When it comes to screenwriting, writers can face a few challenges, writer's block being the most common one. Everyone, even the industry professionals, has encountered writer's block, and that’s okay! Whenever you find yourself stuck, there are a lot of methods you can use to overcome this obstacle.
You first want to go back through your outline or beat sheet, assuming you have one, and double-check which beats you have completed and what the next major beat is. If you haven’t outlined your script, it might be best to go back and make an outline before you can continue writing.
If you’re finding yourself unsure how to write a scene or what needs to happen, put yourself in the character’s position for a moment and ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” and write from there.
Let’s pretend, for example, you have a scene where a character wants to sabotage a wedding. Take out a piece of paper and brainstorm a few different ways someone would go about doing it. Once you have a few ideas written out, pick the one that speaks to you and write from there. Remember, when you’re writing the scene, don’t worry about making it perfect the first time because, after all, this is your first draft.
Another method to overcome writer's block is to set a time that works best for your creative writing process and make it a habit. Do you focus better during the early morning, when it’s quiet, or do you prefer writing in the afternoon?
The best thing you want to do is find yourself a time where there’s not going to be any distractions and set a timer for about an hour or so. Once you start writing, don’t stop and overthink.
Word vomit onto the page and keep writing, no matter what. If you need to play music to focus, put on some relaxing music, preferably something without lyrics. Once the writing hour is up, you can decide if you want to continue writing.
Depending on where you’re feeling stuck, it never hurts to watch some films that are similar to your project. For example, if you’re working on a script that mainly takes place on a deserted island and you’re unsure how you’d write those scenes, the best thing you can do is watch a film or two that takes place on a deserted island, such as “Cast Away”, and see the conflicts the protagonist goes through. Keep in mind, even if you’re watching a movie, make sure you’re putting your unique twist on it, and making the story your own.
If you haven’t already written your logline, go back and make one. For those unfamiliar with loglines, a logline is a brief summary of what your film is about in 35 words or less [Check out this article for writing compelling loglines and query letters: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/post/weak-query-letters-make-for-weak-scripts
When you’re working on the logline, make sure you have the following: a specific protagonist, their goal, what prevents them from reaching their goal, and what’s at risk if they fail.
To gain your creative boost, look at some loglines on IMDB. Once you have a few loglines written, find the one you like the most, and then continue working on your script. Don't forget, you can post your logline on SS's Logline Rating Board.
When you’re working on a script, you want to keep an eye out for plot holes. Do another readthrough of what you’ve written so far and pretend you’re in the audience watching the film on screen. If you find yourself asking questions about a specific scene or confused about a character’s actions, you can expand your script by answering any questions the audience might have, but please keep in mind that you’re showing and not telling in your script. If an audience member questions a character’s motive, don’t have the character express their motives out loud, but instead provide some subtext. It might be challenging to put yourself in the audience at first, but if you’re still struggling with this, it never hurts to ask a friend or family member for feedback on what you’ve written so far and use their notes when you’re continuing to write.
And finally, give yourself a break. Put the script to the side for a few hours, stand up and stretch your legs. Sometimes the best creative ideas come during a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. When you’re walking in the fresh outdoors, your mind will easily clear, and once it’s time to work, you’ll feel refreshed, and you’ll be able to keep writing. You never know what will inspire you to overcome this challenge. If you return to your script and still feel stuck, it never hurts to take a few days off writing, let your mind rest, and then return to the script and re-read what you’ve written so far. Ask yourself if there’s enough conflict in your script; if not, add some to your previous scenes before continuing. [Need Coverage on your script? SS can help!]
Overall, the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself during this process. Writing takes time and shouldn’t be rushed.
As a writer myself, I’ve had to overcome writer's block many times, and sometimes when you’re rushing to get something done, it will not look good on paper. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert in screenwriting, take your time with your project, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you still feel stuck or challenged. Just remember to keep believing in yourself and don't give up! You’ve got this! Sign up to read more screenwriting blogs like this: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/sign-up-free-membership
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David Schwartz is a freelance script consultant and screenwriter. As a script consultant, he has provided coverage to screenwriters who wanted additional feedback to their script. His goal is to help writers improve their script before they send their scripts off to the industry. If you are a writer and are interested in having feedback on your script, please visit his website: www.davidschwartzconsulting.com. When he's not providing feedback, he's working on his scripts and getting himself out into the industry. David has an A.A in TV/Film production, and has been a quarterfinalist in the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition in 2020 and 2022!
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