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Screenwriting : How fast do you write your story (minus editing)? by Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

How fast do you write your story (minus editing)?

I am off onto another full feature and I got to thinking, WOW.. I write fast. I write My screen plays in very short periods of time. One I wrote in 7 days 86 pages and this last one I wrote in 3 days 91 pages. I wrote one of my shorts, 31 pages (32 minutes) in one night. I wrote a 5 minute short in an hour. Now you might be thinking to yourself that I must be a crappy writer, or don't take my time and mess things up, but please keep in mind that BOTH of the full features I mentioned are being looked at, 1 short I did has been made, another is being made. They surprise people, especially when they know how long it took me to write it... I will say this though, I type for very long periods of time.. but who doesn't???

Sean Chipman

My scripts go through a very long gestation period. The first one I finished took me three years of planning and writing (at the same time) before it was finished (this is back in May 2012). Granted, that was a result of having the file lost or corrupted twice, which forced me to rewrite from scratch. Let me just say, that is something that will scar your soul and make you honestly question yourself about why you want to be a writer. The next feature I finished came from an idea I had for an 80-issue comic I had in my head (I have a hard time writing something if I don't know every inch of it) back in 2006. During that time, it changed from a superhero comic to a revenge-driven modern western. From the time I actually started it, it took me five months to finish (finished in July 2013). The next script I finished was a three-year pilot, which I wrote the first 15 of right after I had the idea, then it sat until December 2013 when I banged out the rest of it in three weeks. Just last week, I had an epiphany when someone on MoviePoet said they were going to try and write 12 features in a year. I thought how impossible that sounded (in my mind, the quickest I finished something, start to finish, was five months). But, when he said finished, he didn't mean ready to shop. He just meant fade in to fade out. Something about that struck a chord with me, so I decided to put myself through that same test and have refused to edit at all until the year is up. It's going to look pretty terrible, but I have more than 12 fully-formed script ideas in my head that I may be able to bang out if I can just focus my energy on getting it done. So, in the last week, I've done about 60 pages total on two different scripts and I have faith that this might actually work. So, to answer your question (in the most convoluted way possible, as my scripts also tend to be. Lol), strictly writing a screenplay could be anything from a few weeks to a few years, but my guess is that if I can get myself to just accept not going back and fixing every little mistake at the time, I probably could do a feature every couple weeks. I will say, though, keeping in line with something you mentioned, I tend to write both better and quicker when I'm on a deadline. I used to find it hard to just write out five pages on a script in a day, but if there were a contest that wanted a 15-page script done and I only had an hour left, that script would be done with three minutes to spare.

CJ Walley

Sometimes I write fast, sometimes I write slow. I try to see it as a marathon since I want to do it for a career.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I write extremely fast.. but it's because I feel like I stay with the story more.. also when I write I don't feel as though I made up the story (even though I totally did). I feel like I am watching it then writing down what I see. I write fast also because, just like a good book or movie, I cant wait to see what happens next.. It's funny really, I have an idea of how the script will turn out, never does the way I initially think.

CJ Walley

Sometimes it's all there in the subconscious waiting for a way out. I've had shorts I planned to spend two weeks writing, sat down in the morning and completed them by mid-day. I plan, fuss, pick and redraft a lot more now though, I don't know if that's a good thing yet.

Kristofer Atkinson

I'd say depends on if I have the whole thing in my mind already. I have the habit of dreaming about scenes and angles. Sometimes I fall into a "details" trap and it may take me a month to FINALLY get to the last page... Generally it only takes me a few hours to get the basis down and ready to hit hard the next week on "pre-edits". I read somewhere it's best if you can escape for a week or two before looking at it again to regain the wonder and refresh your view before first draft editing.

Rick Hardin

My first script took me almost 6 months to write the first draft and another 6 for the many rewrites, but I just finished my forth and it only took me 6 weeks and the first draft is more cohesive and polished then many of my 4th and 5th drafts on earlier scripts. All this and I work a 50-60 hour a week day job and I’m married. I’m definitely finding that I write much faster and better the more I write. I work from an outline and I still sometimes get stuck transitioning smoothly from one plot beat to another. Other times I get frustrated because I can’t type fast enough my brain is working so fast my fingers can’t keep up! I’ve also found that the more I write the more I love writing. I guess as additions go,It's a good addiction to have.

Salam Tims

Raymond, Count yourself among the blessedly prolific.

Chanel Ashley

I would prefer to read the finished script and gauge the quality of something written so quickly, I'm not convinced a substantial rewrite will not be required

Katharine Carter

wow. I am writing a scipt for a movie from one of my own books and it is really hard. there is no way I could write a full length script in less than a couple of months or so. Good luck to you if you are being successful.

Emilio Corsetti

When you write fast, you're writing down the first thing that comes to your mind, which is often not the best idea. Fast writing does not equate to good writing. Some of the worst films I've seen have been by writer/directors who claim to have written their scripts in a couple of weeks. But then you have a script like Rocky, which was written over several days.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

@ Chanel .. since I am editing a short this week (the movie itself not the script) I won't have time, but I accept your challenge. Give me a week. During this week you must come up with an idea to give me and I will prove to you I can write a 90 page movie in a week or less. I would send you one of mine already finished, but it wouldn't make sense knowing I already had it in my possession. If this doesn't work for you I have several witnesses, some on stage 32, who can attest to what I have and have not done. Jason Mackey, Tom Stedham, the whole crew at Mortus Invictus and more. I can't lie and say I am not upset at someone doubting what I say. When I accomplish this and prove it to you, you will be in my debt? Thanks

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

why would I lie about this?

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

Emilo.. I disagree and so do a lot of my colleagues. I do my best when I don't try to fix every little thing while going. I write crisp and clean what I see and hear inside of my head. I feel like a circus freak, I didn't write this in the lounge for criticism. I re-read my post several times and don't believe I bragged about anything. I simply asked if this is what everyone else does, not if you think its write or wrong, better or worse. If this sounds rude I didn't mean it to in any way. I am putting down my email address fahqswed@gmail.com. Contact me here or there if you would like to read one of my scripts. Like I told Chanel, if you would like you can ask my collogues or challenge me.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I will be purchasing your book Thursday..

Emilio Corsetti

Raymond, I didn't think my response was rude at all. Sorry if you took it that way. I was just stating my opinion. But I have also written several screenplays and know a little about the differences between the two.

Art Thomas

Hello Mr. Scanlon and thank you for your inspiring post. I have been dragging my creative feet on a project and your 'get it done' attitude is encouraging and has me re-energized. I co-produced a film, that is currently being distributed by Lionsgate and the script was being tweaked during production. As a former programming executive for a national cable channel, I have seen many projects, that because they were completed, were receiving considerable attention. In short, my president would often remind me; a finished script is better than waiting for the 'perfect' script.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I am sorry if my frustration seemed aimed at you Emilio. I really do write quality stuff really fast. I actually believe everyone can, they just over think it sometimes. I know some need time to think and process, but others don't. I noticed if I am writing something that actually happened (non-fiction) then I have a really hard time because I am trying to get the facts right. I am a story teller and my stories come out better on screen. I look at it this way.. If you have the funding and are making your own movie then sure , put your work in and get everything to the exact point you want it. Most though, will end up saying goodbye to what they have written as soon as it's sold. I had that mentality from the get go allowing me to express myself, then let it go. So far I have been fortunate and nothing has really changed much from what I have written. The lesson I learned being.. most of the companies who want the scripts you write, want them as basic as possible. SO, why over - kill yourself with detail if it's going to get handed to another writer who is just going to strip it down? Like I said before I write what I see and hear in my head. As If I am watching a movie already made. This is another I go so fast, because just like anyone watching a series, or bits of a movie, they want to see what happens next. I promise if everyone would just take aside a week and pour yourself into everything you write and don't correct yourself, or divulge to much into deep detail, you will surprise yourself. P.S. I am a full time writer, I do nothing else but spend time with my family so I have more time than other also.. just a thought. @ Art, you and your president are smart guys!! Hope to see your work soon.

CJ Walley

There's always that gut feeling that something that takes a short time to produce is inferior to something that's slaved over for some time. But that's an emotional reaction that isn't founded in logic or supported by evidence, especially in the creative fields.

Chanel Ashley

Raymond, my friend, I never doubted that you could write fast, my concern was the quality of writing - my record is 25 pages in one day, so it can be done - rather than me giving you an idea and you produce a screenplay within a week, , why not upload 2 or 3 of your scripts here on Stage 32 for all to see - Jason and Tom can verify their authenticity - would love to see what a 7 day script looks like.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

Thank you CJ very encouraging words!!

David Liberman

I tend to put out a first draft in 2-3 weeks. This is my norm. I may spend another fees weeks editing and refining. That is all. Count yourself amongst the blessed, if you write quickly, because here is the truth, if hired to write a screenplay, you have 2 months... TOPS. If you don't make your deadline, you're fired and replaced. Also, with a two month deadline, you'll be expected to constantly hand in results and make changes as you write. So you could hand in act one. Start writing act two. Get half through that. Then you get producer notes from act one which changes everything you just wrote in act two. Welcome to being at the bottom of the food chain.

David Liberman

Pardon the typos. I'm writing in my phone.

Sharon Anderson

Raymond, I think what you're probably SUPER successful at is banishing the critique. When you let that half of your brain loose, there just is no stopping it. I've had the same experience with novel writing. It just comes and there's no stopping it. @ David Liberman- Holy Cow. It's the big leagues folks! I guess it's truly is a matter of how fast we can write, AND how flexible we are - We MUST do it in this business.

Cecilia Mwende Maundu

wow! am so impressed it takes me a month to write a screen play but with time am getting better.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I urge everyone to FINISH your screenplay .. then worry about corrections. It goes so much faster!!!

Sandra Campbell

Now it takes me about a month to a month 1/2 to write a first rough draft, but I give myself a specific block of time to write, and I write everyday. After the rough draft, I read the script several times and make notes on dialogue, action, etc. Then I go back and rewrite/edit. This takes me a couple of weeks. But sometimes it can take longer, especially if you have to research the topic. I think as you keep writing, reading scripts, and improving your craft, you write faster.

Robert Chipman

Minus editing? I was able to bang out my first feature (fade in to fade out) around 8 days and I believe a page length of 112 pages. I might be wrong on those numbers, but that was the general vicinity. When I actually sit down to write, I am an extremely fast writer as I have a course plotted out in my head and continue to type away to meet the destination I have in my head. The hard part for me is going back and rewriting as that is not my strongest suit (along with having extremely limited time to actually write). I guess that saying of: "good writers write, but great writers rewrite" is something that I should try to follow as that would only put me in the good category for now :)

David Mc Intosh

GREAT!!! I am so pleased to hear that I am not the only "freak" that can easily write a full feature script within a day. On average, I can do one within a 5 day work week. I can and have done several over the weekend.. My best time, with a solid first draft was within one day, about 9 hours... It seems to really come easy to me as I can see the entire movie in my head already, and all I'm doing is literally just transposing what I see on paper.. Am I the only one that works that way??

Danny Manus

You're all freaks. lol

Cherie Grant

I don't know how you do it. I have trouble seeing the plot and I spend a lot of time unknotting plot knots and filling in plot holes. I'm still learning to write faster. I have been writing second draft of an old script and so far half way through in 5 days. I'm slowing down now as I realise I need more scenes that i did not outline. Maybe i write more slowly because my scripts are more complicated.

David Mc Intosh

Yeah, it's weird for me.. I literally see the entire movie in my head, including the pace, mood of the shots, including the sound effects and background music.. I'm literally just watching it and writing down exactly what I see, verbatim... Weird sometimes but easy.... With fresh ideas, I just think about it and it literally just starts to fall into place... I hope I can keep this weird trick going for the rest of my life....LOL

Danny Manus

I'm just hoping that all of you who take 7 days to write a whole script take the 6 months after that to rewrite and fix it. Cause I can guarantee that you didn't write a GREAT script in 5 days.

Cherie Grant

I have to agree with Danny though. I just can't see that much 'great' writing in a week.

Jason Levy

How long do you revise them?

Cherie Grant

Yeah I'm def gonna get coverage on everything I write now. Its' good to get a second pair of professional eyes on your script.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

See .. That's what upsets me. I have written a GREAT script in 5 days. Just because someone else ( You ) cannot doesn't mean that I can't. I have already proven to several people on this thread that it is possible. I write and then go back .. But I go back and fix grammatical problems etc., not rewrite the story I just wrote. Anyway... My only point is when someone says "well I couldn't do it so it must not be possible" how about thinking well someone else might but I can't.

Sharon Anderson

I hear about people who work this fast and been able to sell - Jerry Lewis comes to mind. Hey, if you've got that level of chutzpah and having no problem selling your stuff, good for you! --This industry LOVES fast writers.

CJ Walley

I find simply stating someone cannot write a great script in 5 days is too sweeping and conclusive. Suggesting it's highly unlikely most of us can feels more fair to me.

Danny Manus

Raymond, if you think your FIRST draft that you've written in 5 days is perfect, I am gonna call a little bullshit here. Unless you spent months outlining ad prepping and researching BEFORE you started writing that first draft. I have never seen anyone just spit out a first draft in 5 days and it be good, much less great. Maybe it's possible, but in 12 years in this business, I've never seen it happen.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I don't think I am God's gift to writing or that what I write is the greatest. I am say if it's quaility is good and I have plenty of people who will back me up. It's just the way I am. It's probably not even healthy the hours I spend I. The front of the monitor, but that's how not works for me. After the story is done .. Besides some minor tinkering, I am satisfied with the stories and so are the readers. This thread is for screen writers (that's why I posted it here) and screenwriters must keep in mind what they write isn't in stone.. So tell the story, but don't pour to much detail and Vision unless this is a movie you yourself will produce! When I wrote my coming of age story it took me longer, but only and really only bcc side I was producing it and I wasn't selling it, it was mine! All I am saying. Too much thought and detail goes to waste.. I've seen it. Write quality things that work for buyers!!!!!!!!! Unless you are producing the thing yourself. Amen

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