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  • Done!

    When do you feel like you're done with the project you're working on?

    I ask cause I've been working two years on a screenplay. I even tried to put it away earlier but dug heavily back into it this year and improved it a lot.

    I intended Nicholl to be my final goal with it. But ran out of time for perfecting my final act. I think acts 1 and 2 sing beautifully, and act 3 has a lot of terrific stuff and a great finale.

    But act 3 is not as polished overall as the rest, and I'm having a hard time coping with having to turn it in like that. And that I still have work ahead.

    Since a screenplay is generally unfinished until it's produced, when do you consider your work done? How many drafts? What kinda deadlines? Etc.

    I would really like to feel confident in it being finished, shop it around, give myself a little breather, and then start on the next script.

  • #2
    Re: Done!

    Originally posted by Merrick View Post
    When do you feel like you're done with the project you're working on?

    I ask cause I've been working two years on a screenplay. I even tried to put it away earlier but dug heavily back into it this year and improved it a lot.

    I intended Nicholl to be my final goal with it. But ran out of time for perfecting my final act. I think acts 1 and 2 sing beautifully, and act 3 has a lot of terrific stuff and a great finale.

    But act 3 is not as polished overall as the rest, and I'm having a hard time coping with having to turn it in like that. And that I still have work ahead.

    Since a screenplay is generally unfinished until it's produced, when do you consider your work done? How many drafts? What kinda deadlines? Etc.

    I would really like to feel confident in it being finished, shop it around, give myself a little breather, and then start on the next script.
    There's no magic number of drafts to feel 'finished.' You're constantly tweaking, even when you get it sold, producers will want their stamp on the project and give you notes. If you don't have reps, give it to friends for their feedback. If there's a tiny faint voice in your head telling you something is not working, listen to that voice. IT IS NEVER WRONG.

    Seems to me like you don't feel satisfied with the third act, so if you give a friend to read tell them to really look at the third act for what bumps them. They might bring up something you weren't aware of and that might be the fix. Generally you get the point where you feel like you've done all you can for the moment, when you get to that point start sending it out.

    If a manager/agent read it and like it guess what, they'll also have notes which you'll address. If a producer likes it, they'll also give notes, same for studio, director etc. So don't burn all your time trying to get it perfect. Just get it to the point where you feel like this is the best representation of the story for the moment.

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    • #3
      Re: Done!

      Damn! I was genuinely curious where other writers also cap their works.

      About mine, I considered it finished last year, sent it around a bit, got some notes from people and in February decided to go in for a little tweaking. That turned into three months straight of hacking it up. When I sent the latest draft around to people, every single person said it was vastly improved, not to mention it hits all kind of industry standards in terms of page counts that it did not hit before.

      It also took me a long time to realize my earlier third act simply didn't work. It was based on a logical fallacy. So I only had 2-3 weeks to rewrite it in advance of Nicholl. Comparing that with 2 years on the rest of the material means I didn't have enough time to get it to the same level as the rest.

      I think I know which parts stick out to me, it's just a matter of digging into that never-ending well of wanting to finally put the "done" stamp on it and filing it away so I can put my head on something new.

      Part of me is hoping only I notice the shift in quality in the third act because as far as language, it's the same. And there's some good stuff in there, and the finale wraps up very well. But 3 major scenes in the finale have flaws I'm dissatisfied with and would take a bit of time to fix.

      Curious when that "I'm done" hits others.

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      • #4
        Re: Done!

        With screenplays, it seems, the work is never finished; I can agree with that sentiment. I agree with AGWriter, too-get it to its best for you and send it out. Fresh eyes will see the possibilities if there's a good hook on which to hang a story.

        Like you, one of my feature screenplays was headed for Nicholl this year until a TV pilot interrupted me. The TV pilot received all the attention, time, and resources and it's going out now. So, the Nicholl entry waits a year to mellow and receive more rewrites and polishes for next year.

        It won't hurt to park your Nicholl script in a drawer for six months while you write something else. When you come back to that script in the drawer, you'll see it with fresh eyes yourself. Whatever you've learned or picked up from reading and writing will be subconsciously and naturally applied to your next go of it.

        Glad you took the advice to pare down your page count!
        "If you're going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all." — Joseph Campbell

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        • #5
          Re: Done!

          Interesting and good advice from both. Too bad you didn't make it to Nicholl this year!

          Yep, it's a blistering 87 pages now (down from originally around 240 then 165 then 139, ha!).

          I sent it to five friends who had previously read it, and it was unanimous across the board it had gotten much better.

          Time + distance was invaluable.

          Perhaps it's worth putting it in a drawer for a while.

          Does nobody here declare a project done at some point before producing?

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          • #6
            Re: Done!

            I've gotten in the habit of knowing when it's close. I always send it out to other writers and a consultant. I have a couple of good writer friends who will read more than one draft and and big notes get less and less.

            Those second reads are invaluable. Sometimes that first and second draft change considerably.

            I'd say that mine are in pretty good shape after at least three drafts. That's when I put it up on TBL to get an evaluation. Typically, this goes well. Who knows now though.

            When I don't feel something is off and I don't feel like I need to make changes, I feel it's ready. You will always be rewriting. When you get a manager they will want you to rewrite it. When you get a producer they will want you to rewrite it, as will a studio and/or network.

            Do not submit it to anyone if you feel, even a little, that something isn't the best it can be.
            "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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            • #7
              Re: Done!

              3 drafts! Impressive. I think mine went through 8 so far.

              Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
              Do not submit it to anyone if you feel, even a little, that something isn't the best it can be.
              Thanks for this tip. I have it out now with two friends who read earlier drafts and either work or have worked in the industry. I pointed out my feeling that my 3rd act isn't up to the par of the rest, so I wanted to gauge their thoughts. I was considering going after PAGE and Austin and going to base it on how they react.

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              • #8
                Re: Done!

                Originally posted by Merrick View Post
                When do you feel like you're done with the project you're working on?
                Congrats on submitting your script to Nicholl, Merrick. You might be dissatisfied with parts of Act 3, but hopefully readers will fall in love with Acts 1 and 2 enough to overlook the parts you feel still need work! Cross fingers.

                Someone on another DDP thread wrote that a script isn't really finished until the movie is filmed or it's in the theaters.

                That seems about right given all the hands who touch the script on its journey to the big screen.

                Even after placing in contests, my scripts are still in a state of ever-improving rough-draftedness. I feel like there always are ways to make them better, whether because of a reader's feedback or because of some idea that materializes in the part of my brain that passively analyzes/criticizes my "finished" scripts.

                I feel like that noodling or tweaking is essential for an amateur like me because I'm not experienced enough to know when something is done for good. All I can say is that the newest versions of my scripts are in a constant state of getting better. And maybe, one day, "better" will mean "worthy of being sold/produced."
                Save the date: 2022, 2024, 2026, until the end of time.

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                • #9
                  Re: Done!

                  Thanks ZAZ! That's very helpful to hear you've placed in contests where you felt like you were still in a rough draft state.

                  Perhaps my perfectionism is getting in the way of reality. I don't expect to place in Nicholl, but it will be interesting to see the results anyway.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Done!

                    Originally posted by Merrick View Post
                    Thanks ZAZ! That's very helpful to hear you've placed in contests where you felt like you were still in a rough draft state.
                    Hi, Merrick.

                    And just to clarify, I don't mean to suggest that I just whip together my scripts and hope for the best. (Not that you mean that, either.) Like you, I try to get them to their best possible state at that point in time -- in terms of arcs, story flow, grammar, spelling, etc.

                    I figure by the time I feel ready to submit a script, it's been through double-digit numbers of drafts... with still many more to come in the year(s) following a particular competition.
                    Save the date: 2022, 2024, 2026, until the end of time.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Done!

                      Sure, understood, thanks for clarifying. Perhaps then in a similar state to the one I submitted.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Done!

                        Originally posted by Merrick View Post
                        Sure, understood, thanks for clarifying. Perhaps then in a similar state to the one I submitted.
                        Right. As excellent as you can make it given the approaching deadline.

                        And then hope for the best result(s) with the contest(s) while you're starting on the next script!
                        Last edited by ZAZluvr; 05-05-2020, 02:31 PM.
                        Save the date: 2022, 2024, 2026, until the end of time.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Done!

                          @Merrick - Haven't you heard this line?

                          Art is never finished, only abandoned

                          And, no one (and I seriously mean it!) can tell you whether you are done (or not). No one. Except you...

                          --fallen

                          P.S. It is not my intent to sound sarcastic...just a piece of advise someone gave me over 20 years ago.

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