Confessions of a "Sometimes" Procrastinating Screenwriter
November 20th, 2014
First let me stop writing the script I am currently working on so I can pound out this short editorial. Though I should say allow me to stop bleeding at the keyboard as I struggle with the current scene I am writing.
I have to admit that I am my own worst enemy as a writer. I procrastinate, often, and it can sometimes be so debilitating that I never finish some screenplays. Why?
I realized years ago that it's not just with my writing that I slid into the procrastination thing. It happened to me all the time. Whether its winterizing the home, getting the oil changed in the Lexus, whatever it was, I often found myself distracted by something (or someone) else. For things like house chores and the car I knew the answer, I hated the hell out of doing them. For writing, though, I was stumped as it was something I loved to do.
So I had to come up with some kind of strategy.
What follows are a few important tips that have helped me and might help you avoid this writing pitfall. (Note: I do not proclaim that these are ground breaking tips in any way, shape, or form... they just work for me!)
First, I have to confess I love to start a story. I am excited to FADE IN and come up with an exciting or provocative first ten pages. I absolutely love to start a story. But that is part of the problem for some of us procrastinators, we're great at ideas and even starting a script, because that is fun, but that's about it. I found that I used to jump in too soon, before I was ready. I literally drowned within the narrative hole I had created. I then started to procrastinate as I had no clue what to do with my story at that point.
I know it's different for everybody, but for me I have found that when I resist this urge to "jump in" right away I do far better later on.
Take time to write down ideas after you have this urge to write. Often the urge comes after I see how to start a story or come up with a cool idea. But realize that a cool idea does not a story make. So keep a journal or a log of some sort, get note cards, anything you can to keep you from sitting down and starting that script. Allow the idea to fester. Germinate. Grow.
Second, I have to know my ending in order to successfully get there. If I start a script without knowing my ending, I don't get there (a second act never materializes let alone a third) and I end up stopping at some point before the second act. Now this doesn't mean that I can't be flexible with my story and allow my characters to take the narrative in new directions as I am writing. It just means that no matter what road(s) the story goes down, I know where the light at the end of the tunnel is. I know how the story ends, but most importantly I know why it ends the way it does.
Thirdly, when I plow forward and do not go back and edit much I find that I do not get hung up on minor details. Even if there is something behind me narratively that I know is an issue, I still press forward and get the thing written. I can then go back during the editing phase and fix things.
Also, I find that I come up with solutions further down the road in my story for most problems I encounter early on. Often, your first acts are buried in your third and only then are those details revealed to you innately.
Well from one procrastinating writer to another, I hope this has helped!
About the Author
(Follow on Twitter) Christopher Wehner is an author and screenwriter. Currently his screenplay, EL CAMINO (Co-written with Ted Melfi) is in pre-preproduction with Goldenlight Films which recently produced ST. VINCENT . His IMDB page. He is also an accomplished Civil War historian with two published books and numerous articles. For more on his expertise as a historian click here. In 2001 he published the groundbreaking book Screenwriting on the Internet: Researching, Writing and Selling Your Script on the Web, and has been a leader in Internet marketing and promotion.
To contact Chris: chris -at- screenwritersutopia.com