So like, how many scripts, feature or short, do you guys write in a month?
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I'm (attempting to write one every 2 months), and I've written 3 this year...so I think I'm on track for my goals. Now; pumpin' out quality is really the trudge of it.
indeed it is! one every two months sounds realistic. I have time off now since College ended, so I've started four this month and gone back and did revisions to my old ones. When I'm not free it will go down a lot though.
That's great man. Sometimes, my biggest struggle is that I'll be neck deep in a script, and be driving, listening to music at a borderline volume, and become overwhelmed with ideas for introductions to MANY NEW SCRIPTS... Trouble is to write them down, and pay the needed attention to the winners when I have the time.
I finished 2 this year. I work with vision issues so I tend to work a little slower behind the computer. I would love to write faster to get more under my belt. I can write a good script in two months but then the rewrites come into play. So in the end I would rather put time into the quality than the quantity. Over time as my skills progress that quality will be attached to more quantity.
I did four shorts last month. I like to turn each around in a week. Then I hit a wall for a couple of weeks. How fast we all write doesn't really mean anything. What's odd is people tend to be impressed with anything that's really fast or really slow.
How many sellable scripts being produced? Speed is good to hone skills and craft but quality scripts take time and rewrite after rewrite after rewrite is required... Or am just lazy and unfocused?
@Stephen, yeah I get that all the time! I get a new idea and want to focus on that instead of current ones, I write them down and all the points in word documents, then come back to them when I have time to invest properly. @Stuart, I find doing rewrites a lot more fun than constructing a story from scratch, so I don't mind a quick and bad first draft, long as something is there to be worked on.
There's comes a time when you've got drafts to rewrite and then new production stops ... Right?
I couldn't possibly turn out a feature to submission standard in one month. :(
Nor ... Not got the head space
Depends how motivated I am. I've just broken a two-year drought, but I've had periods where I can write two or three features a month, or about 6/7 pilots. When I'm all-in, my turnaround is very quick. I see my characters, I see my story, I let it all play out in my mind's eye, write it and fix it when it's done.
A month? If you're writing a feature or more a month you're writing rubbish.
There's been great scripts and stories that have been written in a single night. You can't apply logic like that. Plus it's worth considering one person may be able to work over 40hrs a week on a project while another can only find an hour a day.
I'm still re-wrting a film I wrote ten years ago; "writing is re-writing".
@Bix, I agree. With hindsight, I now know I could produce possibly, two saleable scripts per year, but for quality I would prefer to turn out one. "How many scripts do you write per month?" TBH, I couldn't even go there. My goal is the sale of a script. Somebody out there wants my script, to make their movie. I know it.
I'm far from Mozart, but I thank you for the creative comparison. This is just (me)… I tend to write them fast, while typing away, it’s not uncommon for me to sit down at my desk and close my computer down after a five hour run. It’s crazy sometimes, but I spend an unhealthy amount of time inside my head when I’m not writing, and by the time I’m caffeinated and ready to go, I’ll get right down to it, almost needing to get it out. As far as “what do I do with all of them?”… I send them out for coverage almost immediately. I’ll spend the money to have two different readers examine my (TRASH/”RUBBISH”), and then take what I value as a strong suggestion that I can roll with. After touching up, I’ll either enter them into an available/credible contest, and set that project aside for a bit, or move onto the thoughts that seem to overwhelm me. As far as selling them, I’m a strong supporter of The Happy Writers opportunity we have here, and I pitch when I can to those I feel would be interested in what I write. Of course everyone wants/needs a sell; however, if I focus too much energy on whoring out one script to anyone and everyone, than I’m not rewarding my creativity with growth and I’m stunting my writing ability by over-regulating the speed at which it wants to run. That’s just me.
@Bix. Thank you.
I've read down this exchange with great interest. Writing has always been a cathartic exercise for me, it allows me the opportunity to express feelings that dwell deep inside me; so I get the need to write at great speed because in many ways it's about getting it out as fast as possible. What's more I can do it too and have turned out hundreds of thousands of words in a few weeks, but I am under no illusion here, that is not great writing. Great writing (not that I claim to be able to do such a thing) comes with a well crafted, deeply considered piece of work and that might come in an inspired moment, or take weeks to hone. I deeply admire people who can say a lot, in a short sentence.
@Bix...I believe your intention might well be good hearted; but if you'd taken the time to (welcome) Ellis into this community, you might have noticed that he is dyslexic, therefore finding his words to you are perceived as imperfect. I've seen your posts and have sensed a cold chip, and closed mindedness when it comes to anyone who seems to write differently than you, and I ask you to find the (pause) in your rebutted comments and put some tact into the way you speak to people. From the looks of it, Ellis is an exception a creative, who's joined this community to find some motivation for what he loves... Who are you or anyone else to say that how he does something is incorrect? You should learn from someone like him and add some humility in your life. If you disagree with this, feel free to contact me personally, outside of this thread.
I agree with Bix.
Jabari, Man...it's so absofrigginglutely hard to write scripts in "spare time." It just makes it that much harder for aspiring screenwriters to compete against the pros. That's really hard stuff. I'd have to be super-sharp on weekends to put together a bullet-proof story concept and outline on a story board...and make sure that I'm hitting all the important elements like plot points...character arcs...reversals...ironies...not foreshadowing...or foreshadowing...rising action...logical cause and effect...gripping characters...etc...etc....then I'd have to kick some major ass in writing those pages with evocative narrative, complex characters and dialogue, and exciting action....then I'd have to re-write it all to make sure every word is the perfect word.....man...that's hard to do in "spare time"....believe me, I know. Good luck, bro.
How many you need?
People seem to be confusing straight talk with hostility. It does get tiresome having to tip toe around the over sensitive.
Sure Ellis, you make some valid points. Some writers write fast. Young writers with bags of energy, or any writer with loads of experience. I guess experience helps a writer speed up. I did knock out a first draft in 8 weeks, and it nearly killed me, but I was learning how to use the screenwriter's toolkit. What slows me down is understanding the nuances of my different characters and also the "now, how would she react to that..." business, and adding the layers of sub text. I love sub text in a film. So fair enough, you've encouraged me to think I'll speed up as I do more of it. I also agree with Bill, "it's so absofrigginglutely hard to write scripts in spare time". I find I only really progress when I am immersed in the concept, and recently I reorganised my life so I can write scripts full time, at least for the next couple of years. And then, everything else that Bill lists, all those technical elements of crafting...I for one, can't knock out even one of those in a coffee break.
A couple of years back I analysed how long it was taking me to write my first five features and it went like this; Script 1 - 17 weeks Script 2 - 12 weeks Script 3 - 6 weeks Script 4 - 5 weeks Script 5 - 4 weeks I stopped tracking my time after this as I saw it as naval gazing. That said I was getting faster and the quality of my work was definately going up. When we start we have this combination of a huge learning curve to overcome but also this remarkable amount of energy. This year I started trying to write a feature in my spare time and I didn't even get the treatment done until six months in. The difference between being able to focus on something full time vs spare time is immense. There's a sort of critical mass effect if you can pour yourself into a project. And let's not forget what a huge role motivation plays. I recall Scriptnotes podcasts where John August and Craig Mazin have reflected on staying up all night to write drafts in their younger years. When somebody asked me to start writing a web series for them I was churning out an episode a day easily, polished drafts too. Bix, I'm like the opposite of you with my goals. I'm not trying to sell my scripts and barely market them beyond uploading them to a few free websites. Hence why I write a lot of shorts which are free to option. I'm not trying to write for money.
Jabari - apologies. I just stumbled across this thread - and your original question is sort of ludicrous. Better to ask - how long does it take one to write a script? Or a first draft? then you'd get an idea from other writers (working and paid or novices looking for a break) what their process is. To each his own. One buddy of mine - highly successful - worked vampire hours - and wrote from 2 a.m. til he went to bed at 7 a.m. the standard industry contract gives a HIRED writer 8 weeks to deliver a first draft or a page one rewrite. Some take every second they're given - and still hand it in late (no sweat to the studio - since they don't pay delivery money until the draft is DELIVERED), others cracnk it out quickly - some to turn it in and get paid. Companies frown on that - because they don't like thinking that the work was rushed in order to get paid sooner. But to ask how many scripts someone writes in a MONTH!! If you're a story editor on a TV series - they need a script a week. You're also working in a writers' room with others and usually not carry the full load alone. But a feature script? I'm not saying you can't crank out a script a month - back in my salad days - I could do a first draft from scratch in 3 weeks - working only 5 days a week and for 4-5 hours a day. That's with or without a studio gun pointed at my head. The point is - you want quality or quantity? Writing is not making sausage on an assembly line. It's hard work. And it starts with a GOOD story to tell and great characters. I never write a thing until I have what I think is a great story - one I feel compelled to put on paper - one which I'd pay to see if it was made into a movie. Those do not grow on trees nor do they tumble out of the sky like rain. they are few and far between. trust me. Even Great stories and great scripts are not sold or produced for a myriad of reasons. But unless you start with something great - don't bother to start at all. This ain't a volume business. The better question might be: How many ideas do you have in a calendar year that you think are good enough to put your blood, sweat, tears and ink into to get onto paper? If the answer is one or two - you're golden. I've written full time and full blast for about 25 years - and in that time - I've written about a dozen specs. That comes out to about one every other year. And remember what I said - when I am ready and I begin - I can do it in 3 to 5 WEEKS. So don't turn this into a 10K. There are novelists who write one great book in their lifetime, and others like Stephen King - who is considered prolific. And everything in between. How many in a month? be serious.
My answer would be zero. To me it's about quality, not quantity.
In a month? If I'm on deadline, one... if I'm writing a spec, usually closer to 1/2 these days. Though I've written a spec in 2 weeks before. And written a handful of assignments in 2 weeks (hard deadlines). Usually you get 8 to 12 weeks on an assignment. Always important to learn how to write on a deadline. Oh, and there is no correlation between speed an accuracy... and if there is, it's the opposite of what you might think. Scripts written quickly tend to cut straight into your subconscious whereas scripts written over time often go through all of our filters and come out bland and mannered.
Depends on the script. If it's a pantomime (for the stage) I allow a month from start to finish. A full length play, 2 months. Having said that, I once wrote a play in three days. Sold within 24 hours of sending it off, too. If only I could do that every week! Alas, that kind of inspiration comes along once in a blue moon.
Enjoyed and noted your comments Michael E. and William M. about life in the real world of movies, producing work on deadlines. Thanks both.
I'd been gone from Stage 32 for quite some time. I had not logged in for more than a year, and had not actively participated in nearly three years. I was heavily into another online group, which I left because, among other things, I didn't feel like paying good money for analysis from people who had no more experience than I did. I thought I'd sign back in to Stage 32 and see how things were going and the first thing I see is a thread asking how many scripts people write each month. Had it been how many PAGES a month, I'd consider it a serious discussion, but if you're writing even one script a month, every month, and your name isn't Sorkin, you're likely turning out a waste of disk space. Especially if you continue to churn them out without rewrites. But I thought I'd scroll through anyway and see how such a discussion unfolds. Among some writers who seem to realize the devil is in the rewrite I found a guy who thinks that because he and his writing partner took a year-and-a-half to complete a script it gives him the right to engage in name-calling. Also found a guy who goes off on long tangents with minimal punctuation and massive grammar and spelling issues. I find it difficult to take advice from people who run on and on or don't bother to edit a simple forum post. Just my opinion. I'm not a negative person. In fact, on that other website I developed a reputation for being able to find SOMETHING good to say about nearly any script. And some were pretty bad. So, we'll see if the discussions get any better here.
It took about 38 years for my first (lol) but after a healthy midlife crisis it was like a dam had burst! I just wrote my 8th in one month (January). That's 5 days per week, at least 3 hours per day, often way more. That said, I don't start writing until the characters and entire plotline are done in my head. A short can be written in a few hours.
To Ellis - "most normal writer (sic)" - there's your first mistake. Writers - as a breed - are not "normal" - if we were - we would be doing something else.
In answer to Bob Wagner's comment, it does depend very much on the type of script you're writing, and also on how much time you have to devote to it, how inspired you are, etc. I write more or less full time, so I can write more quickly than those who have to go out to work at other jobs. But there are times when life gets in the way and appointments or commitments take up the time. There are also times when I'm ill, or tired, and times when I couldn't put together a shopping list, let alone a work of fiction. Then, it's like wading through treacle, and I'm lucky to put down 100 words in a day, and most of those will be rubbish, lost in the rewrite. But, in the good times, I can write ten, twelve pages a day. Sometimes more. It takes on its own life force and compels me to sit down and get it out. That's what happened with the three day play, which was sold in its first (and only) draft. It also happened with another play, which won an award, so go figure. (I might spend weeks and weeks on another that the publisher rejects.) Basically, sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.
Michael, if we were normal we'd be doing anything else. Brain surgery or rocket science have to be easier.
I am usually juggling 3-4 at different stages, any given month -- depending on the deadline. I wrote 60 pages Saturday. I don't do that often, nor do I recommend it but it sure felt good to bang out a solid first draft in a week.
It's just taken me four months for this current one, normally it's all done within 3 months. I had to dig extremely deep for this one, and am no longer writing as far as I can see until I totally recover. I didn't have the energy to write this, so it drew extraordinary reservoirs which I didn't know existed. I don't even know how I have made it. But yes it depends on how deep you need to go. And I believe I went as far as I possibly could.
I'm only going to nibble around the edges of the "how much can you write" debate. I'm a very slow writer, and I don't say that as a point of pride, but of frustration. ; ) I've been a forehead-on-the-table writer since I was in diapers, so about six weeks ago. (Just kidding.) But I've always been a slow writer, partly out of lack of discipline, partly out of a lack of awareness of how to handle the task of writing, and partly out of a lack of confidence in my own abilities. But what I've found is that I bounce around a lot, going from concept to scene, back to concept but vastly changed, then back to a new scene, on and on like that. Over time, the story gels, which sets the characters off in a direction. In turn, what the characters end up doing affects the course of the story, which in turn affects the characters, ad infinitum. Eventually I get a script done, the first draft at least. It could be weeks, it could be months. Oftentimes I'm guilty of the cardinal sin of rewriting large chunks before I'm done with the first draft. I've seen some comments here that suggest turning out multiple screenplays in a month is just a way to manufacture rubbish. While that's true on its face value, if a writer does that AND pays attention to where they think they've succeeded and failed, over time the writing would likely improve. At the same time though, the pace of writing would probably slow down. So writing a ton of stuff quickly in the early stages of a career might not be as bad as people think. The big trick is to really spend a lot of time evaluating what you've written, especially before you go sending it out into the cruel, heartless world. (Just kidding on that last part too - most people don't want to be insulting, and often want to help even when presented with caca.)
I just received some great notes from Beth here on S32 on a script I did a rewrite on. It took me 2 months to write it originally and another 2 months for some rewrites and show bible pages. So after 4 months I need to do some rewrites again. My passion for success is hifgher than my education level. I do not mind doing a rewrite. I just need a little more education and writing time to hone my chops. I know at some point I will be able to juggle more than one script at a time.
I agree with Fiona. But if you "need" an even greater challenge, try pitching and selling historical or biblical scripts... lol!!???
Take your several scripts per month and submit them to Blacklist or similar. If you don't get a 6 or better, then slow down and put a little more thought into your script.
Ellis - relax. I did indeed read your full post - and I zeroed in on your "normal writer" comment and tried to inject a bit of humor (or sarcasm, take your pick) by saying that writers aren't "normal" - as in people. It's tough to be normal and do what we do - the loneliness of it - the constant dealing with rejection etc. That's all I meant. A wee bit 'o funny. Maybe you should avoid romcoms and comedies and stick with dramas for the time being. At whatever pace you crank them out.
@Laurie A: I've written some first drafts in a week and it's great if you can get in the zone like that. But 60 pages in a day? That's awesome and congrats on your work last week.
Thanks, Phillip. It was grueling no doubt, I was up against a deadline and thankfully had a really good treatment so I wasn't going blind -- but it did feel good to be finished.
Fiona - I don't even have the scriptic acumen to WRITE about brain surgery or rocket science. And I may have just invented a new word in "scriptic".
I tried to get into rocket surgery, but the rockets were having none of it. When I'm nothing other than a writer, I can put a lot of quality into a first draft and get things out quickly - I'm thinking more of when I was focusing on novel-length pieces and short stories; what I've come to call flat fiction. At the moment I'm in the middle of career changing, college and knee-deep in motherhood and the kind of spare time that leaves, so it's all a lot slower. The quality of first drafts are down as well because my focus is always half elsewhere. Time was when I'd get utterly lost in a world of my own (?!) making and I'd just be writing what I saw. At the moment I'm looking through a veil of CV changes, lousy job opps to weigh up and the endless cycle of grief-wonder-overwhelm-joy of parenthood. It's falling back into place, though. I'm sure there's a balance to be upset there somewhere... Edit: actual numbers? I've written two this year so about average for this thread, I think.
Georgia - knee deep in motherhood AND cranking out a pair of scripts in 12 months? Color me impressed. I started writing well before fatherhood (and continued afterwards), and not sure what I would have accomplished had it been reversed. When I was single and struggling and aspiring - I had only myself to worry about - and not the prospect of other mouths to feed and be responsible for. I suspect that had I married and become a father before I became established and began making a living at writing - I might have felt the weight of obligations - and thrown in the towel to pursue something with a far more steady and weekly paycheck. Quick tale: I was hired to write a sequel in a successful movie series with a big star while my first child (a daughter) was gestating. It turned out well I thought, but the producers decided to go in another direction - hired a bunch of other writers to have a crack at the script - change it all back into a pale comparison of the original. It was made. I didn't get (or deserve) a credit. The movie was lousy and pretty much killed the series - and - it was released on the same day as my daughter was born. So I have always maintained that I got the better of that deal.
Ellis - easy come, easy go.
From what I've read here, there is no answer. It depends on the writer, which is the only answer.
I'm taking a class right now that focuses on the churning-'em-out theory. I come from the theater, so this is all somewhat scandalous to me. I always thought you honed a script (or hopefully several scripts) over many years. But I think if you've nailed a particular, highly saleable formula, then by all means throw as much at that wall as you can. Something may stick!
The first one took five years to get right. The second one a year. Now three to four months is manageable. I don't think about the time frame as much as I think about making the script right. I suspect different genres have different timelines. The good news is that when you are writing a story you love, time fades away. Warning: you may spend days in front of your computer in your pajamas.
Richard - this thread began with the question: How many scripts do you write a month? Which I maintain is nuts. If by "churning them out" - you're being advised to write a script - finish it - get it into the marketplace and then go on to the next without wasting time waiting to see whether the first one sells - or waiting for all the doors to close and the phone to ring - I agree with that. If you're being told to churn them out in the sense of how many can you write in a month...ask for your money back. Stick with your theater background and hone. Maybe not over years necessarily - but quality over quantity - and rewrite until it's ready to go. No one is genius enough to have enough great story/character ideas to support a churn it out pace.
Hey Michael, my inner gossip is itching to know which franchise you were talking about! I'm incredibly fortunate that I'm not the primary earner in the family - that makes a huge difference, I think, and allows for a lot more freedom. I also believe that if we don't follow our bliss in whatever direction it takes us then we take it out on people we love. In a sense we owe joy to life, and if there's a very particular and specific way in which that is possible for you (like writing, or acting or art, or music, or hugging trees, or sailing, or whatever) then you need to find a way to prioritise that. And if we can help the people around us to prioritise that as well, then that's all for the better.
Michael - good advice! I should have clarified that when I said "years" I was referring to continuing to tweak something now and again after it's entered the market and after I've gone on to something new (and I often have more than one project in mind). I think the "churning them out" theory is based on the notion that Hollywood is most interested in concepts, so that's what you should spend the most time honing -- then bang out a workable draft as quickly as possible and get it out there.
Georgia - well said. I love the movies (and have since I was a kid) and TV and theater - but if I got a call today from one of the Steinbrenners - wanting me to play baseball for the Yankees - au revoir show biz. Since the closest thing to that is paying to play at their fantasy baseball camp - I'm sticking with the writing. Although I may give a tree a hug too. As for your "inner gossip" (and since it's no big secret, nor is the expression "curiosity killed the gossip") - the franchise was "Beverly Hills Cop". In the wake of a big spec sale - which the cop producers wanted and didn't get - I was hired to write Beverly Hills Cop III. I was the first writer on it - when the concept was that Axel Foley went to London. I came up with a story the producers loved where he became involved with international money laundering and the murder of someone in Foley's inner circle - and he in turn fell in with a Scotland Yard C.I. who I envisioned as John Cleese (and wrote the role for him). Murphy's "people" (we were told) thought London was a "one joke town" and after a long process - the franchise producers (Simpson & Bruckheimer, with whom I worked) dropped off the movie. It went through numerous other writers - got new producers assigned by the studio - and ended up back in LA - in a fake Disneyland - dealing with counterfeiting.
Richard - Hollywood is indeed a "concept" town - right now - if it's zombies or comic books - bingo - but since they already have their own pipeline of Marvel and DC and graphic novels to adapt - it's tough to break into that circle. Also - when trying to capitalize on a concept they love - you need to think 3 years out - since that's usually how long it takes from selling something to getting it made to getting it on screens at a theater near you. As for continuing to "tweak" once you have work in the marketplace - I find that to be a waste of time. Go on to the next one. Unless you get specific feedback - and the same or similar feedback - from multiple sources/readers - you're making changes for yourself - and you can do that ad nauseum. I have a script I wrote many moons ago - but I KNOW it's a great story. I will get a comment from a new agent - or a producer who reads it - and if I agree with them - I'll certainly tweak. And as good as it is - it HAS improved. So that's worthwhile. By I also have a writer buddy who tends to keep rewriting for himself - and never gets to Fade Out - and that's spinning wheels and wasting time, IMO.
Michael -- I agree about endless rewriting. I'm always on to something else, but along the way sometimes I'll get notes from someone whose opinion I value and do more rewriting on something older -- usually not extensive, but a good note is a good note.
"churning it out" is such a dirty phrase, it implies you are writing quickly for the sake of it. Myself, I would never write for the sake of having lots of scripts on my CPU. I write them because I believe the idea is good enough for someone to buy. That might mean I have four or five projects going on at one time, granted I have no job at the moment so I may as well take advantage of that. Everything I write, I believe to be a GREAT story people NEED to see. Added to all that my first drafts are usually bad and require many rewrites, so, quicker I get that first draft down, quicker I can try to sell them all. It also help me to have films from different genres, though I mainly want to be a action writer I have comedy, drama and thrillers which help expand my chances of having something someone else wants. Interesting reading your numbers. I disagree with the notion a sellable screenplay can't be written in a month. Of course it depends how much time in a day you are putting into it, your current experience ect. I love comics and Superhero movies, without them I may of never even begun writing, all my first scripts were superhero movies, ironically superhero films are currently a problem for new writers, not just the movies themselves. It's increasing the reboot/remake mentality in Hollywood. They are not going away anytime soon either, but which I am happy about that, I can't really worry about it. If I manage to get a job writing a superhero script great, if not new ideas are always needed.
Mister Jabari: Your process makes perfect sense. I'm a fairly quick writer; but only when I've done the upfront research and story outline to have a good idea where I'm going. Time-wise, the all important first ten pages are generally the most difficult for me. After that, I have a tendency to lock into the groove with the story and characters. However, my process includes examining what I do as I go along, to determine if particular scenes ad value and move the story forward. I think it's important to do quality control as you go along, as well as reading through your first draft aloud several times and making adjustments. As I've said before, I never really stop messing with a script until it's optioned etc. And then, producers, directors and actors will want to put their stamp on it. Have you used the voice reading tool on Final Draft?