Writing question: What is the most difficult part of drafting a script?

November 29th, 2012 by

A Tweet from @FilmChuck: “What would you say is the most difficult part of drafting a script?”

Figured that’s a question worth asking everyone, especially those participating in Go On Your Own Quest.

What say ye?

15 thoughts on “Writing question: What is the most difficult part of drafting a script?

  1. Bryan Colley says:

    The middle. All the books, teachers, lectures, etc. focus on the first act, or the first 10 pages, or the first 3 pages, or the first two words.

    I can write a great opening act, and I can conclude a story, but keeping that thing chugging for 50-60 pages through the middle is where most of my scripts get lost.

  2. ddmulholland says:

    The story and the characters.

    Once you have your story (aka structure) down and characters whose wants and needs drive that story, then the rest falls into place. (I wanted to say the rest is mechanics, but there’s much more art to it than that).

    The point is, figure out who your protagonist is, what s/he wants on page one, what she needs internally, and then what his/her goal is (aka your plot) and how to keep raising the stakes and twisting the story to play with the audience expectations, you are off to the races.

    Also, the not procrastinating part. Which I’m failing at right now…

  3. For me, the temptation to edit (over and over) what I’ve already written. Maybe Scott could post a youtube video of him shouting, “Just finish the damn script!”? 😉

    1. Shaula Evans says:

      Scott could probably make a fortune with a whole line of GITS swag that reads “just finish the damn script”: bumperstickers, T-shirts, mousepads, coffee mugs… the potential is endless.

      1. I saw a bumpersticker the other day: “How Do You Like My Screenplay? 1-800-EAT-SHIT.”

  4. Shaula Evans says:

    Translating from concept and image to language.

    I can see it in my head: the challenge lies in getting it onto the page where other people can see what I see. And it does feel like an exercise in translation.

  5. Nothing. Writing a script is easy as key lime pie.

    If you ask what the hardest part of writing a _good_ script is, though, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t done that yet.

  6. Jordan Paige says:

    I think it’s coming up with an idea that not only interests me and gets me passionate about writing but that others could connect with and be enteretained by as well.

  7. Such a booger to answer. I think the whole process is hard. I am tempted to answer with ‘getting started’. But that is because that is where I am struggling with a current work-for-hire project. I have the armature picked. I know how I want it to end. I know the universe in which it exists. But STARTING sucks. But, if tonight I was working on a different project, say one I am in the middle of a rewrite, I would respond, ‘the rewriting can be a bitch. It’s never good enough.’ I write musicals so I could respond, ‘Ugh. The music’ or ‘the lyrics’ if that is where I am in the process. Ultimately, it is all hard but all so freaking awesome. Booze helps.

    1. Shaula Evans says:

      Chance, I only learned recently that Aaron Sorkin studied musicals at university. Do you feel like your background with musicals gives you a different perspective on screenwriting when it comes to things like set pieces, dialogue, pacing, etc?

      And I think you’ve nailed it: the answer to the question for most of us is [whatever writing stage I’m at right now].

  8. Facebook.

    Wait, was the question?

    I was checking my Twitter feed.

  9. Debbie Moon says:

    All of it! For me, it varies from script to script. The end, if I haven’t done enough prep. The middle, if I don’t know my characters well enough…

  10. TheQuietAct says:

    Avoiding real life.
    That damn thing has the pesky habit of getting in the way. But that’s good too.
    It has pushed the GOYOQ aside more than I wanted over the past couple of weeks though, with the end result I’m on catch-up.
    Luckily deadlines and fellow Questers nudges seem to spur me on.

    Got stuck back into GOYOQ script this morning in my dressing gown.
    No plans to do anything else for hours. Got some work I’m happy with done.


    I’m really glad I did that prep and have my sticker wall to refer to.
    When life sidetracks me, the stepping stones are still in place to guide the story path.

    A good day writing.
    I gobble those days up.
    Chomp, chomp, chomp.

  11. KristyLowrey says:

    The vast wasteland that is the second act. It’s brutal.

  12. matthewlaunder says:

    To be perfectly honest, the hardest part is finding what you’re good at and exploiting it for the purposes of finishing 120 pages. What I mean by that is, we all have some sort of talent or combination of: dialogue, action, comedy, drama, character, etc.

    Sorkin isn’t known for writing big action movies; he’s gifted with smart, snappy dialogue, and he uses that tool [dialogue] to create his action, drama, comedy, and character in his scripts. So all of his projects (Newsroom, Social Network, Moneyball) have compelling story lines — and not because Mark Zuckerberg holds a gun to the Winklevoss twins in the boardroom…

    My talent is for opening stories. My first act is always the strongest part of my writing. I signed with my agent because of the first 15 pages of the first script I wrote. He said it had his heart racing; he felt both exhausted and relieved it was over; and it made him want more and more. It then occurred to me: I’m great at openings because it’s what I most like to write. So instead of writing one opening and then 105 subsequent pages, which probably won’t be written with as much fervor and gusto, I write a 15 page opening, stop, and create a whole new document… Picking up with the next scene, it suddenly feels like I’m writing a brand new opening, and the spark is immediately reinvigorated. When I’m finished with that, it’s copied and pasted into the first document, and I now have two of my best written, most exciting pieces for the first act.

    I essentially write eight 15-page openings to get to my 120 mark. Believe it or not, this also helps immensely with orchestrating subplots, which carry the dreaded second act, as well. And I find that in 15-page increments, each character is given a great introduction/reintroduction, and that excites the reader to see them again. (Remember the opening of ‘The Dark Knight’? The Joker was incredible. And every time he reappeared throughout the movie, it was with enough style, drama, flare, and excitement that it could have very well been his first introduction. And I know I spent that whole movie waiting to see him again.)

    Sometimes I compose a slow, tense opening if the story line needs it; sometimes it’s an adrenaline-filled action sequence; and sometimes it’s two people talking. But it’s always meant to draw in the attention and advance the story. Another benefit is that I can never give away too much in just fifteen pages; I’m constantly advancing the story with small bursts of “rhythm and release”, as I believe Ted Griffin called it. Get the audience/reader tense enough that they’re relieved to get a breather, but hit em hard and fast again, because they’re also begging for more.

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