I recently had a student who hit a major roadblock in his script. He emailed me, absolutely despondent, to tell me he was not having fun any more, didn't like anything he was writing, and that after almost six months of work he was thinking about throwing the whole script in the trash and just starting something new.
Ever felt like that? If you're a writer, you probably have. So before you dump those pages you've worked so hard on, know this:
ALL writers have tons of scripts sitting in their files that are not completed. Sometimes you hit a wall. Sometimes you lose steam. Sometimes it just takes a month or even a year of working on something else to find your way back in.
There is nothing wrong with setting a script aside, UNLESS it starts to become a habit. What happens to some writers is that every time they hit a roadblock, they start something new. While this is great for keeping up the flow-- and just fine for writers who are doing it as a hobby, for people with professional aspirations, it can actually become a form of writers block.
Professional writers need to finish scripts. So here's a little trick that I use to fool my brain into finishing scripts. Work on two scripts at a time. This way, you can honor your writing brain's need for a break every once in awhile-- while still knowing that you are progressing toward your goals.
What you'll soon notice is that when things get hard on one script, the other script becomes incredibly appealing. It doesn't even feel like work anymore. So you set your current script down, and start up on the other one again.
Before long, things get hard on the second script, and suddenly the problems with the first one don't seem so overwhelming in comparison. So you switch back, and once again keep that momentum going, accepting and respecting your process on each screenplay, and integrating it with the demands of the industry.
As a nice side benefit, you'll find that the scripts start to inform one another-- as you build on things you learned writing one script to improve things in the other.
In addition, you may also want to set aside a day to just play, by creating fun writing exercises for yourself that have nothing to do with either script. Playing around like this keeps your writing brain limber, and often leads to huge breakthroughs in your projects. Think of it as a valuable part of your routine (like stretching before you exercise).
Keep the main focus on those two scripts (and no more than two!) and before you know it, you'll have two finished drafts. A final word-- remember that it's not important for either of these drafts to be GOOD. What's important is for them to be DONE. Once you have a full draft on paper, you can always go back later and revise-- and even use the two script trick again in the editing process. Until your script is on paper, there is nothing you can do to improve it. But once it's out there, the possibilities are endless.
Copyright (c) Jacob Krueger 2009
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