Screenwriting : The Fun of Writer's Block... by Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch

The Fun of Writer's Block...

How do you get past that bump in the road when you're reading a script? When you've written 60-70 pages, and you know your ending, but you're just not quite sure how to fill that last gap? Everyone has their own methods. Do you work on some other script? Do you let your brain relax for a while? Do you stare at the page until something comes to you?


Hi Ian, Try writing it as if from the END backwards - may re-invite your muse to finish the last act?

Shaun O'Banion

I recommend taking few days away from it, though Jussta's suggestion is good as well. It's best to have a complete idea before beginning - break it down by acts or beats. What needs to happen? Why and When? Having the whole thing laid out before you begin writing will help you in the future - doesn't mean you're locked into that version of your story, but it helps to know where you're going before you begin.

Alan Rubinoff

I usually outline the story with Contour to get my beat sheet, by page 90 things are usually exciting. If i'm having trouble I usually check my chatacter arch and make sure that progression is highlighted. It's really tempting to stop and start a new project but I would resist that and push through.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I curl up into the fetal position, enjoy some self-loathing and then stare out into the abyss... No, actually, I just take a break. :) Go for a run. Do something else for a while. Then, boom, the solution comes to me. I mostly work from an outline so I know exactly how I'm constructing the script and how it will end. It's best to work backwards, I think. Always know your ending before starting. Where I'll get stuck is when working out a specific scene or a section of dialog. ;)

Greg McGee
  1. Don't go back and read it from the beginning over and over. 2. Get a good bottle of wine, some snacks, turn off all social media and phone and lock the door. 3. Don't be a critic while you're writing. Don't even worry about spelling or complete sentences. Just get cross that gap on paper as fast as you can. Don't look back. 4. Put on some Mozart. 5. Write until its done.
Eoin O'Sullivan

Writers block, is the lack of a well developed outline. Think first, then write.

Danny Manus


Beth Fox Heisinger

Ummm, I'd have to go with wine.

Ron Brassfield

Similar advice and much else that is truly helpful for screenwriting is contained in Jeff Kitchen's book, ""Writing a Great Movie." But I think much depends on how you define "that last gap." What is being set up in the script? Your main character's external goal, hopefully. A fault in the main character which comes to present an internal challenge to winning until it comes to light in the proper way (only truly revealed in the final pages) -- we hope. An external challenge that is not just a problem, but a dilemma, that is, a problem that cannot be resolved without creating a new problem. If there's a "last gap" after the character does all it takes, including some major sacrifice, to overcome external oppositions, lack of any of the aforementioned elements is probably where that gap is to be found. in other words, if you're having trouble bringing about a satisfactory ending, try reviewing the beginning.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Depends on your problem. If you know, from a structural perspective, what has to happen in this beat, but you just can't think of a good idea for it, then Greg is right. Write whatever crap you can to get to the end. If your problem is that you don't even know where you are with the storytelling -- ie, you're heading into the end of the second act, your hero should be hitting rock bottom, etc., then Alan and the other structuralists are the guys you should be listening to, because you have fundamental story problems.

Stuart Land

I was fine with 'writer's block ( didn't have it) until I discovered Stage32. Too many nice folks to yak with on here. It's all you guys' fault I'm not writing! That aside, this is a case where everyone's advice is correct. You just need to find to one (or more) that works for you.

Stephen J. Jacobs

Hi Ian. I've never had writer's block and probably never will. This is one of the advantages of being both a Jazz Musician and a Science Fiction Writer. Just take a break, listen to some real Straight Ahead Be Bop (Charlie Parker, Miles Davis), read a couple of Sci-Fi short stories (Theodore Sturgeon, Keith Laumer) and before you know it, your creative juices will be pumping without a miss and your block will be dumping into the abyss. As much as I admire Danny and Beth, remember that Reality is for people who can't handle drugs or wine. If none of the above work, watch a classic Marx Brother's movie, the block will be replaced with laughter and then go back to your script. SJJ

Ian Lynch

Lots of great advice here. Particularly the drugs and wine.... But I got over the gap. All I did was bounce the ideas that weren't good enough off my other half, until inspiration hit me. That's my new method of getting over the writer's block; ranting at someone who'll tolerate it until I think of something good.

Kate Wrath

OK, I'm a novelist, not a screenwriter, but I'll add my two cents worth anyway. First of all, these are all great ideas. Adding to that... when I am prepping a novel, I have a loose idea of the plot, and I lay things out with index cards... like stepping stones for my scenes. These are the scenes that I just can't wait to write. The stuff in between grows out of character interactions and their reactions to the plot stepping stones. (Sometimes they all get trashed and I do something different halfway through, but it usually works.) If, for some reason, I still get stuck somewhere in there, I look at my characters for motivation. They are really the key to everything. And if that doesn't work, if I've taken some time away and I'm still not going... then I have to examine what brought me to the slump in the first place. Often, there is something that has gone wrong previously, and I am simply not acknowledging it. Sometimes a little fix to a previous chapter will drastically help me to reconnect with the story and move on. (I think writer's block is largely about emotional energy being depleted, and that can grow out of an unsatisfactory story). And if none of that works... I go to my cheat sheet of plot movers and shakers, and find one that I like, that will really change up my story. If nothing else, that will get me going again. (I made my own cheat sheet through lots and lots of reflection). :p Hope this helps.

Ian Lynch

Yeah, that's similar to my approach when starting out. I'll have my concept, then I'll figure out the charactes, the ending and the set-up. After that I fill in the blanks. My writer's block tends to come from ironing out plot issues, because I tend to write a lot of high-concept stuff, which is a goldmine of plot holes. So I end up analysing the characters, motivations and the rules I set within the story looking for solutions. Sometimes it'll drive me crazy to the point where I want to give up on the whole idea, but sooner or later, I figure it out.

Kate Wrath

The first novel I wrote was a mess.... I had this idea that ended up being pretty complicated, even though the novel itself was light in tone. And I didn't really know what I was doing, of course, so I didn't set anything out. AND I wrote it out of order! Needless to say, I am still trying to iron out all the problems in that story so I can publish it (and it's better-written sequel). I think it is important to spend time reflecting over the characters/motivations/etc, whether you think you have a problem or not. I have read too many things that were slaughtered by these problems. Maybe the writing was good, but you lose the reader when something doesn't mesh.

Trey Wickwire

Posted this on another Writer's Block post. Character Bios! If you are having trouble thinking of what your characters will do next it usually means you don't have an in depth understanding of who they are and what motivates them. Spend some time fleshing out their bios with information about their family life, where and how they grew up, who their friends and enemies are, etc. Whenever I get stuck I go back to my bios and look for a clue to what the character will do. If I don't find it I start adding details to their bio until the clue surfaces. Might not work for everyone but it sure helps me.

Greg McGee

There's a great little book that I always recommend to people who think they want to write screenplays. The title sells it: "How To Write A Movie In 21 Days" by Viki King. (C) 1988 , Harper & Row. It breaks the process down into manageable chunks and helps you set goals. But its really the same old thing. The key , I think, is don't write your first draft carefully. Write insouciantly. Look that word up, You'll love it.

Ron Brassfield

Vicki King's book was one of the first three on the craft I ever bought, though I still have not written a feature script in under ten weeks. ( tried my first 1-hr. pilot last fall and was happy with what I wrote over nine days, yay.) A new book by Alan Watt titled, "The 90-Day Screenplay - From Concept to Polish" is also a good one to learn by, and, I think, really better at instilling valuable, deep core writer concepts (beyond the structure of pacing).

Greg McGee

I actually got to meet Viki at one of her book signings. She was so awesome, I wanted to marry her. But she was already taken. Her grand little book has helped me to write 4 scripts.

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