: the element of surprise. Just as surprise is the secret ingredient that makes a punchline funny, it's also the part of the formula that makes plot twists believable.
5. Action. And note that, like horrors and thrillers, this is a genre that comes and goes and eventually comes back again.
*So, since the genre du jour is constantly changing, it's more important to write what you like than it is to write what's hot.
By way of example, I know a thriller writer who wrote a horror script when everyone and his uncle were looking for horror properties. And then, just as he was ready to take his new script out, some horror movie tanked at the box office and suddenly thrillers were hot again. The point is, by trying to keep up with the curve, he fell behind it. Or maybe he got ahead, since horrors will inevitably be hot again someday. He's a horror fan anyway, so he wrote a script he liked, and his passion for the genre and the story shows on the page. And that's my answer to the second question.
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Jared Wynn has conducted thousands of interviews with producers, agents and managers, and has amassed in-depth, critical information on how to successfully market a screenplay.