Screenwriting : Does it really take a year? by Nikki April Lee

Nikki April Lee

Does it really take a year?

How long does it truely take to complete a screenplay?

Sandra Campbell

I don't know. On the average, I think most screenwriters pen one to three a year. It also depends on the subject matter, deadline, and of course, the writer. For me, it takes about 5 to 6 months to complete a full feature. Much less for a short. Right now, I''m doing research for a script I'm going to start writing in September. How long does it take you, Nikki? And where did you hear it takes a year? Sandra

Nikki April Lee

Well, I've read blogs that other screenwriter's wrote and they usually say the same things. How it takes them a year to pump out a single screenplay. I've been writing for about a year and a half and pumped on 16 (half features, half shorts) Of course most of them are in their first draft but still. I watch a crap load of movies weekly so the ideas never stop coming. But back to the point. I just can't see why it takes so long. Rewriting should be a breeze if you know what direction you were taking when you wrote the first draft.

Tabitha Baumander

I've had scripts jump out of my mind and onto the keyboard in as little as a month. Thats fairly rare particularly when one must balance writing with a day job. Gemeraly I take three or four months to first draft. After that, well, Some writers can be fatal perfectionists and you have to pry the script out of their hands to take it away and shoot it they're so adicted to rewriting and polishing.

Sandra Campbell

Nikki, what kind of mojo juice are you on? LOL. I wish I could write that quickly. As I go along, I'll probably get faster. I read about one to two screenplays a week. It helps a lot.

Sandra Campbell

Tabitha, From my cold dead hands they'll have to pry it away. LOL. I also have to balance my writing as well with my day gig.

Tabitha Baumander

A combination of unemployment ( I dont have one hell of a lot of practical talents) and in the past stay at home mothering has in my life blessed/cursed me with a lot of time to write. I will fess up and say that month I quoted was an adaptation of a kids book and not a from scratch rendering.

Tabitha Baumander

good point Jaqueline see my statement above re; prying script out of the writers protesting hands.

Tabitha Baumander

your naming her after a chubby 50+ year old Canadian Jewish fantasy writer?

Fraser Kee Scott

There are NO rules. Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in 3 days! You make your own rules. I can write a script in a month easy - less if I need to.

Sandra Campbell

Three days? Well, he is the champ...

Fraser Kee Scott

there are no rules to this. Each person is different. I plan a LOT before I start, then I stretch out my plan into a skeleton of the story and turn that into the outline and that into the script - this makes it fast and makes for a lot less re-writing because so much thought and planning went into the story before it was fleshed out. Really, you write your own rules, you do not have to conform to what is expected or what is the norm! All you have to do is write brilliantly - if you are fast - that's fine!

Sandra Campbell

My process is similar to yours Fraser. I use a template from a screenwriting course I took a few years ago. It's a 120 minute Act breakdown (you can add more or less). If I want to change a scene, I just go back to my breakdown. When it's complete, I print it out as a guide. Sometimes I stick to it, but anything can happen when you start writing---and your characters start talking! It's a real useful tool because it keeps me on task and on schedule.

Melvin Johnson

Stallone wrote Rocky in three days but it went through a ton of revisions afterward. As for writing speed, it's hard to say. Anyone can write a script quickly but it will likely suck. Well, first drafts usually suck regardless of how long they take. LOL For me, most of my writing takes place in my head. I watch it play over and over like a football coach watching game film. Then I sit at the computer and it spills out - much like Stephen King does. After that it's a matter of a few rewrites. All in all, a feature takes me about a month if I work a few hours a day. Both shorts I optioned took a few hours of actual work. Just lucky I guess. It'll be more impressive when I actually make a lot of money writing. Screenwriters are probably never satisfied with their script. I know I go back and pick at mine every so often.

Mark Sanderson

I do a lot of planning before by doing a solid and detailed story treatment/step outline. I have to because the producers I work for insist on it before I can ever write a page. If you write five pages a day, you'll have a finished script in twenty days. Much of the work comes before you ever type FADE IN.

Nikki April Lee

This was a much needed conversation. It's advised that when you write your first draft you're suppose to leave it alone for a couple of weeks and come back with a fresh pair of eyes. When I do come back to it, I'll change a few things here or there, but I never really have to change anything major. I know the direction my story wants to take. So I sit there and wonder, "how the heck am I suppose to make 3 more drafts out of this?" So thanks guys.

RJ Smith

I first storyboard the idea. I take weeks just getting the story down in my head and on index cards for the board. Most of the time the outline takes longer than the script itself, but when I sit to write it... I write five pages per night five nights a week. I treat it like a job, very structured and focused. Usually, first draft is done within two months.

Sweet 16(mm) - Phil

If you are producing out of your own pocket it takes all the time until you say "that's it" - otherwise until you get "them" to say so. ;)

Sandra Campbell

If you have only six weeks to write a script, what's your process? How many pages do you commit to a day?

Tabitha Baumander

Sometimes you live with work for so long you stop seeing it as it is. A break is important.

Sandra Campbell

@Laura, bless the coffee gods! You're really disciplined, and you make it seem doable. For a feature, I aim for 7-10 pages a week--I have a day gig, so I fit in my writing whenever I have a free moment. My best time to write is at night. Keep me abreast of your progress. I'd love to know how it turns out.

Nikki April Lee

The way I see it, whether you rewrite one draft or one hundred, if the script ever gets picked up by a producer, he will hire a professional writer to rewrite the story for one or two reasons: 1-to fit time and budget, or 2-to pump the story up for the sake of profit. So honestly what's the point of doing so many rewrites (beside fixing the mistakes) if (sucessful) will be changed anyway? I think, you should write the story, write ONE (or two) rewrite just to make sure everything is in order, and pitch like hell to get the ball rolling.

Adriana Li Mandri

For me a screenplay is never finished- cause the more you work on it- the better it's going to be. But I think a screenplay is "ready" for production when you are fully happy with your work and feel it's ready for the next step. But yeah- in film school I remember rewriting a script at lease 10 times. It just depends on the project :)

Lisa Clemens

I have had two screenplays that I was hired to write by producers/directors who had the story idea and just needed a script written for their story. I work in one state while they are in another. One director wanted the first draft in 3 weeks. Got it done and after reading it, it needed a few changes. Then after another draft, the director had a better idea for the ending. So after about 8 or nine weeks, I just handed in what should be the final draft. On the other hand if it's one I am writing to pitch, I'll go back to it when I have free time and/or have better ideas. So for me it depends. So far my paid gigs have come with deadlines, but my own scripts evolve slowly!

Ruth Atkinson

Wow. Great discussion. As a script consultant I’ve worked on projects ranging from 6 months to 6 years. Yes. Seriously. The short term projects were all with experienced writers. The longer term projects with newer writers. This trajectory makes sense because it takes a long time to learn the craft of screenwriting and get to a place where you can write a marketable script that will sell in Hollywood. The bar for new writers is extremely high. Much higher than for a produced writer. Your piece not only has to have an incredibly fresh, exciting, original concept it has to be executed flawlessly meaning it has to follow conventional structure (without being formulaic), have distinct characters and a well paced plot that escalates to a meaningful climax and resolution. It also has to be “about” something and have a reason to be told. On top of this if you are a new writer you need to have an original voice (worked for Diablo Cody) in order to stand out from the 1000’s of screenplays out there at any given time. I don’t know how you can hit this mark in just a few short months. To forgo rewrites because it will be rewritten anyway is something I’ve heard from many new writers who are as yet unproduced and who unfortunately will likely stay that way. You get only a handful of chances to get your work read by someone who can move it forward. You want to make sure it’s damn good and ready when it lands on their desk. You may write quickly but don’t rush your piece. A truly well written screenplay takes time. Be patient. Keep writing. Get good at your craft. And then get your script out there. Just my two cents.

Chris Keaton

It all depends. My first screenplay (if it can really be called that) took years and now holds up my desk. The second and third took a year (I worked on both at the same time). My last script took 4 months. With every speed increase my quality increased. I guess I'm saying that the more you do it the faster and better your stuff will get. In general they say it takes about 12 scripts before you really grow into your own and can get sold.

Dave Merlino

It depends, I had one script that I wrote in eight days, did two polish drafts and received a "Recommend" from The Writer's Store. I have another I have been working off and on for two years that is in its draft that is too high to count number but it too just received a Recommend on that as well. In total I have been writing three years and have five feature length scripts under my belt, two that have been passed around town and opened many doors for me and three I am not sure if I want to move forward with them. When I first started I also marveled about all of the ideas I had and how easy it seemed. Now that I have a lot of experience and exposure I have crossed 80% of them off the board. That was due to some of the best advice I ever received. That advice was not to tout yourself as an idea machine (anyone in town can do that) but to tout yourself as a Professional Writer (something not everyone can do). To do that you have to work to make your script as professional and on point as you can. Someone who sits down with two solidly and executed scripts is going to have a lot more opportunity than someone who sits down and says I have 16 scripts I have spent an average of three months a piece on and just figure you will finish them for me. Re-writes are not for you. Re-writes are for the script. My re-writes come from outside sources telling me that my villain arc does not match my hero arc, or my hero is passive, or that my script is in too many genres that will limit the audience and therefor limit the people who want to buy it (to zero). You are a writer, not an idea machine. You will be hired not based on your ideas but what they think of you as a writer. Here is what I have learned through trial and error and a whole lot of practice that I will pass on. Does your script: - Follow the three act structure? - Does it follow the 8 Sequences? - Does it have an inciting incident? Lock In Point? First Culmination Final Culmination? 3rd Act Twist? If so are they in the right page range? - Does your script fit the page count for the genre? (Comedy and Horror should check in around 90 pages but Drama can go to 120) - Are all your scripts between 90 and 120 pages? - Do you have scenes over 21/2 pages? If so you need to cut them down. - Are all your scenes positive or negative and propel the story forward? Anything neutral needs to go. If you do not know what some of these things are I suggest reading www.thescriptlab.com. If you think your scripts are so wonderful that the story overrides these I beg you to reconsider. Another great piece of advice I received was "In order to break the rules, you must first show that you know them." I know I seem harsh but it is something you need to know now, because if you send a sub-par script to an agent or producer they are just going to cross you off the list and not give you another chance. You have finished screenplays. That is an awesome accomplishment. That puts you ahead of 90% of the people who say they are going to be writers. But the true work is in the polish. Writing is re-writing.

Kamala Lane

Wow. Really great input on this thread. But for those of you who can finish a draft in a short time - how does one have a complete, well-thought-out story in such a short time? It takes me so long to figure out plot and the climaxes/turning points and how I'm going to work my way up to those climaxes and turning points. Please tell me there's a magic formula or manual on this!

Kamala Lane

Dave Merlino's comment is on point!

Chris Keaton

Fast writing doesn't mean that you haven't thought out the entire story in your head for months. :) If you write a detailed outline your writing will go much faster. Sometimes this outline can be the longest part of the process.

Jesse Dean

It all depends on what type of script and the writer. The one I am working on right now that I am doing my final polish on I started in 2008. Because of it's biographical nature and content I have thrown countless hours just into research, it is a western. I have over 6,000 revisions on it and it's a full length feature film. My next piece that I have started which I am ten pages into- only took a day for the ten pages. It is not biographical in no sense at all. So it will be a much quicker project without all the research. Now I can relax and just free style and I am excited about it... it is a romantic comedy. On research I average four pages a day where just a free flow I can average ten pages a day. It just depends on a lot of these factors for myself and on the writer. :D

Sj Heckscher

Lots of factors go into deciding when a script is ready. But the biggest is whether or not you trust yourself to let go. You can tinker and revise forever, if you cannot let go yourself, you have to have a friend to trust to make you let go. My inner control freak has the greatest difficulty letting go; thankfully I have two friends I trust implicitly to wrest the thing away from me before I tinker it to death.

Ronald Fox :

As an author I use the tried and true method of index cards to keep track of characters and plots. Each character, element, location, etc. gets their own card. When you have your characters sitting around a table, for example, you can actually "look" at them by spreading the cards. Plus, as you continue to write you have reference tools that keep you on point with character and plot, as well as sub plot. It's been mentioned here before, but flesh out the bones of the story, and build it from there. I've never seen a script or story completely finished, and then there's the nature of revision once it goes into production.

Keith F. Broad

Good question, Nikki! It's a little like asking, "How many fleas does a dog have?" or, "How long does it take to create something PERFECT?" or "How many steps are there in the staircase to Heaven?" or "How many times do you have to tell your five-year-old to put his/her toys away?" or... or... or... sigh

John Virgo

two to three months

Seán Martyn

took me less then a month to get a first draft of a feature out but that was due to me writing about 20 hours every day.. When I am writing I tend to stick to my own guideline of 5 pages a day on average and at the end of a month I take what I have wrote weather it be a full script or bits of lots of scripts and review the lot but that's just me

Seán Martyn
  • written not wrote *whether not weather
Patrick Hampton

The idea of writing is to take examples from your own life. It helps make the piece flow and come to life. It takes me about 10-12 hours to write a 30 pages of script revised (I will also let my script sit for weeks until I touch it to revise it which takes less then an hour). This is just writing. I live my research everyday with watching peoples interactions, and what I watch on TV (follow about 12 shows a season). Also a big help to most writers who are just beginning and a trick I use. Plot out your whole story before you even start writing the dialogue. The dialogue is what drives the story forward and the characters intent. ;-) The key is to maximize you time and not try and force the story out.

Claire Robertson

A lot depends on the material. I once wrote a rough draft of a feature length film in just one week. Then I had to wait until I had a proper screenwriting program before I could polish it in its proper format. It took 6 months before I got the program. Polishing it took another week. On the other hand, it took me 2 years to write a feature length script from a book(actually one book and 2 short stories combined). That entire script runs 361 pages/minutes which will be edited down to no more than 3 hours and 20 minutes for its theatrical release. I can write a tv script or pilot episode in roughly 48 hours(not counting time out for sleep). I find it much easier and faster to write my own original material for tv or film than to adapt books to tv or film due to the "filler material" that must be left out of the script but is essential to the book.

Patrick Hampton

If you are looking for a program to help with formatting. The industry standard is FInal Draft. I prefer Celtx and its free and easy to use.

Claire Robertson

I'm not looking for one, thanks. Especially not that one. I've been using Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 since Summer 2000 and I have no intention of changing since it works perfectly for me.

Patrick Hampton

its always good to know what the lead competition is using out in Hollywood. ;-)

Claire Robertson

I'm happy to say I don't operate in Hollywood. I live elsewhere. The Internet is the only thing Gore did right. I'm the type of writer who never uses index cards or plots out storylines in a synopsis. My original works start at "Fade in:" and end at "Fade out:". Anyone asking me for a synopsis gets a standard answer: I don't do them. It's for a good reason. Because when a producer hires someone to write a synopsis out, they get paid for the synopsis and the producer is then free to hire someone cheaper to type up a full script based on the synopsis. If a synopsis is detailed enough, it's a simple matter to flesh it out into a full script. the producer saves a bundle in the long run and the person who came up with the idea(synopsis) gets the short end of the deal, including loss of writing credit. So, a producer can either hire me to write a full script or produce something I've already written. More than 90% of the scripts I write, never need second drafts because I work everything out in my head before it ever gets to my keyboard. The only thing I do to really polish a script is read it through a few times to check for spelling and punctuation errors. On average, I can dish out a full season of tv scripts in under 3 months. That leaves me with 9 months a year to work on feature length films which I am adapting from books at the moment. Since it's a series of books, it's taking longer than I expected. But it's getting done faster than it used to when someone else was doing the same job and never finished a single script he'd been hired for.

Patrick Hampton

Trust me Claire I am in the middle of the shit storm. I understand the procress. Coming off my first festival win for a script that literally took me hours to write. Yet in this business no one wants to take a young guy serious. But you are deriving from the original post. You sound like you know what you are doing so give these other writers tips of how they can improve there craft. Not about how awesome and fast you can write. That discouraging new writers from ever completeing the first screenplay. That's not what I want to see as a filmmaker! The more ideas the are written the more the better ones shine.

Patrick Hampton

As a writer you should know the ins and outs of film. Don't limit yourself to just the script it helps you creat a complete project. The writer builds the bones and the spirt of the story.

Claire Robertson

As an indie writer, I've discovered that you need to be very unique in how you approach potential production companies. It's a lot like going fishing. You need the right bait to snag their attention. Then you can reel them in with the details. Which explains why I'm not in talks with a photographer. Everyone tends to write at their own pace. Where I can dish out a full season of scripts for a new original tv show project, it might take a team of writers 5 months or more working together to do the same amount of scripts for an established series. Don't be discouraged just because someone else might write faster than you can. Quality counts as much as speed.

Claire Robertson

That should have said "now in talks". Sorry folks.

Patrick Hampton

Claire so are you in talks with a production company to produces your show? Do you have an agent/ manager? How about distribution? If so, how did you get them? I worked out of a production company out of Paramount. ;-) I know the ropes better then you think. 1000's are in talks, 100's get made, 1 gets seen.

Claire Robertson

That's usually how it works. Unless you're related to Spielberg or win the lottery, you have to convince others to finance your films. I'm independent as I said. So, it takes longer to get anyone to listen to a pitch. Right now, I'm in discussions with a photographer to put a package together for an indie film company. One of the company's founders is an old friend of mine. But I still have to have a pitch for the company to consider any project. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always who you are connected to. If a pitch doesn't grab the producer's attention by the throat and want to throttle him/her, chances are good they won't want to spend money producing it. Another thing that's popularly misunderstood is that it only takes 20 years to become and overnight sensation in Hollywood...it actually takes more than 30 years on average for most writers.

Patrick Hampton

You couldn't of said it any better!

Dhaval Malavia

I believe it is down to each person how long it can take to write an entire screenplay. and i agree with Claire that quality counts more! As for writing it quickly can come with more experience of writing and knowledge. I remember reading an article about Woody Allen's 'midnight in paris' where he was being interviewed and said, "To me, the torture is getting the idea, working the idea out its general plot, structure and story. But once I know that, I can write a screenplay in two, three weeks. It's the difference between writing it and writing it down. It becomes pleasurable for me and flows easily because I've done all the spade work beforehand." And this is something i'll never forget! it honestly doesn't matter how much time it takes for you to write the screeplay. Just work on the basic idea and lay down how everything would roughly work out. then writing it down will become, as Woody Allen says it, pleasurable! :)

Patrick Hampton

@Dhaval so true. The idea is the hard part. To have a stong core and concept is the key to a great screen play. Once that is figured out the rest can follow out. Most writers say the hardest part is the first draft. The key is not to worry about length on that draft. You can always add or take away to get the length to be right on round 2.

Dhaval Malavia

Yepp! Even if you read the final screenplays these big screenwriters come up with, there are always small developments and changes when the director is filming it. But that isn't a worry because the core ingredient, so to speak, has been laid down. One of the best screenplays I've ever read was Shine - written by Jan Sardi 1996! I absolutely loved reading it! I'm still to see the film though! :p

Patrick Hampton

As a writer you need to understand your script is just the start of the film. That's why most writers try and direct there own scripts. This can be a positive or negative depending the writer and if they are directors. (There is a difference from being a director and thinking you are on.) Your words are the mind of the film other people form the body and the and the soul of it to make it great.

Claire Robertson

One of the main reasons why "Rocky" was such a big hit was because Stallone insisted on directing as well as starring in it himself. He wrote it and his wife at the time typed it up. When you write a script, you have an idea that you would like to see on the big screen. When someone else reads your script, they may have a different vision of what it would look like on the big screen. If you can afford it or if you can convince someone else to afford it, you have a better chance of getting your vision on the screen. It's a case of the old addage holding true: If you want something done, hire someone to do it. If you want it done right, do it yourself.

Seán Martyn

I have to agree with Claire here even this year in my film course if you didn't direct the film you wrote yourself the landscape you had in your head for the film as well as dialog and characters for it changed. I for one love having creative control over something I have taken the time and effort to write if I were to ever have the opportunity to sell anything I write I would ask to direct it. I mean this year I was working on a short and the scriptwriter didn't even get invited to the premiere of the film he spent four years writing.

Claire Robertson

it was actually "ghost-directed". The equivelant of dictating your work and having someone else type it up(ghost-writing). Stallone was the one actually in charge but Avildsen did advise him a lot on how the job is done. Stallone learned a lot from that film and other writers/actors/aspiring-directors can learn a lot that way, too.

Chris Keaton

Who spends 4 years writing a short? 4 hours maybe, but 4 years?

Patrick Hampton

To be the best you need to know everything that is going on. As a writer you are inspiring other people to do their jobs to make your film. I spent the past year gathering all the experience I could on and off the set. Even made it to Sundance on the Feature the Pact which was Directed by Nicholos Mccarthy. Writer and first time director for features. These experiences help me learn and love the whole process more. In return it got me to see and evolve my written to the next level. Writers are the job creators in film and everyone's role is important to make the film.

Claire Robertson

A lot depends on how much time you have available to actually write. If you are Spielberg's niece, you don't have to worry about paying your bills and can devote all the time you want on it. But if you're like the rest of us, you'll need to cram writing time in whenever you can between working and commuting and eating and sleeping. For those who work at home(like me), some of us can spin out a short script in an hour. Typing speed also comes into play. For instance, I flunked typing in 9th grade. But getting online and being in chat rooms forced me to learn touch-typing quickly. I can now type upwards of 220 words a minute when I'm on a roll in writing something original.

Seán Martyn

@ Chris He wrote it in his spare time it took 4 years to get a final draft. And as a matter of fact I have plenty of shorts which I haven't finished yet which I started over 4 years ago. I change my focus between features, shorts and plays all of the time. If it only takes you four hours to develop a short then good for you. But I like to take my time and make sure its done to my satisfaction. it's like my lecturer this year wanted us to put a camera on a tripod properly, turn it on then down again in the bags in under 2 and a half minutes everyone did it except me (this was are first day and expensive equipment) I turn to him and say do you want it done fast or done right he said right and I said I am the only one who had done it right. He said well done for not taking the easy way out and doing things two quickly that you didn't check the spirit level on the tripod. I got full marks because I took my time (what I am saying is its like the tortoise and the hare)

Patrick Hampton

Here is an example of an award winning script. It took me 2 months to work out the series and the core concept. When I started writing I had 90 pages done in 30 hours. Here is the pilot that won. http://www.stage32.com/profile/63689/screenplay/rise-kings

Dhaval Malavia

@Claire, I like the examples you give! haha I wish I was speilberg's neice! one of my main inspirations to become a film director is him! But i know what you mean about writing in between work, commuting etc. (though i'm not sure about writing when you're sleeping, lol) Once again this reminds me of Woody Allen when he wrote the idea of his movie 'Hollywood Ending' behind a matchbox! Year later he found the matchbox and made a film! It is just brilliant if a director can write and make his own films and I am going to try doing that! The only problem is i'm a rookie writer and still have a lot to learn in screenwriting. My plan is to do so when I begin my course in film making after I finish computer animation arts! :)

Patrick Hampton

If you want to be a screenwriters just write. This is advice I have gotten from Hollywood writers. Even if your work doesn't get made its still practice.

Andrew G. Morgan

Depends on the screenplay :) My first took 5 years, my second 1 year (500% improvement!) - based on that, my next one should take a couple of months :D

Patrick Hampton

To get better it's practice practice practice. If you don't work at it you can never get better.

Claire Robertson

it's actually best to have a variety of scripts available for when producers ask. Writing a single feature length film is all well and good. But some producers may want to branch out of their usual niche. An action producer might ask for a drama screenplay or a pilot for a new series. Consider writing a handful of scripts in each genre for both tv and film and you'll have more for the producer to choose from. Having a variety available also makes it more likely that the producer will consider you again the next time he/she needs something original in a hurry.

Steven Seidman

I've written shorts in days. My feature film I'm writing is on 5 years. That though is more of a evolution through the combination of my Education/Original Concept/ and the several drafts which all comprise different elements of what is making my current draft possible. The biggest thing is never stop writing, force yourself and the connections will be made and the story will come together. Depends on the story your telling. I was also 17 when I first started I'm 22 now.

Claire Robertson

I decided to concentrate on screenwriting when I was 16. I'm now 46 and a half. Biggest lesson to take from that is that everything takes time and those who keep trying never fail. But those who stop trying never succeed.

Patrick Hampton

@Steven I'm 24, if you focus to much on one piece you can kill it. A script isn't done until the movie is shot. It still needs to go thru the director who will make changes and the editor who will cut things out. My favorite thing to do when writing a piece is finish the draft maybe do an edit and come back days, weeks, or even months later with a fresh pair of eyes and work on the script. Which just ends up be an hour our 2 to finilize the script for the next level.

Patrick Hampton

@Steven I'm 24, if you focus to much on one piece you can kill it. A script isn't done until the movie is shot. It still needs to go thru the director who will make changes and the editor who will cut things out. My favorite thing to do when writing a piece is finish the draft maybe do an edit and come back days, weeks, or even months later with a fresh pair of eyes and work on the script. Which just ends up be an hour our 2 to finilize the script for the next level.

Patrick Hampton

We can look at Max Landis the pen to this years superhero underdog film Chronicle. From my sources he has over 30 scripts penned before he sold his first.

Steven Seidman

However, that's going about you want to sell script. What if your pulling a Lucas and starting a Franchise based off your script

Patrick Hampton

Good luck. Because Lucas didn't just build the Franchise off his script. He also invented and use a new way of shooting on Star Wars. Which was one of the first features if not the first to be shot digitally. He didn't just write and amazing script, he helped change the way we shot our movies today. Its the same idea of what James Cameron did on Titanic and Avatar. And Steven I am pulling a JJ Abraham and Joss Wheaton if you want to look at it like that. If you want to start a Franchise I say start working on set everywhere and anywhere you can. You need to know film inside and out to be able to do get it done. Hollywood is only making it harder for people to come up.

Lisa Clemens

Claire, I agree with you! While in talks to see if I was the writer they would hire, producers have asked me to show them samples of my writing and I was able to send each one a different script. Having different genre scripts for each situation helped me tremendously. I don't think I would have gotten hired to turn their story into a screenplay if I didn't have relevant scripts to show them that I could write in the style (PG vs R for example) and genre they wanted. Oh and like you, I live far from Hollywood but I take full advantage of the internet (Skype has become a very important tool for me)

Steven Seidman

Patrick, Lucas may have developed a new technology. But the millions in toys, books, comics, and everything else didn't come from the new tech.

Patrick Hampton

I think you aren't getting what I tried to point out. It was because of the script and new shooting format that put Star Wars on top. Either one couldn't have been done without the other. We can't just think stories if you want to franchise properly but the whole package, with the right people, and hitting the right fan base. Its a huge science behind it and takes a lot of work. And the toy's comics and books came after the film. And became even bigger after the 1st remastered release .

Emanuel F. Camacho, Pmp

For the most part 6 months, like some have mentioned - depends on your individual schedules and what is on your deal memos/contracts - for anyone that is writing one that has never been made into a film...depends on any number of factors but chances are that person won't be done in six months. EDIT: I'd also venture to say for anyone that has yet to get their screenplay made into a film, if said screenplays are being pumped out quickly...perhaps it is time to slow it down and refocus your methods.

Emily Edalia Moore

they are never done!!!!!

Teresa Teller

I am working on two scripts, one will not take as long because of the story line, the other one will take longer. Having a good log line, helps me stay the course.

Jodi Cilley

it takes as long as it takes.

Amy Suto

It depends. My rough drafts -- if I plan them out with meticulous pre-writing -- take a week or two. But the re-writing takes a few months, and then you've got polishes and fixes made based on feedback. Sometimes, when you think you're done, somebody finds a plot hole and now you've got to double back and fix things again. Six months minimum, a year tops. Any longer than that and you should just move on to something new. It's a process, so find yours.

Emanuel F. Camacho, Pmp

Perhaps this is not appropriate for this particular question - but it might be relevant in a general sense. In terms of the business side of screenplay writing (to include producing in general), the time frame of the screenplay may need to factor in (as many have stated) the contract - rather, the deal memo. Most writers will get a Deal Memorandum with their screenplay hanging in the balance as the object to execute (which all of you, my esteemed colleagues know). Very lately have most screenplay writers been placed on spec, very few receive a fee to write the piece, but most are working toward their WGA 2%/2%. For various professional screenplay writers the need to push out multiple in a year is crucial to personal finance. Especially if most (if not all) of their pieces are written on spec on a deal memo that calls for approval or a studio greenlight to utilize. So for any of you that are new to this aspect, the question is "How long does it truly take to complete a screenplay?" in the end it depends if you are working on a piece of your own, or if you are someone who is writing many in a year for various groups, it matters if you are on Spec, hoping for a greenlight on your piece to gain your 2%/2%. I would tend to say that if you are the latter, you will be writing on a more structured timeline and are producing many more pieces. If you are creating for yourself or independently, you may take longer (but not necessarily). In the end I think I will stick to my original comment and the many others that have made the statement - it will mostly be deemed by what kind of deal memo/contract you have. I would only state, regardless of your time-frame, don't sacrifice quality for speed.

Thomas Bailey

I tend to vary on them. I recently knocked out a screen play in 4 months but have been working on another one for almost 2 years, it going through its final revisions now. I think the big thing for me is to write as much as I can but not writing just for the sake of trying to write something that would be great for that moment in the script. When the great idea comes, it comes, you shouldn't have to force it into the script... but writing constantly will help keep your brain moving forward. But I guess that is why some times it takes me so long, the ideas keep out doing the last ones I have!

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

I average about 12 weekends to complete the first draft. Shorter, if I pen the treatment first. I only write on weekends as I'm too stressed after work on weekdays to give it my two arms and legs. :)

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

I average about 12 weekends to complete the first draft. Shorter, if I pen the treatment first. I only write on weekends as I'm too stressed after work on weekdays to give it my two arms and legs. :)

Rod Merten

I do 2-3 per year, but I also produce and run a production company, CinemaStar Productions.

Emanuel F. Camacho, Pmp

From last June to this week, my writing partner (Gabriel Novo) and I have done five screenplays, two of them greenlit (Hippo Films/Elizabeth Avellan). - The two being produced took about 8 months total, the others were cranked out 3-4 weeks a piece - all of them features. Someone also stated on this thread that (or perhaps I'm thinking of a different thread) it also depends on the producer/studio looking at the screenplay. Your piece might be complete and appear unfinished or as an early incomplete draft to one producer, yet ready and inspiring to another... So many subjective factors...

Ken Pond

It depends. For me, it's always about, revise, refine, revise, refine. And, not just when you're writing it. A lot of good stuff comes to me in the shower, while I'm falling asleep... etc.

Emanuel F. Camacho, Pmp

FALLING ASLEEP! YES! You and I are right there @Ken...it's been a long day, set work, writing, running companies, my children continuing to confuse me as a jungle gym...etc, I hit that pillow after insomnia driven delirium kept me working through the night, and when I close my eyes, I get a concept, or Idea that I have to wake up and write...>_<

Ken Pond

thank you @Emanuel. That's really how the creative process works. It marinates while we are doing other things. One of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces was laid out in 16 hours... when before he did not even put pen to paper for the job for 6 months.

Paul Reynolds

I think it depends on how much time you can devote to writing and how it rates with other things in your life such as your job, family, etc. If you can find the time to schedule yourself to write 1-2 pages a day the average screenplay will probably take 2 months or so for first draft and then another 2-3 months to polish it up

Patrick Hampton

Research is what can kill the time. With a piece that takes a lot of research you an be doing that for month even before you write. Still if you have a concept that flows it can take hours to write. I just finished he first draft of my feature 118 pages in about 24 hours of work time over 4 days. But that is also including time spent in fb twitter and stage 32. Dedication to you work is what matters.

Sandra Campbell

I've been reaching for about 6mths and I'm almost finished. I usually don't have to do that much, but the concept I'm working on requires a lot of digging into a variety of material.

Ralph Shorter

The shortest time it took for me to write a screenplay was three weeks. I was driven to complete it before I lost it. The whole thing popped into my head intact from out of the ether...

Rachael Saltzman

How long is a piece of string?

Vivian Lermond

When the spirit moves you - write. I usually get the idea for the story in my head, think through a possible beginning, middle and end and then immediately put it to paper. I usually get a working first draft done in 30 days and then start my re-writes.

Amber Epling

Mine only takes about two to three weeks, depending on how inspired I am and how often I can work on it.

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

My first one took 2 months from when I finished the outline to " Fade out".... BUT that's a first draft. It takes another 6 months or more of rewrites especially if you have a full time job and family.

Amber Epling

That is true.

Curt Butler

... that's a loaded question! ... best way to find out is START WRITING! ... most 2-to-3 months, and another 2-to-3 for a polished script; while others... well, still writing one after 5-years (go figure?).

Amber Epling

Yeah, and I have been writing for 15 yrs. and have at least thirty films, both complete and in-progress of all different genres.

Julian Nabunya

its takes me 3 month to make first draft , but rewrite is my daily food , i think i can only stop till its published ... i mean taken to production , other wise i have no limit in time as far as making my script better is concerned . Merry Xmas every one above incase you believe in Jesus .

Nikki April Lee

I'm entering the new screenplay competition that was announced on Stage 32. One of the deadlines is for Jan 31st. That's alittle over a month away! I've been spending a lot of free time into polishing over the script getting it error free. The prizes for the top winners are too good to pass up on. Writing a script requires time and patience. I hope that I don't screw up with only a month to write, rewrite x4, and finish script with such little time.

Chance Mafoua

I think the length of time depends on the writer, their amount of free time and their inspiration level. If you're feeling very inspired and have a lot of free time, you can complete it in a month. I met a writer once who told me she once completed a first draft screenplay in one week! I wish I could knock out scripts in a week. Me, personally, 7-8 months is pretty decent if I write on a consistent basis.

James Giordano

If you're really feeling it you can pump one out in 2 weeks to a month. I work best under pressure.

Véronique Robert

I think it all depends on the inspiration. My average is about 5/ year. The fastest I wrote was for TASTE; 2 weeks and honestly, it's one of my best.

James Giordano

Currently I'm working on two projects with writing partners. Though most times I prefer working alone, it's cool having people in the room, that I respect, to bounce ideas off of.

Lisa Clemens

James I can't agree with you more! I love working with my partner, especially because he's better at thinking visually. He's worked as a director and done some cinematography so he understands the technical side of what's possible and thus comes up with some really amazing action. It's so much fun to brainstorm!

Amber Walden Rapp

For all you lady writers, Kansas City Women in Film and Television is having their second annual short screenplay contest. So regardless of how long it takes for a feature, writing a short is even quicker. Better yet our grand prize is $1000.00. Check it out and partner writers are welcome as long as one of you is a woman. www.kcwift.com

Vivian Lermond

For me ... 30 days for the first draft. However, it is usually 2-6 months before the project is polished.

Amber Epling

I just wrote a short film in four days.

Don Thomas

I don't know. I do other types of writing and editing while I am also doing the screenplay writing dance. But generally if I do a ton of research. Outline everything out. Do character notes for any character which has more than two lines. Generally I can go from initial idea to average polished script in about two months. One of the ones I have samples of on my profile was written to the version it is now from initial idea in about a month, and I was most definitely working on other things at the time. I'm sure I could speed up that casual walk in the park to something at least a little quicker if I had ample motivation. Back in the day when my daily work schedule was not so loaded and I was about as wet behind the ears as it gets newbie screenwriter,I cranked out one first draft of a script in about 3 1/2 days. But my roommate was making me take five hour breaks cause they couldn't go to sleep with all that typing going on. But that's just me. Today for instance I wrote 7,500 words for a prose short story I am working on for a publisher for publication. No notes, no outline. Just a day to read through all the previously written stories featuring the character. The motivation being clearing the way for the undertaking of another larger project for which I'll be paid more generously upon completion and further down the road.

Grant Vetters

I just noticed this, and thought I'd give my thoughts. How long it takes is literally up to you. My writing partner and I did a page one rewrite of a Jean-Claude Van Damme script in a week or two. BUT, that was a rewrite of a a completely written script, so not quite a fair assessment. We did write one from scratch in 7 - 14 days. Never sold, and it was sub-B movie grade, but there you go. I don't consider myself Oscar calibre by any means, so the time it takes really can vary. I like to consider myself a "high concept" writer. High concept generally meaning an idea that in one or two brief sentences is an interesting idea that a person, and ideally a million + people, think is a great idea. For example, "Dinosaurs are genetically recreated and run amuck on tropical island". "Jurassic Park" is the movie and what a great idea (providing you enjoy popcorn Hollywood films). Sure you can write the great dramatic or there genre picture that can't quite be conveyed in one or two short sentences, but GENERALLY these ideas and scripts will be harder to get sold/made if you are a novice writer, unless you have strong connections and horseshoes up your "butt". If you are new to writing, two books I personally strongly recommend are Michael Hauge's "Writing Screenplays That Sell" and Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat". Both generally follow a high concept, formulaic process, but can apply to more "artistic" scripts as well. I also suggest downloading free Hollywood scripts at a site like Drew's Script-O-Rama. Hundreds of Hollywood movies are here for free, and you can see and learn from writers how in the "A" gam end making a whack of cash doing it. I've blabbed a lot (too much) on my personal thoughts, but hope they assist in your endeavours. All the Best. Grant

Jeremy Hunter

About a week from first draft to final draft. I'm one of those writers who doesn't have a plan going in, I just have to write it and hope for the best. Two weeks ago for example I started and finished two television pilots in the course of four days and just this week I started and finished a new one in two and last night the first 30 pages of a new one. I generally type about 30 pages of script per day, whether it be an idea I just came up with or one I've had in my head for a while. The only way I believe I will improve as a writer is to write and write until it comes to the point that when I am writing that I'm not even thinking about it, all I have to do is type. I'm nearly at that point but my end goal is to get 60 pages of script done per day. That will take some work.

Ioan Serban

I worked on a rewrite of a/and with Jean Claude van Damme script and I'd say that we finished a good versionof it in about a month... if you have a clear story in mind, and a well developed treatment, the writing of a screenplay is easier... it depends how disciplined you are... and how talented...

Padma Narayanaswamy

For me it took about five months and that because was a bit busy guy

Daniel Cruz

I have one I've been working on for over a year now. And one that I recently finished that took only a month and a half to finish. I don't think there is an exact science to it.

Ioan Serban

Jacqueline - yes, I did... it was a learning experience, and I'm not talking about screenwriting :)

Paul Hill

Hate to sound like a wiseass here, but its the same answer I give to those who ask how long will it take to get there after I give them directions. I say "It depends how fast you drive!"

Mark Sanderson

I just completed my latest screenplay assignment in 25 days. I have four weeks to complete it in my contract. I used a solid ten page detailed story treatment and worked from that as the producers would never allow a writer to start a screenplay without knowing every aspect of the story and knowing that it works at least in a story. Five pages a day is a finished script in 20 days. The key is going in with a solid beat sheet/treatment/outline.

Cherie Grant

Yeah I am going this route from now on. Do my outline, paste it into final draft as action sequences. Add in scene headings above every sequence and work on those scenes with honed actions and dialogue. I now won't start a script without a solid outline/treatment. I've wasted too much time starting a script without one.

Mark Sanderson

And when you start working professionally, a producer will require you to write a story treatment/step outline before you will be allowed to go to pages, unless they hand you the finished treatment. SO, it's good practice to start acting like a pro now so you are doing the necessary training to be ready.

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

Very true. The outline and treatment are first in the process anyway. It shows if your "building blocks" are sound, so the screenplay is sound.

Dan Guardino

Depends on the writer and the story. My first screenplay probably took close to a year and each got a little faster to do and now it takes me about three months. However I only write about an hour or two a day.

Jurij Fedorov

I can write a screenplay in two weeks. Maybe 3 weeks. I can write a good screenplay in? Well, I don't know. I don't know really.

Dan Guardino

I never spent a year on a screenplay. If you can't write one in 90 days nobody would hire you .

Mark Sanderson

Agreed with Dan. You have to start now training yourself to write a script in at least three months or less as that is the usual time given when you work on assignment for a first draft. A solid treatment/outline and a steady writing schedule will help you to complete a faster first draft.

Jesse Dean

No,.. not if you are writing your ten (10) pgs. a day minimum~ [Stephen King- On Writing]. I would personally the most grueling the probably is my re-write and of course all of us writers experience the old writers block from script to script. Yeah, but that re-write “oh boy!” Here is a list of cosmetics for a really great screenplay I usually tend to stick to and most of these sub-categories, on screenplay production are fundamental for expediency as well as persistence in the development of the writer and his work.

Nikki April Lee

Dan Guardino Agreed! I believe the same thing.

Raymond Zachariasse

Could be. It all depends on the size, the genre and how many rewrites. Also, if you need to do extensive research, you also need to take that in account. For me a first draft of a short usually takes a week and that's about 15 pages. But if you want to be really good, then take all the time you need.

Dan MaxXx

How do you plan to make a pro career writing one spec screenplay per year? Gotta crank em out and they all have to be excellent and represent your voice. My Agent will drop me if I write one per year.

Peter Roberts

Don't put yourself under pressure. We are all unique and different and have varied methods of working. The same as a book, 'it takes as long as it takes'. Of course, that is not to say we should not have goals: we should. Additionally, having a mind set as to timing can be as limiting as having none. We each have to find what works for us and proceed accordingly.

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