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Writer’s Block Part 1 – Symptoms and Causes of Creative Restriction

After speaking on the importance of scenes and actions in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on a writer’s worst enemy – the dreaded writer’s block. Today’s blog will focus on the symptoms and causes of this creative plague. Writer’s block can lead to a depressive state in your writing process.

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According to the website Mental Health Daily,

The phenomenon was first documented in 1947 by Edmund Bergler, a psychoanalyst… Anyone can end up with writer’s block, even talented writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald have been noted to struggle with this condition. The condition was researched throughout the 1970s and 1980s and specifically focused on the process and post-process theories of composition.

Like any form of writing, screenwriting is no exception as mental blocks can come at the most inopportune moments. When I originally wrote my pilot, I was writing the last two acts for my screenwriting class when I decided to push myself due to outside obligations. I couldn’t concentrate as my mind raced at top speed.  In short, I ended writing those acts at 2 AM after a crazy concert. My creative juices were flowing, and I had to capture them before sleep and fatigue settled in.

In that spirit, I’ll break down some of the warning signs and causes of writer’s block.

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Symptoms

Brain fog – This dreaded cohort of writer’s block always appears when you in the midst of creating your latest masterpiece. You feel like your brain is working against you as your concentration and productivity slow down to a screeching halt amongst a cloudy atmosphere. It can lead to a major delay in your writing process.

Lack of focus – As either an offset of brain fog or a casualty of distraction, focusing on a story can be a daunting task as outside forces seem to constantly vie for your attention. A wandering mind can take your attention away from your passion for writing.

Lack of inspiration – Have you ever been in the midst of or starting to writing your screenplay, and found yourself not feeling or lacking direction in your work? Of course, we all have. Sometimes, you find yourself writing something that just doesn’t speak to your soul and heart. That can be a major dilemma, especially when dealing with a tight deadline.

Frustration – Another writer’s block cohort popping up when writing shouldn’t a stress but a labor of love. Often times this comes up when you need to write but can’t put words to pen or computer screen. You end up in this negative cycle of doubt and creative restriction.

Causes

Over analyzing and over thinking – As a creative, your work becomes a child of your writing process, but sometimes, a writer’s worst enemies – self-doubt and fear – can creep up and cause you to rethink everything you’ve written. You begin comparing your screenplay to that of your peers or industry veterans and scrutinizing every single word you have on the page or screen.

Anxiety – Again, a writer’s worst enemies – self-doubt and fear – can lead to some very intense moments as you begin looking over your work. Breathing gets shallow, mind races and heart palpitations set in as this silent foe begins overwhelming all your senses and body. You feel completely out-of-control and unable to write.

Emotional fatigue – Life outside of writing can be draining – physically, mentally and emotionally – leading to a lack of creativity and mental blocks. The latter comes when your words lack the emotional fortitude your character needs. The lack of connection and a slow mental process can leave you filling unfulfilled and unmotivated.

Lack of motivation – Once in the thick of emotional fatigue, your determination and ambition seem to drift to the wayside as lethargy and low mental fortitude set in. Being unmotivated can the biggest mountain to climb as when it comes to writing a screenplay. An already daunting task can become almost impossible.

Stress – This negative force can be a major hindrance in the writing process. Sometimes, stress can go beyond the thinking process and impede on complex cognitive functions like writing a screenplay. Outside forces like daily life, family problems or relationships can render the idea of screenwriting as more of an overwhelming task than a creative outlet.

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Even though the condition has been studied, it has become a controversial subject as many individuals, including writers, have begun to question the validity of writer’s block in recent years. I’ll just say that writing no matter the medium can be a huge undertaking especially in a short amount of time, but I’ll leave that debate up to you – the audience.

In reading this post, I hope you won’t feel alone in the battle against writer’s block. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week to read about some cures for writer’s block.

 

Feedback Part 2 – Peer and Professional Critiques

After speaking on the benefits of table reads earlier this week, this blog will focus on peer and professional feedback when it comes to your screenplay.

Having family and friends read your work is one thing, but letting your writing peers and screenwriting professionals comb through your words is a different level of anxiety. But you shouldn’t be nervous as getting feedback from other writers can be very rewarding when it comes to tweaking your screenplay.

Writers reading other writers’ work is like iron sharpening iron as they give you a keen insight make your script better. They can tell you what works, what needs work or what doesn’t work at all. It is very helpful in terms of hearing what your words may or may not be implying from another writer’s perspective. This only leads to more fine-tuning of the best characters or scenes and trimming the word fat for a better, more polished screenplay.

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As you think about pursuing peer and professional feedback, I’ll give you some places that have helped me on my screenwriting journey. Here are a few Facebook and LinkedIn pages:

Screenwriting Magazine

Organization of Black Screenwriters

Screenwriting Blogs, Interviews, and Advice

SCREENWRITER NETWORKING

Secrets of Screenwriting Group

Screenwriting

Writers’ Guild of America Discussion Group

Along with group pages, there are quite a few websites that can aid you in perfecting your screenplay. Here are a few:

The Black List

LA Screenwriter

Reddit Screenwriting

Screencraft

Screenwriter 911

Writer So Fluid

These are just a few of the resources you can use on your screenwriting journey.

 

By reading this post, I hope you feel a little bit better about your peers and industry professionals looking over your work. Now, you just need to find a safe place to let your words be free. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I talk about character development in a screenplay.

Feedback Part 1 – Table Reads

For any screenwriter, getting feedback on your screenplay is pivotal to creating your best work. There are many sources of feedback for screenwriters. With this post, I’ll be focusing on table reads, or read-throughs, and their importance to the editing and revising process.

After completing your first screenplay and sitting with it for a minute or two, you’ll want to get instant feedback. This is where traditional read-throughs come into play. Read-throughs are an excellent source of feedback when it comes to fine-tuning any aspect of your script. Seeing and typing words on the screen is very different from hearing your words read aloud.

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The vibe of a read-through is best summed up in its definition:

an initial rehearsal of a play at which actors read their parts from scripts.

You don’t necessarily need professional actors to make your words come to life. But you will need willing participants to read your script. Family members. Friends. Classmates. Co-workers. Anybody will do when it comes to bringing your dialogue to life. You might want to let your readers look over the script to give them a chance to pick which characters they want to voice. Outside of the speaking parts, there is the issue of narration. You need someone to give your characters’ actions pizzazz as the screenplay takes shape.

With characters and narration set, there is the issue of the venue. Big or small. Well-lit or dim. Living room, kitchen table or bedroom. The place for the script reading doesn’t matter as long as everyone is comfortable and understand what the goal of the read-through is. All you really need is the right creative atmosphere to produce a fruitful reading.

Once everything is set, the hard part begins – hearing your words read aloud for others to hear. It can be scary but don’t worry because it’s all a part of the process. Having others read your words allows you to hear what dialogue doesn’t sound correct or feels off for a certain character. What directions or actions are more tell than show in the script? Is too much dialogue and not enough action, or vice versa? Is the plot moving forward or stagnant? Is the climax strong enough? These are some of the questions that might arise as you hear your words outside your mind and computer screen. That’s okay because this is another step in perfecting your screenplay. You might be in your feelings as you hear feedback from others. That just means you have a real passion for what you’re writing, but don’t let keep you from hearing good constructive criticism.

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Hopefully, this post has introduced you to your new best friend – the table read. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak on another source of feedback – critiques.

 

Editing and Revising Part 3 – Creating a Clean Copy

While this week’s first entry focused on proofreading, this second part will look at getting a clean copy when editing and revising. Make sure to have your computer screen up and a red marker ready for an exciting ride.

With proofreading out of the way, let’s get to business shall we – actually reading through your script. For any writer, proofreading is a tedious process as you scan over every phrase and word in your writing. Screenwriting can be even more intense as one word or phrase correction can change the direction of a scene or act. Proofreading a screenplay usually goes through three phases to create a decent clean copy.

Phase 1 – the computer screen

All you have to do scroll through the pages at a snail’s pace to spot what misspellings and homophones you might catch. You can agree with your spellchecker or overrule it like a dictator. The choice is yours.

Phase 2 – the printout

Reading a hard copy of my script can an eye-opening moment as you comb through every character. Action. Word. Punctation. You’ll need a red pen and time as you can every page for a minute or two so no mistake is left behind. Make sure to keep tabs on your corrections by leaving a checkmark or X on each page.

Phase 3 – from the hard copy to the screen

At this point, you’ll be looking over the script page by page as you make corrections to your file. Just remember to look over the pages carefully so not to create more errors.

Bonus Phase – streamlining

As a writer, cutting away the excess can be very helpful in fine-tuning your screenplay. Eliminating unnecessary words and phrases can create a balance between dialogue and action and reduce repetition.

 

NoMistakes

By reading this post, you’ll be able to work out the bugs out and fine-tune your script just in case your big moment arrives. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for more insight from The Screenwriting Forum.

Editing and Revising Part 2 – Proofreading

Last week, the focus was on preparing for the daunting yet rewarding task of editing and revising. Getting into this somewhat scary process by proofreading is this week’s focus. So get your cursor or pens ready to begin!

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Proofreading is a writer’s best weapon when it comes to creating a nice clean copy for potential prospects or running into your favorite producer or filmmaker (just kidding about that part – remember to go through the proper channels).

What pesky obstacles or offenders are you trying to spot when proofreading. Here are some common ones:

  • Misspelling – these common mistakes will scream at you from the screen with their antagonizing red lines. Here’s where you search and correct them.
  • Homophones – these pesky annoyances will hide amongst a descriptive action or well-written dialogue until you read through the script. They sound right but look awkward.
  • Punctuations – Sometimes being in the mood as a screenwriter can lead to a question mark being placed where a period is needed. This is an easy fix with a good read through.
  • Capitalization – As you write and format your screenplay, it can tricky trying to keep up with all the proper names. sounds, and directions that need proper capitalization.

Besides the typical mistakes, two majors that can cause any screenwriter to almost have a mental breakdown: omissions and improper formatting.

Omissions are any writer’s worst nightmare (especially for a screenwriter). Missing dialogue. A vanished monologue. A pivotal scene going missing. Snafus like these can be a setback, but with some patience and proper planning, you’ll be able to find your way out of this mind-numbing episode.

Formatting can be another nightmare as scene directions turn into a piece of dialogue or vice versa. Scene headings becoming transitions. Floating dialogue without its proper character to say it. All you have to do is look through, see what needs some attention and correct it in the screenwriting software of your choice.

Before we move on, here are some common homophones you may run across:

  • its vs. it’s
  • they’re vs. there vs. their
  • to vs. too vs. two
  • you’re vs. your
  • affect vs. effect
  • then vs. than
  • led vs. lead

Hopefully, Reading this post has helped you on your journey to working the bugs out in your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Look out for part 3 of Editing and Revising later on today.

 

Editing and Revising Part 1 – The Preparation

So you finished your first screenplay, now what do you do? It’s time to start revising and editing your work. While this might seem like an overwhelming task, there’s no need to worry because The Screenwriting Forum is here to help.

With any piece of writing, a writer needs to prep for the process as it can be long depending on the length of the script.  Here are a few suggestions for the road to revising:

A computer and printer: These two essentials are necessary for your revising journey as they allow you to edit and revise your screenplay through a computer screen and a nice print-out.

Image result for pen and pencils

Writing tools: Pens. Pencils. Markers. Highlighters. Whatever you need to strikethrough, write notes, add in or correct while reading your screenplay.

Writing mood setters: Your favorite pen. A personal trinket. Your favorite snack. Everyone has something that aides them in the writing process.

places

Find a comfortable spot: This all depends on what you need as a writer to concentrate – some need a quiet tucked-away spot while others enjoy the ambiance of a coffee shop. Just find what works for you.

Along with these suggestions, here is a book to reference during the process:
Image result for the hollywood standard

The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style (2nd Edition) by Christopher Riley

Hopefully, now that the preparation is out of the way,  you are now ready to start revising and editing your screenplay. Get ready for a mix of hard work and fun as you take this journey with The Screenwriting Forum.

Come back next week for Part 2 of Editing and Revising. See you then.

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