Okay. Hold on to your keyboards fellow screenwriters. Don’t fire virtual missiles at me.
Every screenwriter experiences fear and doubt during their writing process. We wrestle with these major two key questions:
- Is my screenwriting any good?
- Is my concept any good?
The answers to these questions are irrelevant. What matters is, that the anxiety should spur your creativity. Churn your movie idea through as many permutations as you can to better define it and to give it a chance to land in its most presentable form.
The hit 1990 film ‘Pretty Women’ originally had a much darker tone and tragic ending. The main character of the 2013 Disney film ‘Frozen’ was originally penned as an evil queen rather than a tortured soul.
More importantly, never, ever delete those wasted ideas. They may re-emerge during rewrites or may spawn their own film scripts. They could be concepts, scenes, story fragments or sparkling dialogue.
Statistically, the more ideas you generate, the greater the chances of having success.
How much time should you be spending writing your award-winning film script versus planning and outlining it?
We, screenwriters, know all about “research” and procrastination. You know what I’m talking about. You’re writing a murder mystery and spend weeks researching how murder investigations work. Although research is important to write an authentic screenplay, don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s writing. However, this is the initial excitement phase.
Assign a specified period of time for planning and outlining. Resist the temptation to start writing before you should. Otherwise, you run the risk of writing a poor story.
Your film concept outline needs a basic structure in your planning stage. Otherwise, you’ll be writing random scenes which don’t tell a satisfying story. You need to mix a cake before you put it in the oven.
Do the minimum amount of research before you start writing, to enable you to complete your first draft. Crank it out in a few weeks. Don’t edit, just write your draft as fast as possible. Now you have a tangible screenplay. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s an 80% chance it won’t be any good.
After your first draft, you can spend more time honing in on your film idea and tightening it up with rewrites.. You can add scenes, plots, story beats and consolidate characters. Be judicious with what you add and what you remove. When you clearly solidify your story this will become clear. It’s not the number of rewrites that you do, it’s the quality. A dialogue pass or an action pass are all part of the same draft. This is where you hit the sweet spot. Your screenplay now only has an 8% chance of failure.
Unfortunately, fear and doubt sabotage screenwriters at this point. They tinker with their screenplays some more to their detriment. Add a new character. Perhaps a new subplot. They unwittingly reduce the chance of a successful screenplay down to 80%
The thrust of this writing process is don’t be first to run out of the gate, but when you do, sprint until you complete the first draft. Then you can pace yourself to the finish line.