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Screenwriting : How many scripts do you have going at any one time? by Doug Nelson

Doug Nelson

How many scripts do you have going at any one time?

I just realized that I have 5 scripts in the works right now – 2 Fls at 3 & 5 years, 3 shorts at a year to a month and new ideas pop up every day. When I hit a bump on one, I set it aside and work on another. Am I the exception or are there others like me out there? One story line/script at a time – from beginning to end – bores me to tears.

CJ Walley

I write one script at a time but do get very distracted with other stories. What I do is make lots of notes to get those ideas out my head and concentrate on the script I want to finish. I do tend to write first drafts pretty fast though (4-6 weeks) so there isn't as much time to get bored.

Rick Hardin

I tend to have a couple going at the same time, but I focus on one and when I’m done with a draft I set it aside and work on the other for a while so I can get some distance from the first one. I find it’s really helpful because I see so many more issues once I return to it after it’s been a while. I also have several ideas that I’ve developed enough so that I’ve got my story idea in place while it’s still fresh in my mind. That way when I’m ready to tackle a new script I already have some groundwork laid.

William Harrell

i think more than one spec script at a time would be a nightmare

Trev Lewis

Sounds to me Doug that you are as big a procrastinator as me. I have so many ideas and half finished screenplays that it drives me mad. It took. Lot for me to get out of that loop, and I must admit, you will be surprised what you can actually achieve once you prioritise and focus on one screenplay at a time. I have now finished three screenplays which sounds so much better than saying I have seven half written screenplays.

Alan Hostetter

One.

Raymond (Ray) Scanlon

I just posted something similar. I have about 4 right now.

Bob Barr

Yes, I work on more than one at a time. Sometimes find it hard to pick up...so I try to stop while I'm hot..makes it easier to restart.

James Peters

Funny, was just telling Raymond Michael Scanlon about having three scripts I'm writing at the same time.

Allison Bruning

I have a couple going on at the same time plus a few novels.

Tim Newhouse

Big script juggler here. I have more than i care to say that i am working on at any given moment. Luckily though when one gets completed i get to filming them. very quickly. I think i get too caught up to just focus on just one story. It is something i would like to try eventually.

Trev Lewis

Don't get me started on novels. A novel i still hav to finish! I hav 2 children's adventure books outlined, one half written, I have a sci-if comedy novel, which I'm also planning on making as a cartoon miniseries, I'm writing another sciFi conspiracy epic that I keep restarting and have nearly completed a crime comedy. Nearly finished as in I nearlly finished it twelve years ago.

Marc Sigoloff

I would never work on two or more at the same time. It's too much of a distraction. If one of my ideas bored me I wouldn't continue with it. I was working on before before I started the new one, and I put the other one on hold. The new idea is too topical, and I plan to direct it myself. When I finish this script, I will go back to the other one.

Stephen Mitchell

I don't write scripts before I shoot but I am currently writing two novels...

Dan Goforth

Generally, three. One is usually an assignment and the other two are specs I go to when I need a little distance from the first. And 15 in the hopper with loglines and 2-3 paragraph summaries... :)

G. Leo Maselli

Three is sort of normal for me. I'll have one I'm going to town on. And two I'm outlining and doing research for. And always there are deadlines for completions and competitions like the Nantucket and the Austin Film Festivals.

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

Well...no one is going to like this...but I have written 5-10 scripts in a week...and have shot over 5,ooo of the scripts as shorts...yes...I have spent 15 years making films...what I wanted to do was write for my students so I could help them with footage...and I had to write so I would Own the films and not have any copyright problem...and I wanted them to be able to Promote themselves to get work...and they have and do...So Yes...WRITE...and well if you have the Courage and ability make them all into films...FACT...I have...and still do...few really know who I am...what I have done...so when I see these posts ...I get the feeling if you are not SPIELBERG...then we have no value...just go to my sites...if you would like to see the reality of WRITING and shooting...and being able to have your scripts DONE...not just an idea... and YES ...write as many scripts as you can...that simple...DO IT...Blessings PS I create a Career of films in 3 Days for actors and a site... Yes I do it all... Get motivated and inspired ...Hope this helps...AMEN

Dan Goforth

You're right, Michael. Now the rest of us feel like lazy bums... all right, folks, THAT is how you get things done!!!

Doug Nelson

Michael – let’s take a closer look – shall we? You’ve shoot over 5,000 scripts in 15 years. That’s over 133 per year (.91 per day, 7 days a week.) All the while, you find time to write at least 5 scripts per week? What about eating, sleeping and so on? I’m just sayin’….

Curtis Kessinger

I usually have at least 3 going at once, but I do try to finish another draft/revision of one before I jump to a different script. I'm also writing my stand-up comedy concert film. Keeps it exciting all the time. I have a folder for each script as well as folders for other script ideas. Anytime I think of a scene, line of dialog or any note I write it down and toss it in the folder. Never let an idea escape. Write it down and save it. That is what I did for the stand-up comedy. I hadn't performed in over 10 years and when I went to the folder I found I had several hours of material ready to shoot.

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

Doug...go to my sites...do the work...or come over to my home...take a look at the 5,ooo films on the HARD DRIVES...yes ...speak to my closest friends...and my wife...and no...I do not Eat sleep or rest...please come over ...walk into the garage touch the Files and look and feel and touch the Computers and Hard drives and the DVDS...and see the Evolution of all the Cameras...and pick up the scripts feel them ...it's a reality I never planned...by the way...here are some sites of films and a site I created for my clients in 3 Days... go to this site and live it... http://www.3DayDemo.com ...you made a comment but you never did the work...to see it...Google SIRTONY or by Sirtony.... just click and go...Blessings Doug...

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

special New site ...enjoy http://www.Sirtony.wix.com/ORDER

Stephanie Shute

I'm like you Doug, I can't help but have multiple stories occupy my mind at once. I find that the best method for me are sticky notes. Whenever I have a new idea I write it down and stick it up on my wall, so that its always in view and I can add notes if I think of anything to develop it, but focus on 1 or 2 concepts to develop into screenplays at any one time. Before I started doing this I couldn't focus at all.

Gary Archambault

3 completed first drafts, 1/2 of a 4th, and a boat load of outlines! I hope the voices never stop talking to me. I agree with you Stephanie, it's great to write it all down, no matter where or when you are. it may not fit where you're working now, but the idea may end up in something later on. I like to think of them as flashes of brilliance! ;>)

Doug Nelson

So… from the comments I’ve seen, I don’t seem to be all that unusual. What a relief! A number of you speak of writing novels (I have 3) also. I see screenwriting and novel writing as very separate and distinct arts/crafts. With its more rigid format, I think screenwriting is more akin to writing poetry.

Stephen Mitchell

I started out writing screenplays and thought the hardest thing in the world was to learn the conventions of writing novels. The two disciplines are very different but both require imagination and having something to say.

Mike Grell

They say "A writer writes. A professional writer finishes." In my case, I'd have to add "eventually". I have five finished screenplays and five more in various stages. I wish I could concentrate on one at a time, but my mind doesn't work that way.

Marc Sigoloff

It may be common among writers, but I think it is a poor method to follow. If you want a screenplay to be the best it can be you need to give it your all. You need to keep your focus on one, and not flit around from one to another. If an idea comes to you that fits another screenplay make a note of it and put it aside. Don't give it much attention. Otherwise you will take forever to complete one, and the result is likely to be a weak script. If you want to continue on this path, all I can say is good luck. And if a screenplay is boring you, it will probably also bore anyone who reads it.

Curtis Kessinger

Bix...I try to sell the large film scripts that I cannot shoot myself...but most of what I write are smaller films which I will produce.

Stephen Mitchell

I do much the same. I would write, produce and direct my independent features and sell stories (without writing the script) to major studios/production companies. This worked well as I could make films without interference and still have a voice amongst the A-list players in Hollywood.

Curtis Kessinger

It's a matter of getting those scripts into the right hands...finding that needle in the haystack. It's always good to have several scripts for sale... always keep them ready for the right opportunity. It's like opening a store with one item on the shelf or multiple items. Don't open until you have at least a few scripts for sale.

Stephen Mitchell

My motto is: If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, there's no point in being Muhammad. They say that in Hollywood, it's who you know. The way I see it is it's who knows about you. An effective marketing plan will bring the mountain to you (and your script)...

Stephen Mitchell

Those thieving mountains! :) I've sold a lot of stories to major companies and well known producers and directors so this approach has worked nicely for me. One producer, who bought a story from me, came back a second time to buy the rights to a character in the first story for use in a story he intended to write. How's that for integrity?

Curtis Kessinger

@Bix...LOL...it's such a cliche because it has to happen 100% of the time. You have to find the exact person to buy that exact property...the person who wants to spend 2 years of their life working on that film...there is no correct way to make it happen....so just make it happen. You might have to break into the producer's house and leave the script under his/her pillow...LOL. Whatever works works. No rules. No right way. What are you willing to do to make it happen? Whatever you can think of I'll guarantee there are 10,000 people willing to go further. Just do it!

Doug Nelson

Amen Bix. The greatest money to be made in screenwriting is by selling something to the horde of starry-eyed wannabes. After years of study and labor; I sold a script for low 6 against mid 6$ - never got the mid 6. Income wise, I would have been better off as a plumber, cab driver, bartender… anything but a screenwriter. But still they come – hopes high, sunlight gleaming off their trumpets and every now and then lightening strikes. But hey, I don’t worry – see I got this plan to win the lottery.

Curtis Kessinger

@Bix...I ripped off Art WIlliams "Just Do It" speech, which came before Nike. This discussion has nothing to do with the statistics of making money in screenwriting or any field...I would always give the truth to anyone asking, but I would never crush their dream. It took Edison over 3000 tries to develop his version of the lightbulb so I would say giving up is the worst option. No one ever succeeded easily in any field. It's those who continue marching on that succeed.

Stephen Mitchell

Writers write which, for me, is the only justification for continuing to write beyond a few unsold scripts or novels. If one needs a more pragmatic reason, it would be this. You learn something more about writing with every piece you write. I believe it was in The Outliers that the author spoke of needing ten thousand hours to gain mastery of an activity whether piloting a plane or writing. Having written a few thousand one-act plays for the actors in my rep company over the years gave me a facility at writing I never could have achieved by merely writing six screenplays.

Stephen Mitchell

You will have a difficult time convincing me of that as I have personally experienced the truth of it. ;)

Stephen Mitchell

Whoever compiled the data did not run a repertory company for actors, writers and directors for twenty years and their lack of understanding on this particular subject can be excused. :) When an actress (and current S32 member) says she can't write or direct and proceeds to develop into an award wining filmmaker over the years, my data has been established inasmuch as I've seen this pattern repeat itself--well, repeatedly. I will happily stand by the stats I have personally compiled rather than consult the Internet to find results that disprove what I have witnessed first-hand. I agree with you when you write that "Sure, do anything long enough you get better at it. Doesn't necessarily make you a master. Some masters emerge as if by a spontaneous arising, making the hard thing look easy." In a way, you are making my point, as surely the goal of any endeavor is to become better and within the definition of mastery I think we can include the concept of 'personal best'. Selling one's work is important, to be sure. It isn't necessarily an indicator of masterful writing. Reading the scripts of some films currently in release should make that point adequately. A fair amount of luck enters the equation as does timing and clever marketing. Surely, one wouldn't advise a writer to develop mastery by not writing further and send him or her out to flog their early works. I think we can agree that some masterful painters never sold a canvas during their lifetime and yet those unsold canvasses hang in very impressive museums and private collections today. Glad we are that they continued to paint.

Victor Titimas

I can only work at one script at a time!:) On rewrites, it's different. I think about all the scripts I wrote and when an idea about a specific screenplay comes in mind, I do the proper changes.

Stephen Mitchell

Forgive me if I remain unconvinced...

Mike Grell

Screenwriting is very much like painting, in that the audience perceives both purely on a subjective basis. It all begins with one person deciding the work has value and persuading others to take a look. Unfortunately, those who set themselves up to be arbiters of what's masterful are often influenced by pure salesmanship, because lots of bad screenplays get made into bad movies and lots of bad paintings are hung in lots of galleries. There's a craft to every art -- whether it's structuring a story or moving paint around on a canvas or learning how to chisel marble without smashing your thumb -- and the more you work, the more you learn. It may not necessarily make you a master, but it will make you better and that can't hurt.

Stephen Mitchell

Don't forget that as we mature, our message and/or perceptions that we communicate via our writing takes on nuance and, perhaps, a change of perspective...

Sean Farrington

I used to be sequential, on screenplay, then the next. In the past year I have taken on partners, now I have 3 features in the works and 1 TV pilot brewing...

Desi Singh

I'm the same, with several of my scripts being in the works for years. But I find that is mainly because of poor planning on my part, and not enough conviction to see the story through to the end. Don't get me wrong, I've completed over 23 screenplays, and have over 500 story lines, treatments, and unfinished scripts to keep me busy. But this is my point, one must learn to focus and not get distracted by the torrent of ideas flowing through our brains. You'll find that if you set a goal of producing at least 10 pages of script a week, you'll have a completed script within 9 to 12 weeks time. It will be normal to sometimes sit at your computer or stare at your hand written script, and not have a single idea. That's when you should go to a cafe, or a park, sit down, do some people watching, and relax as you read through your script. This will often show you where you slipped up or strayed away from your original idea. Not to sound too metaphysical, but sometimes you'll snatch something from the ether or collective hive of other creative thinkers, whose thoughts are being transmitted on the same wave length as yours, and this may kick start you to writing on your story again. Remember as boring as it seems, trying focusing on one script at a time. There's no better feeling for a writer, than to write those two simple words... The End Give it a try if you haven't already, you've got nothing to lose and everything... Well you know what I mean.

Kevin Isaacson

I am trying really hard to focus on this one screenplay through completion but I have a lot of ideas popping in. I am making notes and I will come back to them when this one is finished. It is actually inspiring because I know that when this one is done I have something else to jump right into. If you are working on a project and you have those other ideas, never squelch them. I learned that the hard way. It starts to put up a barrier to ideas and that wall is hard to break down.

Sean Farrington

Good advice on keeping the ideas, Kevin.

Andy Davie

I don't think you're the exception at all Doug, I've dozens of partials in an ideas folder ready for me to come back to, but I generally finish stuff and move on, only putting things into the ideas folder if I hit a brick wall :-) 50+ finished screenplays in all, mostly with the production companies that asked me to write them, but my own spec scripts tend to take an age to complete as they move in and out of that folder :-) So what you're doing sounds perfectly normal to me...

J. Brian

I have a synopsis file loaded with 22 story plots and 7 of them are screenplays in the works. I also have 4 completed feature scripts and 6 short. I can't work on one story without a scene or dialogue idea popping into my head for another one. That's the curse of being a story teller and I wouldn't change it for the world... I'd just like to finish one damned screenplay before moving on to the next. LOL.

Whit Whitley

I have five completed screenplays; three film short scripts; and twenty-two comedy sketches to get noticed someday.

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

I suggest everyone ...get a digital camera...cast the scripts and shoot...before it's too late... I never make a suggestion that I haven't done... http://www.Sirtony.info blessings to all....

Andy Davie

To Michael Savage/Sirtony - Although I've got 6 produced shorts and 2 produced features, I've recently had a go at this and plan on doiing it again... it was a huge education and good fun :-)

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

Great Andy...thank you for the kind words...it will be a great Journey...when you get a chance go to all my sites...and you will see how rewarding it is to write and shoot...and my Pioneer Award Winning Film Work was a blessing with the Digital age....if you have any questions just contact me... all the best

Colin Chaston

Interesting, I'm currently working on in some capacity or other on 4 scripts with another in the pipeline. I agree with you. Just steping back from a script enables me to come back to it with a greater sense of knowing what is right for it. Must be the brain processing it subconsiousely during the break.

Ornella Lajoyce

I'm just like that too. It's hard for me to just be focused on one story. I thought I was the only one but you don't advance when you work on many stories at the same time.

Michael L. Burris

Ditto. I do however take a couple of weeks from time to time to finish and refine a single project.

Phillip "Back From The Dead" Hardy

I never work on more than one screenplay at a time and hang with it until I finish it. I can generally bang one on in three weeks and polish them up a bit.

Lisa Clemens

Finished a first draft of one and working on an outline on a new one I was just hired to write!

Phillip "Back From The Dead" Hardy

Alle: I do mean features. I would be delighted to share a screenplay with you. Let me know what you like. Within These Walls, The Angela Davis Story (biopic), A Whole Life, A Head (biopic), Once Upon A Time In LA (thriller, female lead), Pascal's Coming (action with male lead), The Immortal Jack the Ripper (gothic horror), Journey of Mortals (biopic about Paul the Apostle), Gina Jericho (action, female lead), And On the Seventh Day (historical fiction), The Willing (horror/thriller), Kingdom of the Hollow, The Story of the Hatfields and McCoys (classic western). Let me know where I can send a PDF file.

Phillip "Back From The Dead" Hardy

Alle: Be happy to send you those samples. "And On The Seventh Day" is currently optioned by Producer Steve Roeder but have no objections to you reading sample. Thanks.

Robert Sprawls

I have two going, kind of. The first is first in a trilogy, but I have a little more than skeletal work on the sequel in the trilogy and next to nothing on the third. I'm focused on the first as it's introducing the characters and a concept that will span the three scripts and if I don't do it right, it'll flop for the readers and never get considered for a movie. The second is a standalone, one shot feature. I have some skeleton work on it, but not much. I'm focused on the first of the trilogy and trying to not get sidetracked with any other ideas. If I get an idea for another project, I will create a scrivener project and a coarse outline, then go back to my current WIP.

Tom Rooney

Hi Doug, No, you're not the only one to have numerous screenplays as well as other projects running in parallel. I have lots too. Also, a screenplay is a road map for a story which allows all creatives to add to. Tom

Cherie Grant

I have three TV pilots I have been working on (just finsihed one) and five feature ideas at various stages, but i'm concentrating on one right now and three novels. I write what i'm in the mood for and slowly finish one at a time. now if only I could freaking write faster.

Michael Savage Aka Sirtony

dear Cherie...STOP WRITING!!!!!!! SPEW...then Polish...AMEN

Cherie Grant

it took me a moment to understand what you meant. my problem in making progress is plotting. once i get a plot properly sorted I can write and or spew just fine. it is my achilles heel.

Doug Nelson

Emily Ann – Birthing a story can seem overwhelming at times but your Zorrewe story must have a spark that caught your attention. There are a couple of things that ought to be going on at this stage. Ask yourself a few questions first – some will be very easy, some not so much. Try to write a logline first (you’re the only person who’s going to see it – don’t worry about it.) The reason for the logline is that you need to know the ending so you have a place to write to. Now, what’s the genre, what’s the location, what’s the time, who’s your hero? See, easy (so far.) Now what’s your hero want more than anything else? (Be specific – not he wants love, respect, more like he wants all the gold in Fort Knox or to catch Dr. Evil from setting off a nuclear bomb.) Now what catastrophe could befall him or what nasty character really wants to stop him (and why)? How many times will he struggle before he gives up (downer ending) or succeed (upper ending.) Run your character up a tree, throw rocks at him. How does he get down?

Adrian James Anderson

That is what I do as well :)

Michael Potts

Thanks for the add.

Adrian James Anderson

Sure, nice to meet ya

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