Worse than fighting the blank page is facing one with the words, ‘Fade In’ — and that is despite the formatting capabilities of ubiquitous screenwriting software such as WriterDuet and others.
Those two words are a given, doing nothing to alleviate the pressures placed upon Hollywood and independent screenwriters alike. And when every scene heading is a proverbial ‘what if’ scenario, motivation and imagination are everything.
Here’s how to overcome the obstacles inhibiting your ability to start, push through and finish your first draft, in no particular order.
1. Freewrite the Dialogue
Assuming you have at least a cursory understanding of your characters and what motivates them, simply writing out their various conversations with each other as they relate to and inform the story can help move things along.
Doing so will aid you in writing a character driven script — as opposed to plot driven — and let you focus on what is happening without worrying about the finer details.
Once you’re done, you can then go back and fill in the gaps, performing some light editing where necessary. Pretty soon you should have the bulk of your screenplay knocked out.
2. Research Your Problem Areas
Most writer’s get stuck when they concern themselves with unfamiliar subject matters or genres, or when they seek to incorporate non-fictional elements for the purposes of worldbuilding and creating believability in the script.
Take the time to read widely and build your visual library to improve your odds of making more interesting and intricate connections.
Handle your research in isolation away from the script format; read articles, watch foreign cinema, sketch in a notebook, collect reference images and take inspiration from the world outside your preferred screenwriting program, etc.
Ultimately, this will be what makes your end product worth writing, reading and watching.
3. Stop Writing When the Well is Full
Another trick to maintaining a constant stream of creative output is to make sure you always return to the page with something to write about.
Do this by forcing yourself to stop when your imagination is still on a hot streak. Leave all the ideas for your next scene inside your head and sleep on it. Build this in to your routine and you should find that when it’s time to write, you’ll be able to.
4. Create Self-Imposed Deadlines
Procrastination is one of those ever-present dangers that plague all kinds of writers, especially those fortunate enough to be managing their own schedules. So it pays to be self-disciplined.
Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself — such as an hourly word count, a daily page count or just solving a troublesome plot point by the end of the week — and try your best to hit those targets.
It may even help you to think of meeting your commitments as a game.
5. Take a Break to Work Offline
Operating in an environment that is easily permeated by distractions is a recipe for failure. In fact, it takes an average of 23 minutes to return to a task after your concentration is interrupted — which is perhaps a good enough reason to refrain from multitasking.
The solution? Try going off the grid. Close any external programs, tabs and devices that vie for your attention or consider disabling the internet to avoid the temptation while you work.
Alternatively, writing things down manually, either in a notebook or on good old-fashioned index cards, can really improve your productivity and creativity.
6. Collaborate and Create Accountability
Writing in isolation is not easy. Having someone to bounce your ideas off can make the creative process flow much more readily and consistently.
Looks for writer’s groups, approach others working on other films for advice and feedback or bring on additional talent for those areas you feel like you’re struggling with.
The important thing to note about this list is that it’s not the be all and end all. Feel free to continue researching what else is out there and experiment with what works best for you.