Screenwriting : The dreaded writer's block. by John Radtke

John Radtke

The dreaded writer's block.

How do you get past the dreaded writer's block?

Chris Hind

singlemalt scotch!

Kenneth David Swenson

I skip around...oh the humanity!

Charles Jewell

I will play either the original x-box, 360 or the X-One for a little bit. If that does not kick the writers block then I will take out something else I have written and go over that or I will go to my VFW for a beer or two. Sometimes I will just watch something on my DVR with my laptop open and the screenplay, story or outline that I am stuck on.

Lamont Bellsarios

I will stop what I'm doing, go make some nachos, then watch some of my favorite filmmakers just to remind myself that I'm rubbish and should try harder, lol. I'm usually back chained to the keyboard within very little time.

Anthony Cawood

Similar to Lamont, I watch one of my top 10 films and marvel at the writing.

Eric Kinloch

video games, movies, or create another screenplay but then it usually turns into procrastination

Stuart Wright

There's no such thing. There are good days and bad days. Change your medium. Change your environment. Go for a walk (Stephen King fave). Writing is hard. You're literally making stuff up that doesn't currently exist. Here's to more good than bad days in our writing lives :)

Pierre Langenegger

I will write my way out of it, literally. When I'm stuck on a scene, I'll grab pen and paper and write what is happening in this scene and ask myself questions such as, "How can I get this to happen?" Then I'll write a number of responses and build it up from there and pretty soon I have the scene solved.

Jason Gray

Not really an answer, but time spent thinking about what you've already written and what you're trying to write (or wish you were able to write) is never a waste of time.

Susan Holtzer

I keep more than one project going at the same time. One of them is usually in the foreground, but when I crash on that, I move to one of the others for a while. I'm currently working on two screenplays and an urban fantasy novel. (The novel is for when I'm absolutely sick of boiling down descriptions to one line.) :-)

Stuart Wright

An outline is only a guide not a fool proof way to avoid getting stuck and your execution may reveal new avenues or character needs or wants that mess up said outline ... I think time spent thinking is a good one. It's makes my Protestant work ethic blood boil to not see any progress made on the page but it always pays off... My cork board and white board get attacked when the laptop isn't feeling it

Niksa Maric

I would have to agree with Susan on this. Work on more than one project, 2, 3...5 if you have that many and when you hit the BLOCKADE, move to next one, that's how I do it. Lisa, I'm sure I've read it somewhere that treatment is not to be written until someone actually decides to sign a contract with you and they would have to pay you first to write the treatment ( the treatment is one of the last steps) I could be wrong but I can check again.

Leon Reaper

Stop there and write a few other scenes separately. then go back when you have an idea coming back.

Stuart Wright

I'd say the logline is the first step ... It's the roots and branches you put on it that make it a treatment and then a script... Ignore the logline at the start and you'll meander

LindaAnn Loschiavo

John asked: How do you get past a dreaded writer's block? The BLOCK often comes about because you've lost direction or you lost interest in the project. Since I work on several projects at once, at least one of those is "calling my name" as soon as I wake up. Have several projects going. If it helps, assign yourself a deadline and meet it. Set aside a time and write every day. WRITING is a reflex. You do more by doing it every single day. Carry a notebook and a pen. Go to all appointments early, so you can sit somewhere quiet and write while you wait. A lot will get done in an hour in a nice waiting room. You'll amaze yourself. Good luck, John.

Niksa Maric

Lisa, why do I even need treatment for? I've read it how James Cameron did a treatment for one of his early scripts. He removed all dialogues and it was about 70 pages long. Step 1. Come up with the movie idea. Step 2. LOGLINE. (Finish the script) Step 3. Outline. Step 4. Written PITCH. Step 5. Query letter. Who is the treatment for? I'm sorry but I really don't see the point in all this.

William Martell

I make a list of the things the scene is supposed to accomplish and if that doesn't help me figure the scene out, I go on to the next scene and leave that list as a place holder.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

When it comes to screenwriting, I never have writer's block. I generally have a good idea of where I want to go. However, I always find the first ten pages are the hardest to write. After that, I tend to get in a groove.

Craig D Griffiths

Kill a few characters, see what would happen. Change the location, see what would happen. Then stop trying and leave it to the subconscious to figure out. In a few days I'll be hit by an idea. Or start writing an alternative project (I normally have a few ideas floating), and a solution jumps into my head and I am away again.

Niksa Maric

Hold on, miss Scott, just a second. First, about James Cameron's treatment. That's what the article or blog mentioned, it was 70 pages long, and I'm guessing what person who wrote it meant was; it almost looked like the entire dialogue from the script was removed but forget about that, let's go back to treatment. I did find an article from someone who sold a script in the past and he mentioned that SCRIPT can be created based on outline and treatment. You said the treatment is the FIRST step. You also wrote "information about each and every scene written out" how do you even know how many scenes your script will end up to have. It could be 45, 62 or 99. The treatment (if it ever gets that far in the process is the last step, unless person who writes based on treatment is trying to re-write someone else's script) Please, point to one seasoned and successful writer or you can post it if you know why. I don't take this "unsuccessful ones" as offense but you don't know what I write about, no one does yet. The scripts I have could turn out to be good, potentially good, promising or just a bunch of ideas, impossible to turn into a movie, no matter how hard any director tries.

Niksa Maric

First, I think we both have something in common, we don't sleep much. I did a quick read and it still doesn't make any sense. You can't know all the details, every scene in the script, locations... until you finish the script. Are you in Military, some boring office job in Pentagon?

Jason Gray

I take some issue with the "any seasoned and successful writer" mention in Lisa Scott's post, but definitely agree that a treatment can be extremely helpful tool in laying the foundations of a story before the writing of the script begins. I like hacking out 5-10 pages (single spaced) that do a very basic job of introducing characters, includes a few snippets of key dialogue, but most importantly, sets out the flow of the narrative. It's written objectively and without emotion. Some people use index cards or other systems in a similar way. Once I start writing the screenplay, the plot holes/weaknesses of the treatment become self-evident and are gradually filled in. The exposition written as prose comes out in creative ways in the script (hopefully), and the characters find their voices. It's unlikely you'll be requested to turn in a treatment in the industry, but they are often required at film festival project markets (Rotterdam's Cinemart, Paris Project, Hong Kong's HAFF etc.).

Niksa Maric

So, in general, none of us uses the same methods, none of us is A PROFESSIONAL WRITER, not yet anyway and all we can do for now is: keep writing and hope some day, someone WILL see the potentially good script. Hay Lisa, you never answered the MILITARY question. How are things inside the good old Pentagon.

Anthony Cawood

Surely this is just personal preferences... some plan extensively, some dive in, some insist that you cannot have a logline until the script is finished, some disagree... what matters is that you find a method that works for you, and if you are starting out then try some of the suggestions above and see what fits. Whatever you do... do not listen to anyone who tells you there is only ONE way to write a script - there isn't, keep your mind open and keep learning.

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

John, I go for a long walk with a pad and pen. Being distracted helps me... then thankfully ideas just pop into my head. Sometimes I just write... it's crap ... but at least I'm in the chair.

Niksa Maric

Sorry Lisa but what search may never end for me, what do you mean by that?

John Radtke

Thanks for all the great comments.

Anthony Moore

Have something that couldn't possibly happen within the context of the story happen. "Writers Block" is your subconscious telling you that what you planned to write is all wrong!!!

Stuart Wright

Here's a Big Talk development exec on outlines and treatments https://storify.com/Mysterygrip/treatments-and-outline-rachaelpriormbe

Randall C Willis

Write anything at all...on a table napkin if you have to. If that isn't working, try something else that's creative (I do photography), just to get that part of the brain flowing.

Hans Nielsen

Write

Charles Jewell

Niksa: do you have something against the Military? You seem to be centered on Lisa working at the Pentagon for some reason? What gives? On topic: each person needs to find their own way through a mythical (to some) writers block. The ways i get through them help for me. Just tonight i got a little stuck so i put on the movie Boogie Nights and read a few pages back and then worked through it. It all depends on the person.

Tom Paini

The dreaded "BLOCK".. Well here's a wee something I was told to try.. Get a hold of a CD of Mozart, I've got a mixed one, stick it on and write.. Doesn't matter what you write, write anything.. Just let the music take you.. It work's a treat..

Tom Paini

Mozart?.. Torturous?... Oh!.. Dear Julie... Each to his/her own.. "We are mostly similar and yet, equally, very different to one another"... (smiles)

Tom Paini

Not so much the Irish ballads Julie, lovely though they are, but being a Scot myself, I'm more of a pipes man.. As for the rain?.. We've got that bloody much of it - - - We could sell you some, but knowing those Tories, we have in Westminster, they've probably thought of that first..

NicKhil Chavan

In my opinion, it's just a psychological fact which hounds us. I found some interesting solutions like Taking A Break & having some outside air, Indulge yourself with your favorite hobbies except writing or you can switch between two or more projects. It always works for me. Remember, "YOU MUST KILL MONOTONY BEFORE IT MURDERS THE ENTHUSIASM"

Charles Jewell

Also try to stay away from procrastination, you fall into that and it is a bitch to get away from IMO.

Niksa Maric

No Charles, I don't. I used to be Military and the reason I ask her that was completely different.

Jeremy Kriss

Writer's Block is the natural state. If writing was easy, we would ALL do it ALL the time. Put your head down, put your butt in the chair, and knock it out.

Jeremy Kriss

Lisa, Stage 32 can be the new CrackBerry to writers.

Stuart Wright

Through writers block comes some of the greatest clarity

Anthony Cawood

@Stuart - they look awesome!

Richard Allis

I just try to sit down and think about the next thing I want to write. Sometimes I don't have any idea about what to do next and ideas come slowly, but if I lie down and just sort through my thoughts, or lack of thoughts, eventually a better idea comes out of it. Then I write it. Then I think of how I can make it better.

Cynthia Garbutt

Physical exercise, best thing for your mind. Get out of the house and walk. I take a 30 min walk. It stirs brain activity.

Cynthia Garbutt

Listen to music that sets the mood of your story. Music stimulates brain activity.

Charles G. Masi

As a veteran print journalist, for most of my career "writer's block" has simply been NAO: not an option. You have a deadline, so you've got to start stringing words together. Even if it's clumsy, confused and worthless, you have to type words on the screen. Then, you can fix it up later. Most of the writing art -- just like film making, or any other art -- comes from skillful selection and editing. I think it was Hemingway who talked about setting himself a goal of writing 2,000 words per day, no matter what. When writing novels (I've written six), I always start the day by re-editing the previous day's copy. By the time I'm through, I'm full of ideas for what comes next. So, the cure for writer's block is to just shut up and write.

Stuart Wright

Hemingway talks about being prepared to accept you're about to write something shit ... If you can accept that you'll write all day and coincidentally you'll uncover some great stories and ideas

Michael Eddy

John - been there - had that. There's no really hard and fast rule for getting out of writer's block. It comes down to the individual - and the reasons they're blocked - I've been blocked when writing a screenplay that I idiotically began to write without knowing how it would end (NEVER start without an ending) - so when I reached the point in the script where I wasn't sure where to go on - I blocked. I put the script into a drawer and went on to other things. At some point, in the middle of another script - the ending of the earlier one suddenly popped into my head out of nowhere. Not sure what the trigger was. But I made some notes - finished what I was working on - dug the old script out - and finished it quickly. Another time - I blocked because I was frustrated with how things were going in my career. I had been working a lot (spec sales and assignments) - but nothing was getting produced. My agent's assistant called me one day because they were filing work by various clients and asked me to give her a logline for each of my screenplays as she read me a title - so she could give shorthand info to producers looking for writers on specific assignments. Everything started to sound the same to me. I think the systems just shut down. I wasn't aware of it at first. Just not writing. My agent (who had taken me with her to a BIG agency when she moved from the boutique agency we'd been at) tried to encourage me to write a new spec, "so I can show you what this place can do". When I didn't give her anything - she said I might have writer's block and said she could give me the name of a good terapist who specialized in such things (another avenue to explore I suppose...), but I inisisted i was not blocked. "Writer's block is when you WANT TO WRITE and can't. I'm just not in the mood". But as the days and weeks and months went on (it got to 6 months during which I didn't even try to write. Didn't even sit at the table I wrote at. Nothing) I realized I was blocked and got a little nervous about it. How did I break through? As I said earlier - every one is different. A writer friend called out of the blue to rave about a gangster script he'd read that had just been filmed and read me a passage from it. While he was reading - I went into a cabinet and dug out an old gangster script that I'd written at the very start of my career. Waited til he was done, and read him a monolgue from my script. He was blown away - he'd been a studio exec but had never read this early work. Asked if he could read the whole thing. Gave it to him. He said it was great but needed a rewrite - offered to partner with me on it. We divvied up early scenes between us and agreed to meet in a week and exchange pages. I didn't tell him I'd been blocked and hadn't written a word in 6 months. So - not to be embarrassed and show up with no pgaes - I wrote. I just did it. Showed up - we exchanged pages - I didn't like his - he told me I knew the characters so much better then he did - he was dropping out and I should just have it it alone. As we were walking to lunch, I told him about the block and he was shocked, "I wouldn't worry about that any more. Your stuff was great". And with that - I went home and rewrote my entire script in 3 weeks, a page one. Gave it to my agent - and 3 days later it was in a bidding war and sold to a major studio. That is a great way to come out of a writer's block. And I've never had one since.

Trevor Murphy

If I do not have a deadline then I ride it out...I'll watch a lot of movies and TV shows, exercise more and chat with people more than normal...it generally shakes things loose eventually. If I do have a deadline then you cannot do much but keep typing, no matter how clichéd your words and scenes appear to be ;-).

Michael Eddy

Responded earlier w/out reading all the previous comments. To Ron M: writer's block is not glorifying a bad day. And saying to "just write" is oversimplifying and sideways advice. I used to think that it was imperative to write 5 pages a day. No matter what. I came to realize that forcing it just to make an arbitrary page count by dinnertime was ridiculous. Sometimes ya got it, sometimes ya don't. Don't force things. One day without getting anything on paper or just a line or two of dialogue or description is not a disaster, nor is it writer's block. If nothing's flowing - so what? Take the day off. If you force "bad" writing just to make your page count - it will either stall you as you incessantly rewrite the same bad pages or block you. Or you'll end up coming back on a more lucid day and trashing all the bad forced stuff and starting from scratch anyway. If you feel it - write. If you don't - do anything else and come back for a fresh start tomorrow. To Lisa Scott - maybe I'm just reading something that's not there - but you sometimes write a response as though it's your way or the highway and then talk about men having problems that women do not. As for your statement that only "unsuccessful" writers don't do treatments - bull. So's your remark about "never" having dialogue in a treatment. You are off base on both. Treatments, although primarily scene descriptive and showing your 3 acts - can in fact, contain snatches of dialogue - especially when it goes to colorize your character for a reader only seeing the bare bones of it and not a full script. And I am a successful screenwriter who has never been contracted to write a treatment. I find them a waste of time. I think out my story and characters and then immediately go to a first draft. The one time a would be producer asked me to do a treatment was when he heard an idea for a spec I had not yet written - thought he had a perfect landing spot for it. Asked for a treatment - I wrote 17 pages. He gave me notes (unpaid) on that (3X) and it ballooned to 24 pages. It was incredibly detailed and he said normally he NEVER gave anyone something like that because you were handing the producers/company the full blueprint for the movie - with no guarantee they'd hire you as the writer - but he was quite sure they'd love it. They did. But it was a blueprin tfor a far more expensive a film than they planned to make - so they passed. The positive was that I had done all the heavy lifting already - and went ahead and wrote it as a screenplay in a couple of weeks. But for me - a treatment is a waste of time.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Michael Eddy. You sir, have made and awesome point. I am continually amazed at how pedantic writers are about what is the right (or write) way to get your work sold. I’m sure as hell glad that history’s great innovators, inventors and creative minds didn’t give up when they were told “you can’t do it that way.” If someone wants to actually pay you for something you’ve written, then you are blessed. If they want to pay you well, then you are truly blessed. Personally, I work off outlines, but that may not work for everyone. Last time I looked, there is no rule book for success. For me, writing is about creating art and god forbid, enjoying that process. If adhering to a strict set of guidelines such as crafting a treatment before writing a word of your screenplay works, then rock on. I’ve received more action from a good logline and synopsis than anything else. It’s hard to get anyone to read one to two pages, let alone twenty; or the Holy Grail, having someone read your entire script. The sad truth is you can follow every rule in the book; but if you blow as a storyteller…

Stuart Wright

My latest screenplay in index card form... Always find it liberating using these little buggers

Michael Eddy

Stuart - if it works for you - it's a keeper. I've tried index cards - never sure how much to put on each card. End up filling cards with material - which probably defeats the purpose. I need a magnifying glass to read what I scribbled on each in minute detail. For me - I write FADE IN; throw in everything and the kitchen sink until I get straight through to FADE OUT. Let it sit for a few weeks - then go back - re-read what I wrote and start to edit and rewrite. Do that until it's tight and cohesive and then send it out into the world to see what happens.

Stuart Wright

I find retreading over a script gets tedious and I fall out of love with it ... The index card lets me see what it looks like at a glance. But as you say what works and what doesn't doesn't ... the hardest part is finding what works when there's so many option available

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Ol Parker, writer of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" tells you why he doesn't use an outline. Now what I would do but it, supports my contention to do whatever works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulg1gQFfmmM

Vidas Pliodzinskas

If you are stuck you could always ask someone to add a page or two. You will either love what they contributed or it may help you think of what you really want to write.

Kenneth David Swenson

@John the only time I've gotten into trouble without "notes" is when I've had to drop a project and then pick it up after a few months. But if I can continually work on something, the story usually flows "organically" towards the end and it isn't a problem. I also try to write the "part ends" and "story end" as soon as it comes to mind and then "knit" things together.

Carol Hoffman

I go for a walk. The movement and fresh air open up my mind and provide new ideas and solutions. I only write when my mind is most productive, very early morning to early afternoon. For years I did morning drive news on the radio. I am still a morning person.

David Levy

Take a step back from your work. Do something different to take your mind off it. Relax your mind. When you least expect it that block will let up.

John Radtke

Thanks for the comments. I love all the ideas!

Ed Vassie

Go out, grab a coffee at a cafe with a view, take a notebook and watch the world go by. Being amongst people has never failed me in terms of generating ideas.

Kenneth David Swenson

i find "cat naps" also work wonders...I've had parts just linchpin into place just by closing my eyes.

William G Chandler Jr

Take some steps back until the release of gas.

Phillip Lupo Jr.

I go to the woods.

Hans Nielsen

Walking is good.

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