Screenwriting : How Long Should It Take to Write a Screenplay? by Marisa Torre

Marisa Torre

How Long Should It Take to Write a Screenplay?

How long should it take to write a screenplay?

My personal rule of thumb is 1 page /day - a 120 page screenplay = 4 months

... Pick 2 - you want it GOOD or CHEAP or FAST ...? It can't be all three

https://thescriptlab.com/features/screenwriting-101/9633-how-long-should...

How Long Should It Take to Write a Screenplay? - The Script Lab
How Long Should It Take to Write a Screenplay? - The Script Lab
How long should it take write that screenplay of yours? It's a common - but somewhat loaded - question. When you've been in the industry for many years and have worked on both ends of the table (studi…
Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

I've written rough screenplays in a week. A couple I did under the gun and both were optioned. Of course, I did do subsequent drafts of both scripts.

Dan Guardino

I will not spend over three months writing a screenplay and a couple of weeks doing rewrites. I did one for a producer in two weeks once but that grueling and I would never do that again. In fact I have two commitments to write screenplays and I hope I never write another screenplay for as long as I live.

Tom Wadlow

The really interesting, the idea of how long it takes. I guess surely it would depend on the complexity of the story and the amount of research that needs to go into it, or even the genre? I imagine writing a medical based drama in going to take longer than say a teen slasher?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Writing a spec takes as long as it takes depending on context: how one works, the story complexity, one's inspiration/motivation, and the circumstances surrounding the writer and the project. That, and/or a deadline. Writing for hire is a whole different thing. ;)

Artisan James

One of my scripts, my original high-concept event horror spec, is literally 20 years in the making! Lol, but no, it really is. It didn't take 20 years to write the script, although that took some time too, but from conception which started with a short slasher that I made as a teen using my father's $300 dollar Sony Handycam... to beginning to write a treatment and allowing all of the ideas to marinate and evolve over time...to chipping away at the script for a set period of time while constantly going back to it, to finally having a complete product! I was also writing other short scripts, reading scripts, reading books, and doing all of that simultaneously over the years as well!

David Michael Klatt

I find that when I really get in the zone, I can pump out 10-15 pages a day in five-hour sessions. But the writing isn't done after that. Editing can take an indefinite amount of time. I've been slowly beefing up my pilot for nine months.

Artisan James

David Michael Klatt I almost did the same thing! I left my job of almost 20 years in January and ended up finishing my script in September of this year, as I pounded it out all Summer to get it in the best shape possible. It now looks as close to a shooting script as can be. Although, when I sit down to write the sequel(s)... I don't intend to take as long, as I already have the basic vision for it... sorting out that vision for the first installment was just one of the challenges. I can't wait to reveal the title and give everyone on here a quick glimpse to what I have in store...

Sam Borowski

I don't believe you can put a number of days - or months - on how long it takes you to write a screenplay. That may seem like a generic answer, but it really isn't. Several times it took me a week to write a screenplay - I was just THAT invested. And, two of them didn't get significant rewrites. Conversely, it took me almost a year to write my first one - hard to believe that was almost 28 years ago. But, to me, it generally depends on how passionate, invested and "open," you are. And, by open, I mean being able to shut out the world and concentrate. I remember hearing Elmore Leonard say once, "Why have writer's block? There's something else that's blocking it." Indeed, Dutch used to churn them out - and GREAT work, to boot! I think the more you UNDERSTAND where your story is going, the more open AND invested you are, the quicker you can write. I once co-wrote -with two writing partners, one WGA writer and one prominent actor - a feature (with two subsequent rewrites/polishes) for an A-list director in just about a month. It was based on a true story and I - and the other writers, as well - had done extensive research on the real-life subjects. The same thing I say about filmmaking to writers, filmmakers and actors actually applies here: Be Proactive! GOD BLESS and STAY FRESH! <3

Sam Borowski

FYI - My math was off - it was closer to 20 years, not 28. I think the eights through me off, as this was 1998! LOL! GOD BLESS and STAY FRESH! ;)

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Marisa- When you feel it is ready.

"NO GREAT WORK OF ART IS EVER FINISHED, IT'S ONLY ABANDONED "

MICHAELANGELO

Shara Maude

It depends. If it's something you're really into, you can do it quite quickly. Then again, it depends on what quick means. For each writer "quick" could mean different things.

Phil Parker

Like Beth said, if you're writing for hire, it's a whole different story. Your contract will/should have a deadline. It also depends on your starting point in the development process. If you have nothing else on your plate, you're starting from scratch and you're being paid good money, it's reasonable for a producer to expect you to deliver a first draft in twelve or so weeks... but that first draft needs to be at a third/fourth draft level. My current gig is a historical one so I baked in a bit more time to allow for research... and to get it right :)

Julien Klenn

A script shouldn’t take more than 30 days to write for a rough draft. You can’t spend months on writing a script.

You need to be able to produce fast if you want to work in the industry. Most deadlines for writing gigs are 30 days or less.

If you take all your time in the world, you’ll never be able to develop the skill to write a coherent script fast that will be completed within the industry deadlines.

Phil Parker

Julien Klenn - Your experience within the industry may differ from mine, so I'm not going to say you're wrong, but I will say none of my contracts have been for thirty days or less. They've all been for around 12 weeks. WGA standard contracts allow for 12 weeks, though some may be less. I'd say most, if not all, podcasts or videos or articles I've read about this topic mention a time frame of around 12 weeks. Some a little longer or shorter. The latest Script Notes podcast even mentions 12 weeks. So I'm very curious what kind of jobs you're encountering when you say "most deadlines for writing gigs are 30 days or less".

Dan MaxXx

Takes 30 days just to receive a check for a 3-month writing assignment.

Dan Guardino

Julien. If you are writing a spec screenplay you can take as long as you want since nobody is paying you to write it. You don’t have to worry about deadlines until you get a writing gig. I don’t know where you came up with this 30 days or less. Most for a feature film are 90 days for a First Draft and 15 to 30 more for a rewrite. I would never agree to write a feature in less than 90 days.

Gustavo Freitas

In my case, 5 pages a day, plus 2-4 weeks for rewrite. Add the research time if needed. If it's a short, rewrite can be done in one week.

Phil Parker

Dan MaxXx - speaking of the latest Script Notes podcast - they talk about that part of the process, too RE getting paid in a timely manner. And what a nightmare at even the Studio level it is! Yikes.

Dan MaxXx

No, Ephron might have done a polish in three days but someone else wrote SIS screenplay, before collaboration process and shared screen credits.

Bill Costantini

Agree with Dan MaxXx. It used to take Nora Ephron three days to write some of her one-page articles for the Washington Post back in the day - maybe that's what Anita heard. It took her more than six months to write Sleepless in Seattle. She is one of my all-time favorite writers.

RIP, Nora Ephron (May 19. 1941 - June 26, 2012).

BEST HOPES, PRAYERS AND WISHES TO THE VICTIMS, FAMILIES, AND FIREFIGHTERS IN CALIFORNIA

MAY THE HEAVENS HELP THE FAMILIES OF THE MERCY HOSPITAL SHOOTING.

Bill Costantini

Anita....you're from Germany...weird and absurd are normal to you! Heh-heh.

Great writer Adam Rifkin wrote the classic comedy Mouse Hunt in one weekend. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. Except for eating Hackepeter and not getting sick. I mean....who eats Hackepeter and doesn't get sick? Oh those Germans! Heh-heh.

Best of luck to you and Happy Writing, Anita!

Dan MaxXx

I write faster when someone is paying me.

Pamela Bolinder

DAN M: LOL

Dash Riprock

Paul Schrader wrote "Taxi Driver" in 10 days. But then again, he's Paul Schrader.

Bill Costantini

Dash...I love Paul Schrader,, cuz he makes me feel so young.

Back when I was 20, he was promoting Cat People, and I heard him talking about writing and theme and destruction and catharsis. And I felt like I was two years old again and started to suck my thumb while I searched for my old binkie.

Yes sir....Paul Schrader...he always makes me feel so young again...and always makes me search for my binkie.

Tony Ray

I read somewhere that when a screenwriter is hired, part of their contract usually states that the first draft of a screenplay has to be done within 8-10 weeks. Do you know if that's true or not?

John Iannucci

Dan, I do anything faster when somebody’s paying me - except when he’s paying by the hour. Lol

Bill Costantini

That's funny, Coach. I was looking to hire a marketing guy earlier this year and I offered him hourly pay, based on his output. I told him if he was really good after two months, then he'd get a salary. He refused, and said he wanted $100,000 annual salary from day one. I then asked him "how would you like $100K, three weeks paid vacation, 10 paid sick days, Half-Day Fridays, and full health insurance?" He said, "wow...you're kidding me, right?" I said "yeah, but you started it."

Artisan James

Here's a brief outline of my journey writing and finishing my first complete script, notice COMPLETE script, not completed script! There is a difference... (Made a short, homemade horror slasher w/ friends when I was 16) ----------- (Wrote a short fictional ghost story involving some abandoned forts in my hometown at 19) ------------(began to write it as a novel but stopped) -------- (bought my first book on screenwriting, the bible!) ----------(bought my next screenwriting book, and my next....) --------(At 23, I began to write a coming of age drama, and over time, completed a draft) ---------- (Also wrote a unique coming of age comedy as well, completed a draft) ------------ (Went back to studying screenwriting, reading scripts, writing, reading, dissecting stories/movies) ----------(Went back to that ghost story, refined it) ------------ (began to write it as a screenplay at 25, 26.) ---------- (over the next ? years, the script evolved, draft after draft after draft. Staying away from it. Going back to it. Chipping away) ----------- (Finally at 3?, I knew my main character. I knew my villain. I knew my story! I knew it was ready) ---------- (Stopped writing the script at 3?, it's complete!) AJ

Dan MaxXx

Keep firing more bullets = more scripts, more chances.

Oscar winners get rejected all the time but look at their output. They write volume.

https://twitter.com/RealGDT/status/1067074218217676801

https://twitter.com/carnojoe/status/1067176847065141248

Dan Guardino

I agree with Dan M. If you tell someone you just finished your first screenplay they try to blow you off because they think finding a first screenplay that is worthy of production would be like finding a needle in a haystack. I am not saying I think that but it is probably true. People in the business know that people who write a lot of screenplays are really dedicated and expect their screenplays to be better well-written and maybe even worthy of production. So the more scripts you have under your belt chances are more people in the business would be willing to read them which means the more contacts you will make and contacts in this business are everything.

Artisan James

Dan Guardino they are out there though, first scripts that are production worthy that is. Gran Torino comes to mind, as well as Juno by Diablo Cody, although she had connections before she wrote it!

Travis Calvert

Depends. Sometimes when things are going well you can crank out 5-10 pages a day, while other times it takes much longer. In Sorkin's Masterclass he revealed that he'll work on some scripts for up to 2 years.

Artisan James

Travis Calvert sounds about right, especially when it comes to research heavy stories/scripts

Bill Costantini

Travis/Artisan....in the William Goldman Quotes topic....he said he spent eight years researching one film. I'm sure he was doing other things too,...but sometimes you can't rush greatness, and you can't rush your own individual process.

Gives one more appreciation for the folks who work in television, and who have to put stuff out every day, and every week. Those folks...wow...that's hard stuff.

Here's the link to the William Goldman quotes if you're interested:

https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/William-Goldman-Screenplay-...

Artisan James

"Sometimes you can't rush greatness, and you can't rush your own individual process." Good stuff. I agree, I can relate... and those folks working in television it seems are in a whole other world... they have to rush greatness... something that most of us probably aren't that good at yet. I can say now that I've only written features.

Dan Guardino

Artisan James. That is true but it is pretty rare. I optioned my first screenplay to John Travolta's manager/producer but it was a piece of crap. I had another producer try to option it a couple of month ago but since I wouldn't sell it so we teamed up to produce it ourselves. That is not what really happened to Diablo Cody.

Nicholas In Seattle

It's great to hold yourself to a scheduled stance; however, from one writer-author to-the-next, timing varies and what is good for some, isn't so good for others. Creativity comes as creativity does. There is no rule to 'when a writer writes.' That task is completely open to personal interpretation as well action. The ultimate key to writing is--- (enter drum roll)--- Writing itself. Write my friends, write! There are countless numbers of published professional writer's who found themselves facing a... 'white or blank page' staring up at them. The page will wait, it has no time limits or requirements... ah but do you? Who writes? You, the page or the pen? Best wishes always! Ciao!

Dan Guardino

Nicholas that is true unless someone is paying you.

Nicholas In Seattle

Hi Don... Yes indeed, once paid, time constraints apply, but that's the same as when a Writer/Author gets published and the publisher then lays down the time allotted (<--- wasn't sure about that spelling!) for the work to be ready to go, or for the 'next-in-the-series' to be ready to go. I 'thought' we were speaking 'in-general-terms' here. "?" Ah well, we get a taste of both avenues eh? :--)) Thanks for your comment. WRITE my friends WRITE!!!

Dan Guardino

Nicholas. My response has nothing to do with authors and publishers.

Nicholas In Seattle

Dan, I have to say, "This is the first time that I've heard of a screenwriter not being considered an author." D.A.Serra said, "What I mean by this is, when someone is reading a screenplay, they must visualize as they read, actually view the work in their mind’s eye, in real time, if they want to experience the author’s intent." Look up D.A.Serra Dan. And so; I just read your statement above where you referenced the way Hollywood works when screenplays come before them. You're way off base my friend. And since I have direct ties in this field, I feel it's important to say what 'is', not what 'one might think' is. A person can write a million screenplays and never get optioned or considered for option IF they don't write in acceptable format along with good grammar. Dan, I'd like to ask you, "What is the most important part of a screenplay, that's made it to the desk of a producer or director?"

Pamela Bolinder

Nicholas, I can't seem to get a PM to you. :/

Dan Guardino

Nicholas In Seattle. I am saying what “is” based on my own experience not what “one might think is." I don’t know what the most important part of a screenplay is that's made it to the desk of a producer or director" nor do I care. If I want to get one of my screenplays to the desk of a producer or director or anyone else in the business I call my agent.

Nicholas In Seattle

Dan Guardino, the first ten pages and in some cases... it's over after the first. Having an Agent is always a good thing... good on you. Thanks for chiming in and good day to you.

Dan Guardino

Nicholas In Seattle. I agree and you have a good day as well.

Nicholas In Seattle

Thanks Dan. Cold gray day here in Seattle. Wishing warmth to everyone and a Very Happy Christmas 2018! Who can believe that we'd be here already--- thee end of 2018. "My goodness!" Where DOES the time go?

Dan Guardino

It is snowing here so I'll trade you.

Nicholas In Seattle

No thanks Dan, I'll pass on the snow for now, but how about on Christmas Eve and Day? Nothin like a snow-white Christmas! Anywho, best get back to the discussion at hand. I'm out--- Happy Christmas everyone! Ciao!

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