Screenwriting : 45 pages in and OH NO.... by John Garrett

John Garrett

45 pages in and OH NO....

I have hit page 45 on the feature I am writing. I have had a moment of clarity. I am going to have to reorder events. I need to introduce a character earlier, and they will be more involved than originally outlined. I will go back right now and start fixing it. I have to for my brain to be able to finish the screenplay. I am curious if anyone else has these moments and how you deal with them!

Jody Ellis

I usually plow through my crappy first draft without making any revisions. If I realize partway through that a change needs to be made, I just take note of it and continue on. I know I will be doing at least a dozen revisions on any screenplay I write, and I feel like I have to get that first draft out of the way before I can make changes.

Lamar Faulk

I agree with Jim. Outlining, no matter how tedious it might be, is the key. I've had several instances, pre-outline, that I had to do what you're doing. I still have moments that I do it with the outline, that I want something changed. I have made it part of my process to work on several projects at once. So, Id work on a different feature or sitcom for awhile and then come back to it.

Jody Ellis

I don't do a specific outline but I do a beatsheet and I always know my ending.

Bill Costantini

John did reference an outline in his original post. John - I've had those types of moments, too. Sometimes the logistics of my orignal outline need to be tweaked after I start writing. I'm thankful for those "ah-ha" moments, and am sure you are, too. Better to have those "ah-ha" moments when you're writing, rather than when you're pitching your finished script, or when a producer says to you, "you know, I read your script...and this doesn't exactly all add up..." That would really stink. Good catch, John!

William Martell

I usually solve this problem with an outline - and that doesn't just mean writing down the events, it means working the outline and rewriting it again and again until all of these story problems are solved. That's the real purpose of an outline - solving story problems in advance so that you can focus on the details of how the scenes play out. But the solution here is to reoutline and rewrite. But don't get trapped in the cycle of rewriting the same 45 pages again and again and never getting to page 46!

John Garrett

I did a pretty thorough outline, and worked through it to the point I thought I was done. When I write, I tend to get a deeper understanding of my characters during the writing. I also found a character that I hadn't planned that brings it together in a way that solidified what I was trying to do. The actual problem is, the character I haven't introduced yet really should be more of a day to day contact of one of the two main characters. This wasn't clear in the original outline. This is more of a "way it feels" thing than a true logistical issue. Waiting to introduce the character that turns out to be the cause of a number of things later just doesn't feel true. It doesn't flow.

John Garrett

Patricia, I think you are on the right path, although it would be a page 10 where I want to introduce him. But I also think that it would be a matter of rewriting 3 or four scenes and adding a scene after going back through the outline. @ Jody, I know my ending on this one, although sometimes I have an idea of the ending and it goes elsewhere.

Annie Mac

John, beside your outline, do you also write your screenplay in beat form, meaning in condensed scenes, to the end? It helps to see where to place characters for best dramatic effect, also it's easier to move things around. Just a thought.

John Garrett

Annie, I use index cards. Now I use virtual index cards and they don't get lost... This time, the importance of the character was not as important until some things showed up in the script that did not show up until there was some dialog written.

Fiona Faith Ross

I've decided it's a natural part of the process. Sometimes characters, events, and connections reveal themselves gradually. Some characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, some are more subtle, and you have to persist to understand what they're doing behind the obvious stuff. I realise I am talking about the subconscious of the writer here, but given that our subconscious is so deep compared to our conscious layer, I have come to the conclusion that your "Eureka moment", JG, is a natural part of the story creation process. Now, for the sake of efficiency (and especially "version control" which I find a nightmare), and for my sanity, I try to iterate until I have experienced all of my "eureka moments" in my story structure phase (logline, synopsis, treatment), but still it's not enough. I have to go into the long form/freewriting process to uncover what is really happening in my story, not necessarily in a linear path, so I could be prompted by, "What happens when Fred goes into the forest?" for example, and write that sequence as a narrative for the right lobe to kick in. So, I would say to you, welcome those moments, and if they strengthen your story structure and give it more impact, then go for it. But maybe keep your original version as a separate file in case you change your mind. "It's just that it's...so hard," (Arthur to Merlin in Shrek 3). All the very best.

Sue Lange

This is not an unusual thing to have happen, John. It just shows you that your creative juices are flowing. When this happens to me, I make a note at the beginning of the script that I want to [introduce a character earlier, get character involved more, or whatever], then I continue to the end. For me the first draft is really, really rough and almost just an expanded outline. I don't want to lose momentum on that original idea. I can't really write something until I know the ending. And often I don't know the ending until I get there. At the same time the ending often changes due to the type of thing you're describing here. Really free-writing is where it's at to get the ball rolling. It's a long process from starting a script to having a polished one. Keep experimenting right up to the end.

Jorge J Prieto

I'm with SUE. JOHN, if you can go back and adjust, do it. But, I would move forward. It all depends if this new character will affect your ending, and how "IT" is a tumbling block in your protagonist goal/s. I've never, had this problem, but I've had to add short scenes in order to give the protagonist a bigger voice and role versus the other characters. I never use and outline. I know my beginning, my ending, which can change, but (I've said this before) I love to be surprised and in some crazy way, like the late Jackie Collins, I let my characters control me. Good luck, John, buddy and you will get many, many more advice here, which is the greatest part of this wonderful community.

John Garrett

I just posted to a Fiona post, my outline and index cards are a map. Sometimes I end up in uncharted territory. So I have to go redraw the map. When I use outlines and index cards, it is how I envision telling that story. During the development sometimes that changes, but usually I see it in the first 20 pages. I want to point out that in this story, I picked up on this because of an educational class I took here at stage32. Melissa Daykin Cassill pointed out to me that even though an event in the story is not contrived, it can appear as such and draw people out of the story. (That is not a quote, it is what I took away from the conversation.) The character coming in as scheduled via the outline is actually quite realistic in the time frame of a person's life, in a two hour or less movie it seems convenient. At page 45 I realized this quite suddenly and it was clear to me that if I was writing a novel, it would be fine, but not for a screenplay. Not for this screenplay, this telling of this tale.

Annie Mac

JOHN, We all have different writing styles and we need to honor that. There is not one way to do anything. Yet, it's always instructive to listen other writers' experiences and adopt what resonates, but I'd say, If something works for you, stick to it! So get busy writing those changes, move forward, and let us know how it feels :-)

Fiona Faith Ross

The point about the novel is spot on, John. I'm beginning to understand that because audiences see a film within a fixed time frame, and holding their attention is a different challenge to entertaining the reader of a novel, who can pick it up and put it down at will.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

All the time. It always shines in the rewrite it's just the way it is. Maybe The Bard could put on a first draft at the Globe. Or perhaps Aristole at the ampitheater. But for the rest of us it's all in the rewrite.

John Garrett

Fiona, that has probably been one of my biggest learning curves. 90-120 pages instead of 500. HUGE difference. I have done a few short things to try and get to the essence of the condensed form of story telling. I am happy with what I have made. But when it comes to a feature I find myself always looking for ways to convey information as economically as possible. Steven, all I can say is that I am grateful I get "do-overs" or rewrites on what I write. As you point out, that is when it all shines. Annie, I have gone back and have almost gotten back to where I was when I realized the issue. One more scene to add and I will be back on track!

Vitale Justice

Doing better then me I have to write a one hour script ant that's about 60 pages. And like Most have never written a script in my life

Annie Mac

Why must you write a 60 p. script, VITAL? If you've never written a script in your life, try writing a 5 minutes one and get advice from someone more experienced, that should set you on your way.

Michael Eddy

Writing is rewriting. Keep doing what you're doing if that's what works for you. Personally - I plow through a first draft from FADE IN to FADE OUT before going back and doing any "fixes". I know others who rewrite as they go - and are never satisfied - and never finish their draft. But if at page 45 you realized you had a problem that would prevent you from moving forward and coming back later to fix it - better to do it now - restart your engines and forward momentum and go from there. Everyone has their own process. Best to follow what works best for you. Only other comment - if you're in the middle of a draft - see a problem - and go back to fix it - why take the time to post here on Stage 32 and ask if anyone else ever has that problem? Waste of time. You have the problem - you are dealing with it - plow ahead. Post here later and tell us all how it all worked out.

Annie Mac

Michael, there is something endearing about the way you kick ass. But you maybe missing one point, Stage 32 is a team, sorta family of people who sharpen their minds by rubbing agains each others, who enjoy sharing their failures as well as their successes, and above all who care for each other.

Michael Eddy

Annie Mac - I care - therefore I post. Up until my final "only other comment" - all was positively sweetness and light. Basically saying - to each his or her own. I threw in that last bit - and stand by it - because I thought that John asking here how others "deal with" a similar problem was a time suck in light of his already seeming to be dealing with his. As for kicking ass - if you can't take the Hollywood heat - get out of its kitchen. My post was a big wet kiss compared to the BS you swim through to maintain a writing career.

Annie Mac

Love you too, Michael!

Jorge J Prieto

I've listened to many script consultants and they all say to don't worry about fixing anything on your first ( vomit draft) as it is called. So, Michael, you make a valid point, even though your delivery was not, how, Annie, would've done it. We are all different. What works best for you, doesn't have to work for me. I write late at night, others write early morning. Apples, oranges, they are both good for us,. I don't like apples.

Tamario "Marty" Dixon

John, If you're already at page 45, just pound out the rest of your screenplay, bud. Going back to restructure at this point will send you into a time sink that never ends, and more often than not, its really difficult to finish your work down. The rough draft is always, ALWAYS going to be crap, and thats okay. In fact, if its crap, just know youre on the right path. Dont worry about shaping your monster until you have something to shape. Best of luck!

Michael Eddy

Jorge - I like apples AND oranges (also strawberries, blueberries, peaches and bananas) - so now I'm in trouble. And for the record - I write after breakfast and reading the morning paper - break for lunch and read the mail - then write until dinner. Never at night. Never on weekends. Also - personally, I don't care for the term "vomit draft" - it conjures up the idea that your writing makes you or others physically ill. Not a pretty picture. I prefer to call a first draft - the "kitchen sink draft".

Jorge J Prieto

Lol. The kitchen sink? I like it, Michael. BTW, I didn't make up the term - vomit draft - the industry consultants and teacher, coaches did. To me it means once you start a screenplay, you don't stop, you push forward until you are done with that first draft, which I believe is one that comes from the heart of the writer. My humble opinion. This is who I am. Nobody said you had to like it. Right, my dear, Mikey??? Laugh a little, life is to short, buddy.

Michael Eddy

Indeed Jorge. Too short. Like careers in the NFL. As to "vomit draft" - I knew it wasn't yours - I heard the term from another poster on Stage32 - made the same comment to her. I am a firm proponent of pushing forward until done. I write FADE IN and don't stop until I hit FADE OUT. Begin with an idea/plot - some (hopefully) interesting characters with something to say - and go on the ride with them. A Neil Simon technique. A la Woody Allen - a writer must be like a shark - always moving - hopefully to a powerful third act.

Tamario "Marty" Dixon

Hey. Even vomiting is a response. lol Not a desired one, but a response none-the-less. lol

Jorge J Prieto

Thanks, Michael, great points. T.D, my friend you made me laugh and laughter is always a good thing.

Kenneth W. Wood

Yes, the vomit and the sneeze are there to remind us how "not in control" we really are.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

We are NEVER in control. However I understand the usage of vomit and kitchen sink to remind us. But As We ALL know It ALWAYS starts with the rewrite, Unless you were the Bard and they had to fill the Globe for a performance with Her Majesty.

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