How many projects can a screenwriter juggle??



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  • How many projects can a screenwriter juggle??

    Didn't know where to post this, but I figured basics would be alright... I hope it is... that being said...

    This has been really odd, but I'm in the middle of a script right now and can not finish it. I have no motivation to finish the script and I am wanting to work on some other projects. Do you think it's alright to stop in the middle of a script and start another project, in hopes of coming back to it down the road? I started this script well over a year ago and it has drastically changed since then so I guess I'm just sick of working on it. Don't get me wrong, I love the story and I truly want to finish it, but I'm just exhausted over it...

    My father, who is a successful business man, told me never juggle too many projects at once because or you will never be able to finish any of them. He was obviously saying don't juggle business adventures around, but since I suck at business, I used this as a model for writing, always trying to work on one project until I finish it.

    Do you think it's alright to juggle some projects around? I'm curious on your opinions.

  • #2
    Of course it's all right to move among a few projects, especially if you're stuck on one of them...unless, of course, you're being paid for your efforts, in which case you really ought to finish.

    Professional writers often double- or even triple-book (some probably quintuple-book, for all I know) and have to work on several projects at once in order to meet their deadlines. It's not a schedule I could maintain for very long, frankly, but the point is that there are no rules as far as what must happen or not happen in order for a writer's work to turn out well. If you need to step away from a script that just isn't happening right now, that's fine. It'll still be there in a week or six months or two years when you're ready for it, and if, in the interim, you finish something else, what's the harm?

    That said, if you do start to notice a pattern like the one your father suggests, namely that you get partly through a project, get disenchanted or stuck and then start something else...that you eventually abandon, unfinished, because you got disenchanted or stuck...then you might want to take a hard look at things. But until that happens, do what you gotta do to keep writing, period.


    • #3
      Take on as much work as you can handle without getting too stressed out or falling behind. Take breaks when you can.

      Enjoy your life. It'd suck if you turned writing into an actual job.


      • #4
        As many as he can *FINISH*

        Okay, you know you better than we do. Here's the big question - if you set this script aside to work on another, will you eventually come back to finish it?

        I know writers who have never finished a script - but they have a whole stack of half-finished scripts. You see, if a script is finished, it might suck. If it's unfinished, it might be brilliant... if it's ever finished.

        So you have to decide: are you avoiding finishing this script, or are you actually just setting it aside for a bit to work on something else (and really will come back and finish it).

        If you have never finished a script before, my advice is to plow through and finish this one. I've learned that I can always rewrite a finished script, but I can't always finish a script I set aside five years ago.

        - Bill


        • #5
          Just get it done and move on

          What about just finishing it, accepting that it won't be perfect, and then moving on? That way, you can say that you've finished it, and it will no longer nag at you. You won't feel that you've failed, as you have actually completed it. If the completed product isn't something you believe is good enough to market, that's an OK conclusion. It's common to write many screenplays that aren't marketable before you write one that is. Set a deadline, set a page limit and just get it done. Then you have the psychological and creative freedom to move on to other projects without being bound by guilt. Believe it or not, 100 pages is not that much. If you're halfway there, 50 pages is even less. And 50 really bad pages are considerably shorter.


          • #6
            Re: Just get it done and move on

            It's common to write many screenplays that aren't marketable before you write one that is.
            It's even more common to take a marketable premise and write it improperly by not fully understanding arc, characterization, story, format, turning points, subtext, etc.

            I find it funny how common it is for a new writer to butcher a great premise then throw the script away because they didn't think it was a "marketable" idea and blame the premise instead of the writing. Then they take the next "marketable" idea and do the same thing without learning anything.


            • #7
              Re: Just get it done and move on

              Very good point Revisionist.


              • #8
                Re: Just get it done and move on

                "Enjoy your life. It'd suck if you turned writing into an actual job." -APW

                Boy, is there truth in that statement.

                I have seen people, who previously enjoyed writing, make themselves sick inside by being forced to write for a steady (small) paycheck. Their work was never as good as when it was a labor of love.


                • #9

                  I recently completed a supernatural thriller. I originally came up with the storyline at least ten years ago and wrote out an outline for it. Life got in the way for quite a number of years, and when I started writing again, I wrote three other projects while the thriller sat on the shelf. Then about a year ago, I started working on the thriller. During the time I was getting back into the storyline...I made a major change in the location of where it takes place....(it was originally L.A. and I changed it to San Francisco)...all of a sudden I got ideas that I never had in the original was a good thing that I didn't write the original story, because what I came up with years later turned out to be so much better.

                  The storyline had much more depth than my original idea....I took it in a different direction that made it a supernatural thriller rather than the murder mystery that it would have been.

                  What I'm trying to say is...the concept I came up with for the storyline was not even in my consciences years ago. And my story was better for it. I became very passionate about it and was able to complete it. I am currently adapting the screenplay into a novel at the suggestion of a director that is currently reading the script.

                  Sometimes it is not worth forcing it...writing is passion and if you are not passionate about a project, don't do it! Let it simmer a while.



                  • #10
                    When I am in that position, I just finish it, even if the last pages are absolute crap. At least I can say I finished it. Then I put it away for a little while, start something new, and eventually go back to it. I find that the worse my pages are, the more motivated I am to rewrite. Or, get an interview with the person you want the script to get to and then take that inspiration and go with it .

                    I can juggle one script and calculus. Without calculus, I can juggle two. I try not to take it any further than that.


                    • #11
                      The Coen Bros said they got stuck while writing "Miller's Crossing", put it aside to write "Barton Fink", then came back reinvigorated to complete "M.C.". Both movies are among their finest.


                      • #12
                        I ususally juggle projects, however, I couldn't do that while I was writing this mystery novel. That was really hard, and I found I had to just focus on THIS draft, alone.

                        Now that the draft is done, and it is sitting in the drawer, I can go back to working on a couple other scripts and short stories.


                        • #13
                          I'm working on two screenplays with my writing partner and polishing up one of my own. No problema.

                          And, my partner and I often get bursts of inspiration for the script other than the one we are currently on and sometimes we get great ideas for new screenplays and we might keep the ideas as just ideas or we may outline them and flesh them out a bit before putting them aside to go back to what we were working on.


                          • #14
                            I don't know about other people, but I have to be in the mood to write a particular genre. I have been working on a horror script for a while and at the moment, I am more into action movies and am thinking of starting the action script idea that I have been pondering over. But I also have an unfinished psychological thriller script that I am kinda into at the moment.

                            I think it's better to finish what you're working on and then move on, because you can always go back and change your finished script. And most people would rather edit a finished script than finish an unfinished one. At least I would.


                            • #15
                              I find it funny how common it is for a new writer to butcher a great premise then throw the script away because they didn't think it was a "marketable" idea and blame the premise instead of the writing.
                              By marketable, I meant execution, not premise. If you know that your writing is fast and loose by design, with the goal simply of finishing, then you aren't throwing the idea away.

                              I know writers who spend years agonizing over the same story or making false start after false start but never finishing. I think there is definite value in completion of a project, even if it isn't perfect. The sense of accomplishment can carry a writer forward through the tough times. "I finished that one screenplay, so I know I can finish this one. That one wasn't so good, but I know what I did wrong and can fix it in this one." A completed draft can be rewritten, but it's still a completed first draft. Getting so bogged down by technique that it freezes your creativity benefits no one. There's a big difference psychologically between saying that you've completed a screenplay but decided that it isn't to the point where you'd like to try to sell it and saying that you've set it aside and plan to someday maybe go back and finish it but having that someday always hanging over your head.

                              My answer would have been different if it was a case of a writer who had completed five screenplays and was stuck on one, but that doesn't seem to be the case. (Excuse me if I assumed wrong.) If you know from experience that you will eventually come back to the idea, then I can imagine it not inspiring guilt. But, in this case, it seems like it might.

                              Also, if it was a matter of working for a couple of weeks on an idea and deciding to set it aside for other projects, I could understand. However, spending a year working on something and hesitating to complete it sounds more like first script insecurity to me. Or early script insecurity. I believe that, until you know you can do it, the fear that maybe you won't be able to can keep you from completing something that may actually be a good story. And that fear can pop up again halfway through the second script and the third script and the fourth script.

                              Personally, I juggle several projects at once, but I'm used to it and am able to set aside thoughts about everything but the one I'm working on at the moment. I have a good sense of how much I can give to each project, but it's something I've developed over years of nonfiction writing, out of necessity. Focusing on one story at a time can be very nice.