Finishing Your Script

Posted: July 27, 2010 in writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Here’s another post I have read that I really like.

Finishing Your Script

By Julie Gray

Here’s an important screenwriting tip: If you are a screenwriter
with more than a couple half-finished scripts, you really have to
stop and take stock. Is this a pattern? Be really honest with
yourself. Could you have Scriptus Interruptus?

Often a writer will start off strong, with an idea he or she is
really excited about but somewhere in the second act,
discouragement and confusion set in. The premise is dead-ending or
becoming seemingly ridiculous. The writer feels like a rat in a
maze; running down this alternative and that only to come up
against a brick wall. After a few agonizing weeks, the writer bails
out. The primary culprit is a premise that just doesn’t have enough
story to make it all the way across the finish line. The solution:
learn to thoroughly test your premise before you start pages.
Develop this muscle and take it seriously. Don’t just jump into a
script without a plan and without a solid sense of story and
screenwriting structure.

Without correcting the source of the Scriptus Interruptus,
half-finished scripts pile up like so many empty beer cans and a
feeling of futility sets in; I can’t do this. I can’t write and
what kind of lousy person can’t follow through and and and….it’s a
terrible trap. If you think this might be you, stop right now,
breathe it out and without judging yourself, correct the problem.

Maybe your problem is not related to a weak premise. Maybe you have
a fear of failure. If a writer completes a script then it will be
read. By someone in the industry, maybe some snot-nosed assistant
or intern and they will coldly dissect your baby, ripping it limb
from limb and leaving you feeling empty and humiliated. What if the
gilded dream of writing a movie is nothing but a torpid fantasy
about to be popped by a needle-sharp bad coverage?

Rejection is part of being a writer. It’s a cliché but it’s true.
Yes, when you finish your script it will be read, judged and likely
passed on. But it may not get passed on by everybody. You only need
one yes. And if that script can’t find a single fan – you write
another one and hope that one will.

Aspiring screenwriters need feedback from within the industry.
Otherwise how can you know how you stack up compared to other
writers. Whether you use a script reading service, a consultant or
maybe a friend who reads in the business – get a reality check. How
are you doing? Yes, it’s painful, it really is. But otherwise, how
will you ever know how you measure up? You can’t take it
personally. Every time a script gets a thumbs down, you must use
that experience to learn so that you can do better the next time
around. Be selfish about your negative feedback. Grab it, horde it,
and use it to do better.

They say the average writer has written ten scripts before they
become a WGA member. Nobody knows whether that statistic is a
certainty, but it’s not a bad yard stick for a new writer to think
about. The chances that your first, second or third scripts will be
written much less received well is slim, relatively speaking. But
you can’t get to fabulous script number eight without having done
the time on numbers one through seven. It’s tedious, it is painful
but a writer cannot learn and improve without putting some serious
time and effort in.

Screenwriting classes and workshops are an important part of
building up your arsenal as you learn the craft of scriptwriting.
And screenwriting contests are another avenue of feedback.

Of course the paradox is that with every single script you write,
you have to believe with all of your heart and soul that it is
terrific. That’s why this business is so terribly difficult; having
faith in the face of crushing odds is nothing short of attaining a
kind of grace.

So for some writers the easy way out is to never join the race.
They get about halfway through a script and sort of – just – peter
– out. They spend a lot of time discussing things on message
boards; opining, judging and lol-ing. It’s much more pleasant to
talk about screenwriting than it is to take your heart in your
hands and just do it. But there is no other way, kids. You can’t go
around it. You can’t skip over it. You have to go through it.

Do some thinking about your patterns of behavior and your body of
work. Are you a serial Scriptus Interruptus writer? Time to take
stock and find out exactly why that is. You can change that pattern
right now. Today. But if you choose to curl up in the wet blanket
of fear-of-rejection-it’s-not-fair victimhood – well, terrific.
Because you just left an open spot for some other writer who will
can and will finish their script. One after the other.

Julie Gray is a mom, screenwriter and script consultant who works
and lives in Los Angeles, California


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