New Ideas vs Finishing Your Screenplay

March 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

New Ideas vs Finishing Your Screenplay | Screenwriting Blog

What happens when you are writing a story you love and you come up with a new killer idea?

I’ve been writing a feature script for a few months now.  It’s based on an idea I came up with nearly 5 years ago while I was in college.

When I began to seriously develop the screenplay in December, I was so excited to finally see the story on the page.  Fast-forward a few months and I’m nearly 70 pages deep and I’m still loving it.

There’s nothing like a story you enjoy working on.

However…

I came up with a new idea a few weeks ago and I think it’s one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever come up with.

Until recently, I thought it would make an interesting movie but last week I had a breakthrough and the story exploded.

Allow me to tell you a personal story:

I’m at home watching television before heading to work.  I’m thinking about this new story and some of the characters I want to be involved when it hits me…  An idea that ties everything together.  Suddenly, I jump out of my chair and run straight for my computer to write it all down.  An hour or so later, I’ve got a short outline of the story and I’m beyond pumped about it.  But…

Which one do I work on?

I find myself torn between a story I love and a new idea I’m excited about.

On the one hand, I’ve got a story I’ve been working on for years.  It’s a story I can’t wait to finish and therefore, I want nothing more than to push towards the finish line.

On the other hand, should I sit on a new idea that I consider to be one of my best concepts? (It’s a unique take on the superhero genre by the way)

It occurred to me that maybe sitting on a story too long is the reason why I’m still working on my current screenplay.  Do I risk delaying the project when it is constantly on my mind?  Should you seize the moment when it smacks you me in the face?

Can I honestly abandon my current project for a while and risk losing interest completely?  Will I lose interest in the new idea if I don’t pursue it?

It’s a tough call.

There is a positive in all of this though.  As a writer, I’m used to ideas drying up from time to time.  It happens to everyone.  So being torn between two good ideas is a pretty great place to be.

The other advantage I have is my current script is nearly completed and most of the details are worked out.

What to do?

Clearly I’m excited about my new story.  I’m also just as excited to finally finish a journey I started 5 years ago.

So, I’ll be using the new story as a reward for completing my screenplay.  Having another script to look forward to is an inspiring way to help drive you towards your writing goals.

Either way, I’ve got a lot of development and screenwriting in my future.

I’m pretty happy about that.

Screenwriting: Afraid To Show People Your Work?

February 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

The Athletic Nerd Screenwriting Blog

I write because it’s fun.

Finishing a screenplay is pretty much outstanding and I’ll always love telling stories.

I’ve been a screenwriter since high school yet I’ve always dealt with a nagging phobia that I just couldn’t seem to get over…

I was terrified to show people my work.

My trusted inner circle of friends and family were sent copies of my scripts but I usually ended the distribution there.  When I was younger, I just couldn’t wrap my head around people reading something I wrote.

Anybody else with me on this?

Now, I’m not afraid of receiving criticism.  For many, that’s the number 1 reason why work remains unread collecting dust in a closet.  I welcome any and all opinions of my writing.  I just can’t get passed the idea that someone is reading my scripts.

What does American Idol have to do with this?

You can look at this a number of ways, perhaps I wasn’t afraid of criticism back then because I knew my inner circle would never really tell me I was a terrible screenwriter.  Or it could be that I just wasn’t ready to put myself out there.  It’s a struggle because you’ll never know if you’ve got what it takes until you put yourself out there.

It’s like the awful singers on American Idol. (The real ones, not the fakes who just want 2 minutes of fame.)  These people are built up by their families and friends.  Constantly encouraged to follow their dreams.  They truly believe they are the next idol.  I believe they should believe in themselves yet it crushes me every time Simon and crew rip them apart.

When you’re passionate about something, you work so hard to achieve success and hitting a wall like that must be the most devastating feeling in the world.

This is my greatest fear as an aspiring filmmaker.

Getting over it.

However, I’ve learned over the last few years to work around my fears.  There is a line between having a dream and going for it.  At some point, you have to make the decision to move forward and break through the walls in front of you.

Starting 17 West Productions was a way of forcing myself to show people my screenplays.  The theory is simple:

If you want to write and produce movies, you have to let people read the script!

After we created a few short films, I started to gain some confidence in my abilities.

Then I entered the original draft of The Climb into a competition and came 4th out of over 1200 scripts.  It was the first time I was ever judged by people outside my precious circle.

Click here to see the results of that contest.

Click to read: Is My Screenplay Ready For Competitions

I think these tiny victories are important.  By no means did I expect to fire off a feature and win Final Draft’s Big Break contest or something similar.  I’ve always believed that would have been discouraging.  Many people have dreams of making it big and rocking the cover of Variety as someone who burst onto the scene.  I have the same dream but I’ve always been extremely critical of my writing and so I decided not to go for the big splash.

Playing Through was another leap forward for me.  During the auditions, I was terrified of listening to people perform my words.  It was baffling that people were nervous to read in front of me.  I wanted to tell everyone of them that I was just as scared.  It was an eye opening experience because many worked so hard to nail their performances.  After the first few auditions, I began to really enjoy listening to the lines being read by passionate actors.

To me, if you aren’t passionate and completely dedicated to the project, there is no point working on it.  Beyond that, you have to surround yourself with equally committed artists.

Working within an enthusiastic environment is an inspiring way to work.

I got over it.

It was that spirit that finally broke my fear of showing people my scripts.

I still beat myself over the head with endless rewrites before I show anyone but eventually it gets out there.

There are so many dusty scripts in my closet.  I should have gotten over it long ago.

PS: If you’re thinking I may dust the old scripts off and send them out into the world you are mistaken.  Those old scripts are terrible.  We all started somewhere right?  I’ll leave it at that.

Screenwriting: The Print Out

December 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

Screenwriting: The Print Out | Screenwriting Blog

One of the coolest moments a screenwriter can have is finally hitting print and watching the pages stack up in front of their printer. It’s a moment of satisfaction that we all strive to achieve.  You’ve finally finished something you poured your heart into.  It’s a screenplay you’re proud of.  The feeling is even better when it’s your final draft and you’re ready to show the world your hard work.

Write_Print_Repeat

Writers spend a lot of time dreaming about the moment when they can finally hold a completed script in their hands.  It’s a bitter sweet thought because you know how hard you have to work before reaching The Print Out.  Thankfully, the work is addicting and fun.

I’ve been working on a new feature script for a few months now but the story has been in development for two years.  You can imagine how excited I am to finish the script.  I’m extremely close to finishing my first draft and the anticipation is killing me.

So I cheated…

How could I resist?  Even though it isn’t finished yet I’m still excited about the idea of sitting outside with my script, my notebook and a pen.

When I printed it out and I was immediately reminded of the sense of pride you gain when you finish a script.  It’s an inspiring thought.

the print out

Watching the pages emerge from my printer was also a terrific reminder of why I love to write. Writing a screenplay is a long process and it takes a lot of dedication to stick with a story for such a long time.  Yet to those who love to write, the process is an addiction.  We’re all addicted to that magical moment when the pages are full, the revisions are done and The Print Out is imminent.

However, standing between me and that wonderful moment is a story that remains untold.  There are a lot of pages to cover and characters to get to know better.  There are scenes to be written and dialogue to shape.  There is action to describe and emotions to convey.  Not to mention the hundreds of revisions and changes a script must go through before being truly complete.

Each script is a welcome challenge and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

And now… A quote:

“Find a job you love, never work a day in your life.”

It’s a fitting quote in this situation because reaching The Print Out is a moment that isn’t nearly as satisfying if you don’t truly love what you do.

I can’t wait to finish my new script for three reasons:

  1. The Print Out
  2. I’ll be starting a new script
  3. I love to write.

screenwriting_the_print_out

The Screenwriting Balance

December 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm

writing vs career

The Moneymaker

I consider myself lucky to have a career that I love.  It really is a dream job is you are a fan of sports and want to work in Television.  It’s been nearly 4 years now and I still love it just as much as my first day.  Yet I’m still trying to find time to write. I’m always thinking about scenes or characters but you can’t call yourself a writer unless you’re in front of a blank screen typing words and sentences.

Over the last few months, I’ve been reorganizing my entire life.  Everything from finances to scheduling to working out more.  I’m in a better position overall now yet I’m still trying to find time to write.

I think it’s different for every writer out there.  Those of us who need to write but can’t find time end up feeling guilty and unproductive.  Or at least, that’s been my experience.  I’ve read every book I can find on screenwriting and nearly every one of them discusses procrastination and how hard it is to find balance.  I think the difference between successful and non-successful writers is the amount of time they are able to find to get the work done. You have to assess your time and prioritize.  I’m currently assessing and prioritizing.

Over the last few weeks, I finally returned to screenwriting after nearly a year away.  While I definitely missed it, I don’t think it was as bad because my career and my company are both creative endeavors so I still had outlets to express myself everyday.

Two weeks ago, I wrote non stop for 2 full days.  I was on fire again.  It was like I never stopped.  Have you ever written so much so fast that you feel like your fingers can’t keep up?  There were so many moments when I actually stood up from my chair because I was too pumped up.  Now, I’m not saying what I’m writing is going to change the world.  I’m just saying writing makes me happy.

Rule 1: Write words and sentences

Since that day, I’ve been having trouble finding time to write.  Finally, I started really examining why I’m not writing pages everyday.  Normally, I don’t work until at least 2pm so I could be writing every morning.  Some weeks I don’t work until 5 or 6 in the evening.  That’s practically a day off with the amount of work I do beyond my career.  So why can’t I find time?  I have a theory.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – MORNING

9:59am.

A young man in his mid twenties is sleeping soundly until 10 o’clock arrives and the alarm blasts music into the room.  The young man, JASON, flies out of bed and across the room to turn the music off.  Just as quickly, he slides back into bed and closes his eyes.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – LATER

12:23pm.

Jason’s eyes open slowly.  This is a well rested individual.  He casually turns his head to look at the clock then lowers it in shame.  He slept in again.

The Screenwriter

That little skit above is an example of what happens when you work until 2 or 3 in the morning.  Sometimes, you just need to sleep.

I’ve learned that I have a unique list of requisites to check off before I feel like I can write effectively.  In the past, the most important factor was having a day off.  For some reason, I find it very hard to sit down and write knowing I only have an hour or two before another part of my life takes over again. When I have a day off with no plans, I usually get a lot accomplished.  I just have to accept the fact that I have a full time job and it’s not going anywhere.  So why not write for a few hours?  It certainly doesn’t make my life worse.

I believe that’s my single biggest problem.  Being unable to write because I have to work later that day sounds more like an excuse to me now.  Those 2 days of writing a few weeks ago taught me that even if I can only write for an hour a day, I’d still be happier than not writing at all.  I think I’ll still struggle with being on a roll and having to leave my desk but perhaps that will make it easier to sit down again once my shift is over.

Every writer with a job has to deal with these problems but finding that balance is the difference maker.  I’m no longer a writer because I’ve written a few scripts here and there.  I’m a writer because I sit down in front of a computer screen and type words and sentences. Doing so causes extreme levels of happiness and satisfaction.  This is what being a writer means to me.

PS: It has occurred to me that writing this post took up some potential screenwriting time.  I don’t feel guilty because I’ve found that balance.  I’ll have some time before my shift tonight.

PS #2:  If not, I always have my iPhone and the screenwriting apps I’ve downloaded. The bus ride to work is always fun now.

The Screenwriting Balance | Screenwriting Blog