And then…

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Stripes” (one of my all-time favorites), you’ll remember this scene when Bill Murray has reached rock bottom:

bill murray

Stripes – And then depression set in

Anyone worth their salt as a writer has had those moments when nothing seemed to work and they’re ready to ditch it all.  You wonder if you’re good enough, whether it’s worth all the time and energy you’re putting into it, will anything ever become of what you’re putting on the page.  The statistics are certainly not in your favor.  Fewer than 1% of all feature spec scripts out there ever get made.

And I fell into that mindset recently.  Even though I’ve had a script produced, even though we had other scripts optioned, I still found myself at that crossroads where self-doubt and self-motivation meet.  The thing about reaching bottom, though, is that I’ve found there’s nowhere to go but up from that point (unless you decide to keep digging in that hole of self-despair).

So, what to do?  Rick and I have a lot of projects going on, and so rather than try to torture you through how we find our way out of the current situation, we decided that it would be just as instructive for you new writers out there (or experienced writers who still are looking to break through), to take one of our projects that we wrote together, and how we took it from conception to completion and what happened after we optioned it.  So beginning with our next post, we start looking at “According to Plan” and how we made it happen.

Enter the Simply Scripts One Week Challenge!


Hey fellow writers!  If you enjoy writing shorts, and you like to be challenged, then you need to check this FREE contest out from Simply Scripts:


Write a 4 to 7 page (not including the title page) properly formatted short script.

Theme: “Creature Feature”
Genre: horror, thriller, suspense, noir, or keeping with the season
Rating: PG (no cursing or excessive violence)
Challenge: Create a three page comic.  Each scene would be one panel of a comic. And there could be one to 7 panels per page.  Visit to help you visualize your action slugs.

Submit your script anonymously to

Notes to the writer:  Be descriptive with the visual cues, but leave the artist some room for creative interpretation.  Also, be mindful of space constraints.  Avoid extended sequence of dialogue/narration so that you don’t overwhelm the images.  You only have three pages at your disposal in the comic, so use page one as establishing the story, page two is where the action takes place, and the third page offers the conclusion.  Surprise or twist endings will work well in this format.

Lastly – be bold.  Don’t be constrained by budget as anything you imagine can be drawn into a comic format!

One script will be selected by from the pool of top Writer’s Choices to be translated into a comic.

Note: If your script is selected to be translated into a comic you agree to allow Hyper Epic and SimplyScripts to publish the visual representation of your script to their respective sites. The writer will still retain all rights to the submitted screenplay. Writer will be credited with “Story by”.

There will be a review page emailed to you for you to score the scripts you read.  Please only give scores to scripts that you have read. Please do not rate scripts in your review.

Friday 10/12 – Theme and Genre release
Friday 10/19 – Scripts due 11:59 pm edt
Wednesday 10/24 – Writers Choice votes due
November 10 – Writers Choice and Hyper Epic’s choice revealed (

This isn’t a contest – it’s a challenge.  There are no official prizes…

You may submit more than one script but it’s better to write one GREAT script than two or three mediocre ones. You may also have a writing partner.

You can revise your script as many times as you wish up until the deadline. Do not put your real name on your script – this is an anonymous challenge.  However, please use your real name when submitting your script.  After the challenge closes you can either have your script removed or resubmit your script with your name on it.

Participants are strongly encouraged to read and comment/review the other scripts submitted.

You can go to the board at Simply Scripts to read comments, questions, etc., and see what other writers are doing.  This is a great opportunity to hone your skills as a writer.  You’ll get a lot of FREE feedback from other writers and get others to know who you are as a writer.  Did I also mention that it’s FREE?

Simply Scripts is simply the best place to find thousands of scripts written by other writers, and critiques of those scripts.  A lot of producers are looking through these scripts as well for opportunities to film a script, usually inexpensively as a way to get experience and noticed.  It’s also a way to meet other writers, network, learn about formatting, technique, and other matters relating to filmmaking.  I found it to be the most useful site for my personal development.

Give it a shot!!  And if you’re reading this after the deadline, still give Simply Scripts a look, sign up as a member (remember, it’s FREE!), and make yourself a better writer!

And It’s Back to the Drawing Board

Well, after some time off, Rick and I took a really critical look at the outline, and we realized something.  Something big.  Like, it’s not anything what we really imagined it might be when we first started out.

We envisioned a dramedy in the veins of “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine,” and it turned into this sort of dark drama that was 180 degrees from the original mission.  The protagonist lacked a character arc and the plotline was sort of flat.  I was of the mind to just trash the whole thing and start on an entirely new project.

I’m sure most of you who have written features have found yourselves in this exact same spot.  You thought you had a great idea or concept, but you found out that you couldn’t really build a story around it.  So you have to make a gutsy call:  Do you drop the project entirely and start on a new idea that has more legs, or do you try to perform emergency triage on the existing project and bring it back to life (realizing that you might be halfway through the triage and still need to declare the patient dead).

I was in the camp of throwing a grenade into the script and just putting it out of its misery.  Rick, to his credit, tried to disarm me and help me see my way back from the abyss.  We decided we would take the weekend to see where our thoughts might lead us.

Here was where I landed:  The original idea was to have a script set essentially in one location, first, for budgeting reasons, and two, to allow the film to be shot quickly (also factoring in to budgeting).  I wanted to go Richard Linklater “Slacker” and just get a minimalist movie made.

Why would we want to do that?  Well, unless you’re a big-time scriptwriter, you’re not going to get a big budget film made.  Your script’s not even going to be looked at by a production company.  Even small to mid-level budget films are getting harder to make unless you already have a foot in the door.  Indie films are typically the best option for an up and coming writer, but you have to be realistic in your expectations.  It has to have a compelling story (to attract talent and financing), it has to be easy to make, and it needs to be right financially.

So, that’s a long way of saying, we have to go back to the drawing board on the outline.  I think the original idea and setting was a good one, but we need to find the heart and humor in this storyline.  Tomorrow, we’ll bring in the demolition experts in to blow everything up and start again.

Hang in there with us!

We’ve Finished the Outline!

Thank God! We finally got around the cranking out the last few beats of the outline.  It’s changed a half-dozen times since we last reported on it and it runs on for a bit. It’s still not as long as some outlines are, as we don’t beat out every single scene of the script.  We figure we can fill in the gaps as needed as we write around the highlights of what is in the outline.  And as I’ve mentioned, Rick and I are never bound to the outline we start with.  One thing we don’t want to do is write ourselves into a corner.  Flexibility is key when it comes to writing that first draft of your script (and second and third drafts as well).

So what’s next?  Well, first of all, a couple of days off!  No thinking about writing for a day.  Just enjoy some time catching up on binge-worthy TV shows, spending time with family, or whatever else might arise.

Then we begin the process of writing.  As we write, we’re going to post the script, as rough as it might be, here.  We’ll post the differing versions on a regular basis (so you might see version 1.1, 1.2, etc.) so you can see where changes might have been made as we go back and edit the script.  It’ll give you a good idea of what our writing process is, and how we go back and edit as we write.

Some writers like to do a “garbage draft”, where they just write without really thinking about what’s on the page. The idea is just to get through the entire draft, and then come back later and clean it all up, make corrections, and so on.  Rick and I operate a little differently.  What typically happens is that I might write a page or two, then I’ll send it to Rick, and he’ll review it, edit it with his changes, and then he’ll write another couple of pages, and send it back to me.  I’ll do the same to his portion, edit, then write some more. Wash, rinse, repeat.  We’ll keep up that process, and usually, if we stay on that pattern, we’ll have the finished script done sometime between 45 to 60 days, sometimes longer if we run into situations where we have to take some time off.  For example, we’re starting this script just as end of the year holidays are approaching, so we might take a whole week off from working on the script to enjoy Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I think our goal is to finish by the end of the year, but if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world.

I’ll try to update the outline on this site, but I’ll need to break it down into two or three posts because of the length.  Anyway, time to celebrate!

Part Two – The Unending Question: Which Screenwriting Software to Use?

In an earlier post, we talked about outlining software you can (or not) use. As I mentioned, I stick with the old tried and true method of Microsoft Word, mainly because it’s easy to use, easy to edit, and no one is going to see it really except for you.

When it comes to writing your actual script, however, that’s a much different story. There’s a lot of alternatives out there, some free, some fairly pricey. And the software you use may or may not leave a lasting impression on a potential producer or reader of your script.

First of all, let’s start with what you should not use, and that’s Microsoft Word.  While it’s fine for outlining, you should not use it for writing your script.  Why?  Because if you somehow got someone to read it, you’ll never get a producer to utilize a Word version for a feature (you might get lucky on a short).  Producers, directors are going to want to work with the writer on the script, adding in their own notes, action lines, and dialogue, and they won’t be able to do it if you’re working strictly out of Word.  And the one thing you don’t want to do as a writer is to make the job more difficult for the producer and director.  If the paginations and the margins aren’t standard, it doesn’t put you in a good light.

Using a software program designed specifically for screenwriting is obviously your best option, both stylistically and professionally.  I have used Final Draft (I’m now at Version 10) for about seven years, and before that, Movie Magic Screenwriter (currently version 6).  I have still have both programs, but tend to write strictly in Final Draft (as does my writing partner Rick).

Final Draft is the gold standard for film producers and directors. It’s used by a great majority of the top screenwriters in Hollywood (and the rest of the US, for that matter).Final Draft image Overseas, the standards tend to more varied as to the acceptance of screenplays, so it’s market share is much less in the European market, for example, and so you see differing options (some of them free), like Celtx being used.

For some screenwriters, the cost is a non-starter.  For example, at The Writer’s Store,  Final Draft 11 (the most current version) is $169.99, OR, if you’re still a student, you can get it for $99.99.  My opinion is that you’re making an investment in your career is this is something you really want to do, and do it well.  On the other hand, if you’re without a job, or you’re making minimum wage, this is a significant amount of money to be putting up for something you may never make a dime off of.  You’ll need to weigh your choices and determine whether this works for your budget, and in another post we’ll look at free software you can use as well.

Final Draft is available on both the Mac and Windows platform, and if you’re like me, who has both a Windows desktop and a Mac laptop, the good news is that you can download the program on both with the purchase of just one license.  Final Draft 10 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.9 or later and Windows 7 or later.

What I like most about Final Draft is that I really don’t have to think much about the process.  Everything is pre-formatted to industry standards, and you’re given various templates to work off of (screenplay, TV three-camera comedy, TV drama, etc.).  You also have a beat board for knocking out your story and a timeline for how your beats are working in terms of minutes consumed.  If you work closely with another writer, you can actually work (in Final Draft 10 or 11) in the script at the same time with the other writer in Collaboration mode.  You might find that there’s a little bit of lag time depending on your network speed, which can be a little frustrating at times.

You also have a great Title Sheet page to create title pages, and it converts your script easily into PDF or, if you want to convert to another program like Movie Magic Screenwriter, you can export to an RTF file and then import in to the new program (not a perfect option, and you’ll have to do some cleanup, but it’s better than most alternatives).

If you want to get more information on all the features of Final Draft, you can go to this review to get a more in-depth look at what you can (and can’t) do with Final Draft.  The bottom line for me is that I feel like if I’m going to make it as a professional screenwriter, then I need to have a professional screenwriting program to assist me in that endeavor, and for me, Final Draft checks all the boxes.

We’ll look at other screenwriting programs in a later post, and coming soon, we should have our outline completed (finally!) and we’ll be ready to move into the writing stage.