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Screenwriting : Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Rebecca Schauer

Rebecca Schauer

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Funny how people were quoting Joseph Campbell yesterday and here I am quoting the Clash… Anyway, I've recently found myself spending WAY too long writing the last few scenes of my current screenplay. This is something that has never happened to me before, and therefore makes me wonder if I should simply put this one aside for a while and devote my time solidly to the next project, which I have already started. Is my extreme writer's block a sign that this project will not/should not happen, or should I just give it some time and space?

Rome Me-o

I have read various books on writer's block, and they always seem to suggest to leave it alone for a few days and let your mind "refresh". I've heard the same recommendations from working screenwriters within the guild to work on something else (not necessarily scripts) during these creative blocks. Seems to work for me. :)

Kerry Douglas Dye

Agreed. In my experience, you're too close to it. Put it away for a month if you can stand to. It'll read completely differently when you return.

Andrew Chasnoff

Rebecca, I have noticed that my enthusiasm for a future project can kind of block my creative progress on a screenplay that's nearing completion. Unfortunately, as writers, we don't really get to pick what inspires us at any given moment. Unless you are up against a strict deadline, I would recommend writing what you're most excited about.

Babz Bitela, President/Silver Bitela Agency/WGA

Try this: take the opening of the second act and PRETEND it's your opener. Get a feel for it. Something within the second act will probably nudge you out of the the dark space; it's as if a small candle's been lit. Give it whack, you've nothing too lose. It may also help you tie up some loose ends of foreshadow (jf any) that require a payoff but didn't quite happen? Just thinking past the hot dog stand.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Babz's comment makes me want to ask for the following clarification: are you writing and rewriting because you can't figure out the ending? Or because even though you know what the end is supposed to be, you still aren't satisfied with how you've rendered it?

Rebecca Schauer

You're right, Kerry. My dilemma is more of not being able to execute the ending I had outlined in a manner that's interesting. I don't have a strict deadline, although I had been hoping to send it off to some competitions. Personally, I'd rather work on something else for a while, hope the flame sparks again and perhaps send it off at another point in time.

Kerry Douglas Dye

May I ask the genre?

Rebecca Schauer


Cherie Grant

maybe you can't see the forest for the trees. Take a break from it. Move on and when you've finished the next one come back to this one with fresh eyes.

Gordon Olivea

Rebecca, after your break, look at your first act. What question did you ask? (such as: Will the married, older American movie star hook up with the young, bored American wife of a photographer?) Whatever question you asked in the first act needs to be answered in third. If the answer is ambiguous, or remains unanswered, you have a hard sell. 2001: A Space Odyssey had an ending that was very to hard to figure out - Stanley Kubrick admitted he didn't know how to end the film while he was shooting it. It is in my top ten films, but almost every film in my top 100 has an answer in the third act that was well set up in the first.

Rebecca Schauer

Thanks, everyone. Great suggestions.

Melissa Burch

I usually work with an editor so that there is someone to bounce off when I reach a stopping point.

Varun Prabhu

I stay away from the project for a few days and then come back and read what I have written again to gain a fresh perspective.

Adam McCulloch

I know it's not a popular notion but I don't believe there is such a thing as writer's block. Maybe reread some craft books like John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. I find that the answer always lies in adding more skills. it can't hurt anyway.

Shane M Wheeler

I think I agree with stepping away from it and taking a look a few days/weeks/months down the road, but being so close, I would say, Do not be afraid to write crap. Sometimes it's better to write something less than stellar to finish a project, then come back and repair and rewrite later. Sometimes what seems awful now may not be as bad as you think, and with any luck, can be salvaged in the future. I've found even when I struggle, I may come across a good idea in the middle of a slew of bad ones that completely saves my script from hitting the wall.

Pierre Langenegger

It's such a pity that you only have a few scenes to go to finish this draft and they're just not coming to you, but if they're not coming, they're not coming so put it aside and concentrate on your next project, you can always g back to this one at a later stage.

Rebecca Schauer

How funny that so many encouraging posts popped up today, after I completed my first draft LAST NIGHT! Working on something else for a few days did give me renewed energy and perspective. Perhaps we can keep this thread open for people who want to discuss if WB really exists...

Kerry Douglas Dye

Mazel tov, Rebecca.

Varun Prabhu

Sometimes you get ideas just by re-reading your story. So I would suggest you give it a re-read or at the least, think on your story outline.

Charlie Dalrymple

Is your story outlined? Did you stick to it, or change it? Are you at the climax, or the epilogue? Are your characters saying/doing what you need them to at this point of the story? Have they changed in a way that affects the conclusion of your story in a meaningful way? Is there another point in the story that needs to change to end the whole thing in a satisfying manner? What character is in control of the story at the point where you're at? Should they be in control, or perhaps another character needs to step up? Is the theme/point of the story still being served by the conclusion? Hope these questions help.

Tracey Bradley

I think sometimes that's all you can do. Remove your brain from that problem a while and return to it with fresh eyes. Give it a month (If you're not under deadline.)

Ken Belsky

I feel your pain. When blocked for days, I would always doubt my own sincerity about wanting to write in the first place. The guilt was a great motivator to get back to the table. For myself, I would sit down and write all the who's and what's that had yet to be put into motion or resolved in the storyline. Sometimes that lead to a way to rekindle the progress. Often times I would just scratch some forward progress out. It was bad, but when I knew why it was bad, I saw a way to make it better and get on with it. Othertimes, being away from it, and missing it so much, rejuvinated the soul. www.bryankent.com I

Alex Craig

I have an advice or two for you. Whether you listen to them is up to you. (1) Take the script and put away in the dresser and continue writing your next project. After some time has past, say three weeks get the project out of the dresser and read the entire script without editing anything but instead just add notes as you go along. Once you reach toward the last few scenes you will most likely have an idea how you're going to end the entire story. or (2) Write the last few scenes and forget about ending it perfectly. The point of this is to flesh out the overall idea of what you have and address it later as you perform the rewrites. When all else fails make sure that it's not the story that's hindering your ending or get a friend or two with whom you can toss around ideas with. Whenever someone writes a screenplay the first draft is the "Shitty Draft" it's suppose to be horrible because you're fleshing out raw material of your work. This means a shitty beginning, middle and end but the good thing is that once you have the road map laid out it's easy to rewrite because you know what direction you're going in. Anyhow, I hope I helped you in the slightest bit. -Take care

Peter Bilodeau

I agree with Antonio about the first draft. It's designed to get your ideas/story/information down on paper so you'll remember them. I often find that as I write, more ideas come. As you move things around, the picture becomes clearer. Think of it as furnishing a home. There may be pieces you like that don't go where you want to put them. So, as you move them around, you eventually find the perfect spot.

Lee Davis

To quote another musician, "Let It Be." Which does not mean "forgettaboutit." As we gain experience, we find more ways to improve our writing. So it's never too late to pick up work we put aside. One of my favorite quotes (below) is by Thomas Mann (author of Death in Venice). " A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Although I like The Clash and The Beatles, neither group won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mann did.

Kerry Douglas Dye

One of my favorite quotes. I think of it whenever someone on this board crows about how easy or fun writing is.

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