Screenwriting : Maybe I wasn't meant to be a screenwriter... by Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Maybe I wasn't meant to be a screenwriter...

I've been writing for four years and wrote over 40 screenplays but I'm not writing as fast as I like and I feel so lost writing my recent screenplay about school bullying it seems impossible to write what I want- I feel so very lost and a bit sad. I don't understand what's wrong with me and why I can't write how I want.. Or how it's suppose to go..

Brett Cherry

Hi Emily, writing often times is more exploration then destination. Many writers get stuck in thinking and feeling lost, hang in there. Expectations and "shoulds" can get in the way of your creativity and production. Try not to get caught up feeling like its not fast enough or it is meant to end up any certain way. Let the story be told, then re-write, and rewrite again. Where ever it ends up is the story currently being told. You have to trust yourself. With 40 screenplays and four years of work being put in you are doing what any writer does - You are writing. Stick with it!

Aray Brown

Don't make any rash decisions

Christopher Binder

You'll figure it out, one way or another.

Stuart Wright

Pain and anxiety in your darkest hour is part of the process and where you're likely to find Magic too

Pup Che

It sounds like you are 10X more of a writer than the average. 40 screenplays in 4 years... Considering it takes 1 year to write a script for average Joe, you are doing so much better.

Anne Pariseau

Emily, when you say "write what I want" and "write how I want", what do you mean? Are you wanting a certain style? Are you for the story to go in a certain direction? Or to incorporate an element that doesn't seem to be fitting into the story?

Sammer Abu AlRagheb

Dear Emily, sometimes the human body over exerts it's creative capabilities. take a break, even two breaks. get back to it in time. Remember, writing is not a race. once a writer always a writer. you'll see.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Emily, you are so young... You are already way ahead of most of us who discovered screenwriting much later in life. Perhaps allow yourself some time to grow, to reflect, to discover. I think it is incredibly brave to reach for something or wish to say something to the world. Sometimes a project may be just a little outside our current skill set—it happens to me! So you put it aside for a moment, learn some new things, explore, reflect, expand your knowledge, and then come back to it with renewed vigor, new insights and endless possibilities. It's a process. Perhaps all you need is time. Writing will always be there for you because you are a writer. Allow yourself the process and time to discover your voice and to hone your craft. Keep moving forward. ;)

Doug Nelson

Emily, take a deep breath and tell us what you think is wrong with you... Can't do it, eh? I didn't think so. I doubt that there's anything wrong with you – and even if there is, there are others who are worse off. 40 scripts in four years – I'll bet that none of them are any good - but each was sparked in your mind by an awesome idea so every one is worth exploring. I don't think your math adds up 1,460 days / 40 = 36.5 days/script (writing non-stop seven days a week), or you're very dedicated. I'm working on a similar story – a disabled student confronting prejudice (with bullying) – it's a topic that I find compelling. I've been developing the story for over a month so far, I have a beginning, middle and end pretty much in line; the story follows along the BMOC path. So far I've written four pages and none of them are any good. Screenwriting is a life long learning process and you'll have good days, and some not so good days. My basic advice is to slow down and enjoy the writer's life. Life is not a race.

Mark Mccoy

Relax. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Josh Hughes

I feel like 40 scripts in 4 years might be your problem. 10 scripts a year? I concepted, outlined, wrote, thought about and re wrote 4 scripts last year and I thought that was too much. Maybe take a step back and get a good look at your work. Have you sent it out anywhere? Coverage? Contests? Representation? How exactly do you not feel accomplished?

Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Doug, I don't think it's very nice to judge someones writing when you never even read it before.

Richard Gustason

Emily, you are probably experiencing a small bout with burnout. And that's fine, we all have those moments. Take a step back and give yourself some time to get your creative juices back. And look, you got 40 scripts. 40! Not everyone can say that and you should be super proud of that. Wish you the best. So take a small break, calm yourself a bit, then get back to being awesome.

Doug Nelson

Emily; I'm judging your writing, how? Even if I had read your material, I would never "pass judgement" on it whatsoever. I only try to help new writers based on my almost 40 years of writing - magazine articles, short stories, novellas, novels, corporate reports, TV and film scripts. I offer my opinions and views from my experiences and nothing more. If you think I'm criticizing you or your work - you're just barking up the wrong tree.

Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

@doug I'll bet that none of them are any good. I see that as judging my writing. In didn't mean to anger you..

Aray Brown

Emily, you got to learn to take the good with the bad. In the midst of Doug's brutal honesty, there was some sound advice.

Dan Guardino

Emily. If you have written that many screenplays in that amount of time you should quit writing new screenplays and concentrate more on marketing the ones you think have the best chance. I ran into that same problem. I wrote a lot of screenplays with very little success until I stopped writing and I put the same amount of effort into marketing that I did when I was writing screenplays.

Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Well, apparently Doug is pissed at me now. he won't talk :/

Aray Brown

Emily, why are you worried?

Cory Easley

40 screenplays? If your having trouble finding the right words for your current screenplay, perhaps take a step back from it. Maybe you should take a day or two not writing it, and try to sell your other screenplays. If not, try just writing it all down, and reworking it in rewrites.

Jorge J Prieto

Emily? 40 in two years? Wow! I would go back to year one, first script, like Dan said, start the dreaded rewrite process, if you haven't already, get that one or your favorite one of your 40, get some feedback from two different readers (other writers preferably) work on that one, start writing query letters to agent, managers, Exec, pitch sessions. All this process is gonna take more than the 2 years, two years??? It took you to write that amazing, huge number of scripts and you never know, down the line you might find the lead character, antagonist, core wound (which you already have, bullying) of your protagonist. I once I have my lead character and the opening scene, the rest happens organically, the characters lead the way and this is something many already established screenwriters do. I.e. Vince Gillian (Breaking Bad) does. Good luck with #41.

Craig D Griffiths

With that much work you must love writing. Just focus on that. It is so rare to make a living from writing, joy must come from the act not the cash. If you are doing it just for the cash, stop. There are many ways to make money. Many of them much easier than writing. Isaac Asimov was asked what would he do if he had only one year to live. He answered "write faster". Forty stories, that's a great body of work that one day will be loved and read by your descendants. Well done.

Anthony Moore

Ask yourself one question. "Why do I write?" If your answer is not, "Because I love it." then throw away all your scripts, wipe out all your backup copies, remove any writing software from your computer and quit. Become a plumber, or a waitress, or a day trader, or anything but a writer! Everyone has a crisis of faith from time to time and they will pass but once you start throwing yourself repeated pity parties, you're done. Focus on who you are...a writer.

David Taylor

You need to break that cycle. Pick ONE you feel has the best chance. Analyze, edit, improve, then pitch. Then pick the next. Learn to love edits.

Dan Guardino

I quit after every script I write so don't feel like you are the only one that feels like throwing in the towel now and then. Also keep in mind luck is probably the biggest factor when it comes to any form of success in this business. Luck normally happens to those people that use their scripts to make contacts with producers so keep a list of every producer that has read one of your scripts and let them know when you finish your next one. Contacts are everything in this business so use your screenplays to make contacts instead of just thinking about making a sale. Good luck and keep writing!

Victor Daniel Vera

I know exactly how you feel. See, when I write something I'm passionate about it feels good, relaxing, and exciting all at the same time. But, when I'm writing something and each keystroke feels heavy and I feel like I'm just putting words on paper, but I'm not feeling it, I stop and erase everything. I will take a break, maybe go watch a few episodes of Orange Is The New Black or Scream The TV Series on Netflix and then get right back at it with a new angle on it. I can tell you I started writing a screenplay and the dialogue and pacing seemed slow and very soap operaish, so I did just as I mentioned before and then I came back with a new perspective and I erased what I had written, took a deep breath, contemplated my next move, and I started writing the same story, but from a different angle, a different point of view, and it felt like I was gliding on water from that point on. Don't forget to pace yourself and ask yourself "If this script was a movie right now being watched, would it be exciting and entertaining or would it end up in the Lifetime Movie Network (drama genre) movie line up, or in the crappy Sci-Fy channel movie line up (sci-fi, action, horror genre)?

Semira Chan

It's not a sprint it's a marathon. Pace yourself. Time is a screenwriter's greatest asset once they use it efficiently. Don't rush because you feel you should be somewhere you aren't. Everything takes time - writing especially. Also learn to take notes, both good and bad. There is a lot of rejection in this industry.

Billy Martin

Maybe you need a writing partner to inspire you. I'm looking for one. What's your genre of choice? I've written 17 feature length screenplays, but I'm so exhausted afterwards, I just put them in a drawer and never do anything with them. Tried to message you to no avail.

Jorge J Prieto

Victor: What you just said above, makes perfect sense and I agree totally. I now more than before have gotten in the habit of being an audience member in my own screenplays. If I care and feel something for my characters fate, journey, I know my audience will have a chance of caring and connecting as well. Does anyone know where Emily Ann is??? Hope she took a well deserved vacation after completing 40 screenplays. I would have to be dragged and drugged into a hospital.

Michael Eddy

The title of your thread says it all. Not only incredibly pessimistic - but a self-fulfilling prophecy as well. Go w/ Anthony's advice. NO ONE has 40 script-worthy ideas in 4 years. That is a ludicrous and Shakespearian output (and he was rumored to have had beards). Now that you've filled your drawers with first drafts - might be time to go to Plan B. Hope you have one.

Michelle Hickey

I recommend 'The war of Art'. Your experiencing a concept called resistance, this little gem may help you recognise it and defeat it. I've read it more than once and its my go to. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

John Jamison

Hi Emily. Yep, you're a writer! Congrats! As a rather new one myself, I am first of all struck by the statement that you have written 40 screenplays...WOW! And in about four years. Double WOW! What amazes me most is that this seems to be your first dry spell leading you to question your writing abilities. Heck, I had several of those episodes now, and I'm still on my first novel! I'm in one of those situations right now...which is probably why I am writing this post to you, instead of writing the next chapter in my book. Things were going well, but I've found myself lost...not sure where things are going...IF they are going at all. But while this is my first large story, I've written and published many before, and this feeling of "What the heck am I doing here?" and I are old, good friends. In my view, these 'lost' times are just periods that my brain has decided to take on the heavy work itself, and do some serious creating of my story. When it has the next bits figured out, it will bring me back into the conversation and fill-me in on what is next. It's not lost time at all, and not an indication that my story is bad, I am bad, or that the entire idea of me being a writer is bad. It's a normal part of the process for me, and what is most important is what I do when it happens. My approach is to just smile, nod my head and say, "Ok, you go ahead, I'm going to do something else until you are ready." Maybe I work on another story, read some things related to my story just to give my brain a bit more fodder to work with, or catch-up on some illustrations I want to create, or just work on another project on my very long "to do" list here at home...my deck needs sealed and the beehives need tending. But, for me anyway, a 'dry' spell is far from 'dry'; its just another step in my writing. I know it will end, and I'll find myself not only with the new pieces I need for the story, but a few bonus "fixes" to make some of the earlier stuff even better. You are working on a very powerful and emotional topic. When I do that, I can expect my brain to take a few more of those internal processing stops, just to avoid being overwhelmed by the load. It's how my crazy mind works. Trust your sage...trust your mind...trust yourself. John

Dan MaxXx

Seek a Mentor. Surround yourself with people higher in career path. most of the advice here is bad advice. Including mine :)

Doug Nelson

Dan; or as I like to phrase it,”Always play pool with someone who can beat you.” A mentor will help you out of kindness, care and concern that fills a personal need for the mentor but remember too that a mentor owes you nothing – you are not entitled.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. I think most the advice people receive here is pretty good. If someone has a few screenplays under their belt they can usually help someone just starting out.

Linda Hullinger

I agree with you, Dan G. Most of the advice I've received here has been extremely helpful. And very much appreciated.

Michael Eddy

I also agree w/ Dan G. and Linda H. If DanMaxXx really thinks HIS advice here is bad - then he should stop posting and hit the bricks. And an addition to my earlier post re: Emily's 40 in 4 years vs. Shakespeare's output - he wrote 37 plays in his entire life.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Michael, you do realize Emily is a young teenager, yes? So not sure how the Shakespeare comparison is relevant, nor fair, nor supportive. She writes for animation, for personal projects and for other subjects she's interested in. If she said she wrote 40+ screenplays, then she did. Enough please. Sheesh!

Michael Eddy

No - I didn't. Not sure how I'm supposed to know Emily's age or what she writes. Going strictly by the opening to her thread. Writing for 4 years and 40 "screenplays". Later - YOU said "you're so young" but nothing more specific. The MTV generation: 3 minute "stories" told to song. 140 character tweets. My comment was that no one has 40 WORTHY ideas in so short a time. Others have agreed. I stand by that. And the Shakespeare comparison.

Anne Pariseau

Emily, you are great at starting big discussions! You bring up topics that other writers can relate to and get them talking. One of your others on whether a character was too immature was also a hot topic. Keep on keeping us thinkin'!

Beth Fox Heisinger

I understand that wasn't crystal clear, but Emily has been on the site for years—as have you, Michael. Her membership stopped and started for some reason, so the date on her current profile page does not reflect that. Plus I'm trying to inform members that they are talking to a young person (as a moderator) while also respecting her privacy. Emily has been the subject of past discussions, so I assume long-time members may already be aware. And just to let you know, the minimum membership age allowed without parent consent is 13, so, yes, we do have children on the site. And sorry, I vehemently disagree. For lack of better phrasing and no disrespect intended, you are imposing your ideals upon someone else. She's a writer regardless of what you or anyone else deems "worthy." Who are we to say what is a "worthy" idea or not? And people work/create at their own pace, utilize their own abilities, strive for their own goals. A screenplay is a screenplay, whether it's written for a short, a video, an animation, a feature, or whatever. Have you even seen any of her work? I have. She does voiceover too. Sings. And frankly to compare anyone to Shakespeare just because a high number of scripts is mentioned, let alone to a young person, is not a fair comparison and rather hyperbolic, is it not? One could argue Shakespeare worked in a related but different field.

Michael Eddy

First, I tried to ask in my original post what kind of screenplays she was writing and whether they were feature length and to add that I've written about a dozen specs in 2 decades of work. But lately, this site freezes my posts after a few sentences. I can't send them and have to begin all over. This has happened half a dozen times of late. Aggravating. Any ideas? I'll cut this short so it doesn't happen again.

Michael Eddy

I don't impose my "ideals" on anyone - and a writer is a writer as long as they write - in whatever form. I express my opinions. Mine - based on having done this for a while and made a living at it. I used to complete a 1st draft in 10 days. But only once or twice a year. If Emily is the Flash of writers - more power to her. But she posted HERE on Stage 32 in a screenwriting thread - where most are far more experienced - age-wise and otherwise.

Michael Eddy

Froze me again. I had no idea you could post here at age 13. Maybe Emily's a writing prodigy. You said she also sings, does voice-overs (I assume acts too?) etc. She's too young to be so accomplished and so sad. And she said it's impossible to write what she wants. There's nothing wrong with you Emily...

Michael Eddy

But writers are told to "write what you know" and if you've done 40 in 4 years - maybe you've hit the current bottom of your well. My advice: keep doing what you're doing. Live a little more. Experience a little more. Replenish the well. Live more stories to tell. Add your imagination into the mix. You'll be fine. OK Beth?

Beth Fox Heisinger

About the site "freezing" could be your browser? Firefox has issues... Perhaps try Safari. You could also reach out to CTO, Derrick Ontiveros, with technical problems :) Anyway, yes, I understand, Michael, everyone is entitled to their opinion—again, no disrespect was intended. And, yes, she's posting on a site dominated by adults. Fair enough. But still... She's not an adult, hence our disagreement. And respectfully disagreeing is okay. Best to you!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Haha! That's great! Hey Michael, you know I always appreciate all your contributions, as does the community. You have much to share. Thank you so much!

Cherie Grant

Emily, you're writing too many and not concentrating on making them better, but then you're not experienced enough to know the craft yet. You haven't even finished school. You're being an impatient teenager, which is all we can expect so you're going to have to start realising that about yourself. You have a LONG way to go before you write a produceable script. That's not a negative. It just is. It takes time. And with your lack or world/life experience and self reflection/analysis you really can't expect must until you're in your twenties. That's just life. You may not like my advice now, but in a few years you'll look at it and agree and groan at your own posts. Trust me. We've all been there.

Linda Collison

I can relate, Emily! All my life I've wanted to be a writer. When I was in high school I wrote and directed a one-act play in French, entered it in a state-wide contest for high school students (in Maryland), produced it at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. It won third place (out of five entries! lol!) I was disappointed not to win but my father, God rest his soul, put some perspective on it. He reminded me only 5 teens in the entire state had the guts to write a play in French, the nerve to enter it in a contest and the heart to produce it. If you've read this far without falling asleep, know this: Your energy, determination, and talents are not for naught. Please keep writing. I once had a fortune in a Chinese cookie that said "If you work seriously you will succeed." I still have that tiny slip of paper and abide by it. Keep on writing, keep on believing. I believe you have something to say.

Doug Nelson

Emily – this is the hard core truth, with no chaser. You're questioning whether you should be a writer or not. You're a young person questioning your future – as you should. There is no shame whatsoever in not being a writer. The art of film making is chock full of opportunities for a creative. The burgeoning indie film industry needs all sorts of creative folk. If you're the out-going people type, maybe directing suites you better or if you're a bit shy, editing may be a better fit (heaven knows we need knowledgeable and creative editors). You're still young enough that you can try different things until you find your comfort zone. Who knows, maybe business fits you better, maybe science...it doesn't matter what direction you take; just strive to be the world's best at it.

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