On Writing : When is it time to give up on a project? by Jennifer "JR" Pawley

Jennifer "JR" Pawley

When is it time to give up on a project?

I have this idea for a play I've been trying to write since 2004. Every couple of years, I try to start it up, and it just doesn't go anywhere. I know the story I want to tell, it just isn't happening. Anyone have any tips?

LB McGill

write other things... when the time comes for this story to be told... you'll just sit down and write it :)

Bruce Quinn

Sit down with a bottle of wine, feed the dog a few treats, realize the dog is your best friend, and that you can tell it anything, it'll always be your best friend, and will never divulge anything you tell it. Turn the lights down, put some music on and tell it the truth why you don't want to write the story...you'll either write it or be able to walk away without carrying the burden around...and no one will ever be the wiser. Round 2 - actually have a similar problem, it's not that I'm having a problem with writer's block, but building a permanent set...I have the land, I have the plans, but getting the thing started has been one headache after another...financing dropping in and out...others involved having to make a living so they are dropping in and out...I'm having to make a living, so I'm dropping in and out...rains when it should be dry...scorching heat...damn that Al Gore anyway...when I should be building...people wanting to "morph" my baby from my image to theirs...waving money around in front of me to do it...the list goes on and on..finally I just had to put it on the back burnner and resist all my urges to pulll it out of hibernation until times are flush again...

Ray Anthony Martinez

Outline. It doesn't have to be a long outline, just a start to finish of your story. Once you have that, you'll be able to fill everything else in. Here's a great link that I use on ALL of my scripts: http://www.storymastery.com/articles/30-screenplay-structure If you know your story, this should help tremendously!

Scott C. Brown

There is no such thing as a "dead project" in Hollywood. Just one on an extended hiatus and that is as true in writing as any other part of a project. All three above made valid points and offered factual methods to overcoming the issue you are facing. The first, the story isn't ready to be told. The second, get out of your own way with a drink. The third, outlining. Personally, I do all three. I even teach writers how to overcome the same issue to not only start a story, but complete it as well.

Joel Ratner

I heard a story that the Fiffth Symphony was there long before Ludwig wrote it. Beethoven struggled with his demons to channel it from sources greater then himself to bring it to the physical world.

Jonathan Brunson

I will say, from what I'm experiencing, No project ever falls into the "give up" pile. If you know the story, try writing down a few lines, scenes, etc...Whatever pops into your mind. Even if it's one sentence, you will find yourself wanting to write more, extend the scene more, create more. Don't give up on it, because whenever you tart it, you may find your story broadening to something better than you thought. Keep it going, don't give up

Simon Watt

Get others involved and let it take of, once the wall is down I'm sure it will flow. Some songs I've written have been so easy and others have had to go 10 rounds in the ring and I've felt battered.

James B Brandt

I started a project called I Married a Bitch (working title) in 1993. I was hung up over a timeline issue. Finally last year I figured it out and finished the film this year. It landed me a management contract and it is being shopped to some A List clients under the new name CARROT. So, no, I don't think giving up is a bright idea. But reexamining the concept is...

Keith (Frey) Love

I wrote my first script last year, and what I did was had the idea but pondered a little then just sat down in a quiet area by myself and just wrote the title down and begin creating a story off of it. Then it just kept flowing. I feel a lot of times when distraction comes, it throws you a bit but the key is to sit there by yourself and create that special script. We are here for you to help you anyway we can!

Jennifer "JR" Pawley

Thank y'all so much for all your advice! I tried to make it a full-length play multiple times, and the most recent attempt was a musical, which I wasn't satisfied with either. Maybe I'll try again in a shorter format and see where it takes me

Jen DiOrio

Use index cards to map out your play. Write mini essays on each character. Figure out your ending (which will probably change), but at least you'll have a sense of where you're heading.

Travis Kolpack

I usually just keep writing. Even if the outcome is not exactly what you want. Each draft or revision is one step closer. If this doesn't work, I would do what ^ Jen DiOrio said, I have used that technique as well.

Ziel Kahn

You could upload your script to a screenplay site (like Trigger Street) and get some feedback to help you out...

Ziel Kahn

Oh, wait. I forgot, they (TS) don't do plays anymore. You could try Zeotrope. They have a play department...

Mara Nikolich

What you have technically is a 'download error'. Look for inspiration and write down the ideas that come to your mind. Never force yourself to write about something. We all have 'story untold' that we carry as burden or like a cross, thinking that they are marvelous ideas. But I suggest you to let that burden go and unblock your creativity stream. If that story is something you must tell, it'll come back to you when it's time.

Zedrick Restauro

I agree with a lot of posts above, NEVER give up on a project. Especially an original idea that you have written yourself and something you have invested in. The time as of now maybe just isn't right but someday you'll find the means and the resources you need to make it come to life. The writer Stephen King is constantly going back to his older manuscripts that he's shelved away for years to rewrite and release years after he had started it, and you know how successful that guy is. I say just relax, hold on to that script, keep thinking about it and let it gestate over time, because someday the stars will align for it and you best be ready when it does. :)

Bridget LaMonica

If you keep coming back to it, it's clearly an idea you want to pursue. So go for it! Don't be afraid to write a bad first draft, and certainly get feedback and learn to take criticism. All great advice for any form of writing.

Jen DiOrio

Mike G, I quoted and credited you on my FB page just now. Great advice!

Travis Kolpack

Mike G, thats great advice! I have about 30-40 started screenplays barried in a notebook. Even if it's just a small idea, I write it down or start it. Someday I might think about the idea again and put it to use.

Jennifer "JR" Pawley

That's great advice Mike! I want to tell this story, I just can't seem to get it out the right way. It's one of those great family stories, pieced together from several sources. The original source never talked about it and has since passed away, I've got a beginning and an end, but no middle. I used to keep a notebook of ideas, but sort of let it fall away as I was learning new things. Seems like I need to get back in the habit :) Thank you everyone for being so supportive and giving such great advice. It's really inspired me.

David Ashutosh

Many screenplays (and probably plays) are years in the making. The creative process can be like a fruit tree in that some ideas need to 'ripen' to be ready. Robert McKee says that if it isn't flowing that the thing to do is research. I was stuck on a project and I researched for a while. I often will write until I realize there is something that I need to learn and fill in the blanks and then I research. Also recently something that has helped me on a project I was developing was to divide it into smaller projects for more focus. I realized it may be multiple projects rather than just one and/or that I may be more happy with something that is just easier to approach because I was biting off too much in terms of subject matter. I took a lesson from the film 'Titanic' and focused on fewer characters and storylines. If it was overwhelming me it could/would overwhelm others. I am still working on this next phase of flow and seeing where it leads. I don't want to be overconfident with it, but it is definitely moving more than it was. Another thing that happened with a project I was stuck on recently was I realized that I wanted to take a smaller character and make him a primary character. I think it can be like gardening in that you need the proper amount of space to let ideas grow and sometimes you need to trim some projects out whether other writing projects or other life projects to make room. Sometimes you need to take a vacation and get perspective. Recently I went to visit some friends and that got me flowing well too - it changed the race and ethnic background of a character, it also added another potential character to the mix. Partly just the time away sleeping in a room not my own and a city not my own had me thinking a bit differently. Also it was the city for the project I have been toying with and the city has changed some and this friend lives in a part of the city I haven't spent time in for a while, but have some history with. Another thing that works for me sometimes is to dig into locations when I feel stuck on characters or storylines. For me partly the physical tangible aesthetic element of that is useful. Obviously I only have so much control of that as a writer, but it helps me visualize and write in ways that make things more vivid and real for others. For example I started playing with a chair in a recent concept. I have been fascinated with a certain designer chair for years. I put that chair in the space and let myself play with it a bit. It put the character in space in a way I could personally relate to. I may or may not take the chair out, but it helped me visualize the room more tangibly. Recently an actress became a muse of sorts for me which has been fun. I had an idea that was more conceptual. I have thought about finding images of more obscure actor/actresses for reference. I do better to visualize an actress that I don't know, but also I want to write for tv more than film. Someone in a screenwriter support group recently talked about using SuperNoteCard to organize ideas and for me I think that may work better than just writing without an outline. I like the structural ways of working and obviously the 3 x 5 card method has been around a while. I do my own strange make shift ways of doing that when I organize files into folders for projects of separate characters, locations, storylines, overview thoughts, etc... I have my own version of 'sketching' (mentioned in following link). Doing 'sketching' in a more screenwriting way through playing with a scene or a character concept in my head or on paper helps me see where my excitement is. I have also thought of using visual boards of houses and actors and objects like guns or clothing outfits to help as a sort of mood board for some projects. I posted this on another thread, but thought I was worth a post here... It looks at 'sketching' the way an artist does before painting and how that applies to screenwriting and to theater, and other creative processes. http://www.writeyourscreenplay.com/2012/09/15/writing-the-rough-draft-wh...

Jaclyn Abergas

Write it down anyway. Sometimes the story we really want to tell makes its appearance when we've written down a draft. Even if you can't write it down yet, always keep it in the back of your mind. Have a pen and notebook with you at all times so that when an idea comes up that you can use for the play, you can jot it down immediately. Don't worry about not being able to write it down yet. I was battling with a story I had in mind for a couple of years but couldn't figure out how to let the story unfold. It wasn't until a few months ago when I had a certain experience that I knew how I wanted to tell the story. So just wait and don't worry about it. In the meantime, write other stories. Sometimes, writing other stories will also show you how to work on other ideas you have. Good luck!

Bridget LaMonica

Silly question or suggestion: Why don't you try re-writing it from the beginning? Forget everything you've written before. Set it aside. Look at the idea with fresh eyes and flesh it out. Perhaps start it as an outline, so you see how your characters get from point A to B. Then don't be afraid to write crap and revise it later. At least then you'll have something more substantial to work with.

Lina Jones

N E V E R E V E R Give Up!* Yea, yOu may have hit a small stone along the way, but aye, yOu got this Girl. We can overcome all Obstacles. Be that D I A M O N D #DiamondCity

Gavion E. Chandler

A few suggestions: forget trying to write the play straight through, play with scenes, characters and situations or discussions of questions or points of reflection that you want to raise with players and write variables endings and then piece it together like a quilt. Gavion E. Chandler~ 'Man is his own devil.'

Other topics in Authoring & Playwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In