Welcome to the New Year!

If you’re anything like me, you’re saying, “What the hell? How did that go by so fast?” You’re probably also wondering how one more year slipped by without you getting any closer to your dream of becoming a professional screenwriter.

Take heed. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

The first step in achieving any dream is setting goals. And the first day of the year is a great time to start. You’re rejuvenated. You’re excited. And you have a clear sense of time to work with. I promise you this. If you leave your writing up to a vague set of circumstances, you won’t have anything to target and you’ll be at the exact same place this time next year. So let’s figure out how to set up and execute goals.

Most writers don’t truly understand screenwriting until their sixth script. That’s when your grasp of the various elements specific to screenwriting (dialogue, structure, character-building) finally come together in a way where you can shift your focus to the more important element of screenwriting – telling a good story. “Six scripts” isn’t a hard and fast number, of course. But it’s a good reference point.

Keeping that in mind, you should be aiming to write two scripts a year, or one script every six months. That way, by year 3, you’re a legitimate threat. Some writers ego-write so they can say they’ve written 4, 5, even 6 scripts a year. But I find this exercise to be pointless. Anything written in two months or less, unless you’re one of the better screenwriters on the planet, tends to be thin and dumb. Six months is an adequate amount of time for you to write something legitimately good.

Obviously, six months is different depending on how many hours you write a day. So the math I’m using is 2-3 hours a day 7 days a week. This may seem excessive to some. But all one needs to look at is athletes or skilled professions to see that those people put AT LEAST 2-3 hours a day into their education. The only reason I’m going with this low a number is because I know most aspiring screenwriters have jobs and families. So I’m assuming you’re squeezing out hours whenever you can find them. If you’re one of the lucky few with time to spare, take advantage of it!

In addition to picking your two screenplays to write, find any way possible to hold yourself accountable. Tell a friend you’re going to have a draft for them to read at [said date]. Pick a screenwriting contest for each half-year. E-mail me and tell me you’re going to submit a script to Amateur Offerings on so-and-so date. The more dates you have locked up, the more accountable you’ll feel, and the more likely you’ll be to push through.

Another thing you should aim to achieve is NOT GIVING UP ON YOUR SCRIPTS. When we did the 3-month writing challenge, a lot of people fell by the wayside. They couldn’t keep up with the intense pace. My experience with why people give up on something is that they run into a problem they can’t solve. Maybe a major character isn’t working. Maybe you can’t figure out a key plot point. Maybe you run out of ideas to keep the story moving. You’ll fight for a solution for a few days, maybe a week, decide that it’s too hard, put the script down for a few days. A few days turns into a week. A week turns into a month. And the next thing you know, you’ve given up.

Here’s a secret you may not know about major script problems. They often result in the biggest story breakthroughs. The amount of thought and analysis put into the problem necessitates that you inspect your story on a much deeper level. It’s through that introspection that a new, way better idea than you could’ve possibly imagined, takes hold. So don’t think of these problems as “problems.” Think of them as opportunities for major breakthroughs.

Also, understand that they WILL happen. If your script is easy to write, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough. So have a game plan ready for these moments. Here are a few solutions for problem-solving. Solution 1 is to shift your focus to a different part of the story. Sure, that plot point may be problematic. But there’s no reason you can’t go back and implement those new ideas you had for your main character. Or write around the problematic section of the story, continuing on with the script. If you know exactly what your ending is going to be regardless of the problematic plot point, go write the ending. Often times advancing one section of a script leads to new ideas for another section. So that may be how you solve your problem.

Solution 2 is to simul-write. Instead of writing 1 script for the first six months of the year and a second script for the second six months of the year. Write them simultaneously, bouncing back and forth between the two based on which one is inspiring you more. I know a lot of writers write this way. What happens is that the different scripts jog different components of your creativity, so that when you jump back to the other script, your mind is reinvigorated with new ideas. Just make sure you’re still adhering to a schedule (a page number each day, regardless of which script you’re working on).

Solution 3 is to place-hold. If you have a problem with a character or a plot point, write a place-holder “generic” version of it. You may not love that version, but if it helps you to keep writing, that’s better than giving up on the script entirely. Again, when you write, you’re keeping a continuous stream of ideas flowing through your mind. Which means you’ll be more likely to come up with solutions for that problem, which you can then go back and implement. If you stop writing, you stop the stream. It’s still possible to come up with ideas, of course. But the process will be more “start-stop,” and offer less return on your investment.

In addition to setting goals for your writing, set goals for your learning. Pick 2-3 components of screenwriting that you’ve either been told you’re weak at or that you know are weak, and strive to improve them this year. Maybe it’s dialogue. Maybe it’s learning how to arc a character. Maybe it’s structure. Maybe it’s suspense or GSU (goal, stakes, urgency) or conflict or learning to build during your second act. Make it a goal to master those 2-3 things by the end of year. Read about them. Place special attention on them in your writing. When you get feedback or notes from me, specifically ask how you did in those areas. The more you’re targeting something, the more likely you are to get better at it.

And that’s it. Write hard and write often. Fight the negative voices in your head (“This article from Carson is all well and good, but I take longer to write scripts because I’m different”). You’re all capable of this if you put in the work and the focus. Below I’m including my 3-month schedule to write a screenplay. Simply double the time within each section so that the process equals half a year. Follow it to a “T,” use it as a guide, or use it as inspiration and do it your own way. The most important thing is that you’re not just writing, but producing fully fleshed out screenplays you can send into the world by the end of 2018. Now go forth and kick ass already. You deserve it!

How to Write a Screenplay in 3 Months:

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12

  • carsonreeves1

    I deserve so many kudos for writing this article over the one I wanted to write: “A Further Screenwriting Evaluation of The Last Jedi.”

    • Avatar

      Disney gets too much free advertisement any way. We fall for it by endlessly talking about Star Wars for them.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      With “The Last Jedi” being cited as being your 2nd least favorite movie of 2017, why do you talk about it so much?

      • carsonreeves1

        I could literally write another 20,000 words on it.

        • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

          Well-p, this is your castle. Fill it as you will. It just seems odd that you you have a lot of passion about a movie that you ranked so low. Remember, I’m on the opposite side of the ledger there, I thought “The Last Jedi” was the best movie of 2017, and I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan either.

          • romer6

            I am a huge Star Wars fan… that’s probably why I hated The Last Jedi so much. We that carry this bag of expectations are the ones that fall harder when deception hits. Maybe that movie is good if we strip it off of everything Star Wars… I wouldn’t know.

          • DB Stevens

            Yeah, Rian probably made a decent movie it’s just he made a science fiction movie instead of a science fantasy movie. So for a lot of Star Wars fans who value the mythic nature of Star Wars they were disappointed.

            (I’m trying to come at this as positively as I can)

        • klmn

          Wouldn’t it be more productive to rewrite your Half Llama-Man script?

    • romer6

      Make “A Further Screenwriting Evaluation of The Last Jedi.” your next article!

      Actually, I was watching the animated series Star Wars Rebels yesterday and some episodes are better than any of the movies that came after the original trilogy. How could they make something so awesome (and for kids!) for TV and something so bad for the screen…

    • Stephjones

      You deserve kudos for all that you do, period. Thank you and have a great 2018!

  • Levres de Sang

    Fabulous inspirational article! Thanks Carson.

    Actually, I’m excited about a kind of epiphany I had earlier today. It struck me that a semi-abandoned literary novel I was trying to write twelve years ago is actually a vampire story… I did a lot of work on it back in the day and have characters, setting, backstory etc. In short, I’ll work on turning it into a script as soon as I complete my Max Landis inspired ’90-page dialogue scene’.

    Fascinated to see what other SS people come up with this year!

    • Cameron fan

      Tell us more about this 90 page dialogue script you’re writing.

      • Levres de Sang

        An idea I couldn’t quite nail until I embraced the conceptual notion Max puts forward in the video below. I’m really excited about it and will submit to AOW when it’s done…


        • Marija ZombiGirl

          This is really interesting but I can’t help thinking that a 90mn dialogue scene is actually more of a… stage play :) Still, it’s actually a great writing exercice because it really forces you to write dialogue that influences every action and it’s those actions that drive the story forward, not the dialogue in itself.

          Looking forward to reading your script, Mr de Sang. Good luck with it :)

          • Levres de Sang

            I understand what you’re saying! I’m therefore trying not to lose sight of its cinematic origins (namely, Terminal Station and Last Year at Marienbad).

            I’ll also be particularly interested to see what you (and Winjand) make of it as it’s set in the Netherlands of all places! :)

          • romer6

            Those kind of scripts that are all dialogue interests me a lot. I can’t say I’ve seen a movie with only one dialogue scene, but movies like Before Sunset, Certified Copy, Once, they all ressonates a lot with me. I saw “Locke” the other day and thought it was terrific. It isn’t exactly one scene of dialogue but is dialogue all over. When your script is “ready” I hope you let me take a look at it.

          • Garrett

            First, I apologize for butting in here to this conversation, but my ears perked when I heard talk about dialogue scripts. Do you know anyone romer6, including yourself, who might be interested in producing a horror short (13 page) that is dialogue-based?

    • Scott Serradell

      I like how you refer to it as “semi” abandoned, as though you never really gave up hope for it.

      It’s an important realization: Not all ideas are born mature enough; some need time to evolve — as others await for us to evolve ourselves. “The sun is new everyday”, the ancient philosopher once said.

      I for one look forward to one day meeting these creations of yours, Levres.

      • Levres de Sang

        Thanks Scott!

        Actually, your podcast interview with Mike struck a chord with me in terms of those semi-abandoned projects (I recall you saying something about packing away an unfinished novel in your garage?) Anyway, yes, I’d always hoped I might return to this particular project, but hadn’t thought about it in ages — until yesterday! Guess it goes to show the importance of genre when it comes to screenwriting (whereas my problem in trying to write a literary novel was a very mistaken disdain for genre).

        • Scott Serradell

          Oh. “The Orchard”.

          That’s what I refer to the five (full!) file boxes containing the greatest unfinished sci-fi fantasy novel that would’ve changed the very landscape of the genre (sarcastic laughter here.) All told, probably 8 years of research, notes, and (and some truly terrible) writing. Fortunately that epic will never see the light of day.

          But some of those ideas still ignited my curiosity, even after a decade later. So I replanted them in better soil and wait to see what blooms. Some are coming along nicely. The future will tell.

          And I can’t agree more about genre. Once I finally wrapped my head around what genre is (in my summation, it’s essentially an expectation) it became a real asset for screenwriting. It really provided a focus — a path, if you will — to what I was trying to say creatively.

          (Of course it would have been nice had I realized this BEFORE I spent 2 years writing “The Death Variations”. But c’est la vie.)

  • Third

    Third comment?

    • Scott Crawford

      Possibly… a lot of comments get lost in moderation, don’t you know, so… you never know.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    Happy New Year, everyone. I’m making reading more classic fiction (novels and screenplays) my New Year’s resolution. Just finished The Exorcist to kick things off.

    What’s your resolution?

    • Scott Crawford

      I said this the other day but, stop saying “no,” all the time, to ideas. Not every idea is gold but ideas, even mediocre ones, lead to other ideas, and before you know it you’ve got something. Which is better than waiting for inspiration to strike.

      • 1st10

        Agree. I write down EVERY idea, you never know. If you add dumb idea #13 to dumb idea #28, that could lead to something truly unique (or just something exceptionally dumb).

        • Scott Crawford

          Placeholders: ideas that will probably not end up in the final draft but which you use because you want to move forward.

          Example: when writing NOTORIOUS, Hitchcock and Hecht needed a MacGuffin. The CIA was spying on Nazis hiding in Brazil so they needed to be doing something.

          A training camp for soldiers of the Fourth Reich!

          Well… it’ll DO. For now.

          Later, they were both working on propaganda films when they heard about uranium. So in the movie it’s uranium they find in the wine bottle in the cellar.

          A side note… some South American dubs changed the uranium to industrial diamonds. When Hitch found out he couldn’t care less.

          It was only a MacGuffin, Ingrid.

    • ScriptChick

      Exorcist, nice! Was thinking of actually marking down how many (and what genre) of scripts I read this this. Not sure it will help but maybe it’ll spark something competitive within me in the years to come?

    • klmn

      I’m concentrating on non-classics. The classics are too well known.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Drink less alcohol. That starts TOMORROW of course. ;-P

      And get in better shape. Now getting up there in years need to start working out everyday.

  • Scott Crawford

    Inspiration: Cameron wrote Rambo II AND Aliens at the same time. He listened to different music while doing so.

    Tip: in mostly dialogue scenes, write the dialogue first, add the stage directions, etc. in later. Opposite for mostly action scenes, write the scene WITHOUT dialogue then add dialogue later. Speeds things up. I think it’s because chopping and changing script elements slows me down. Anyway, works.

    • Cameron fan

      Actually, from what I know, he wrote Aliens and Rambo II at the same time as he was re-writing his Terminator script, and he had only, I think, 2 or 3 months to do it in. Apparently, he made some quick calculations about how many days he had, the hours per day he would be sleeping, and the waking hours he had available to write. He figured out how many pages he would need to complete each day in order to finish all three scripts on time and he stuck to it religiously.

  • 1st10

    Here’s a toast to the future, a toast to the past and a toast to our friends, far and near.
    First one to sell a script wins. On your mark, get set…

  • Randy Williams

    I’m so looking forward to what 2018 brings to Scriptshadow. Every year I like to look back at the Amateur Offerings Weekend scripts and make my own personal “Best of the Year” list.
    It’s still 2017 where I am now and Carson has finally stopped talking about The Last Jedi. whew!

    So…here goes.

    These are scripts that have stayed with me. They might not even have garnered my vote at the time, but something about them has never left me. Reading their titles strongly conjures up their riches. Apologies for not having all the writers’ names. Thanks all for entertaining us most weekends with your submissions!

    10. The Commune. – E.C Henry. Juggles many balls in the air without dropping them and none of the acrobatics has escaped my memory.

    9. A Heart Built On Sand – E.C Henry. This mature character study of an older woman. (who writes for them?!) totally surprises. As actor bait, it’s up there with a big paycheck.

    8. Disbelief – Liam McNeal. A lot of posters couldn’t get past the talky and surrealistic aspects of the beginning. But, it settles into something that would electrify the screen in the right hands, I thought, and the writer did say he was a filmmaker.

    7. Black Box – Stephen Herman. It’s one of those scripts that in retrospect feels like I saw it instead of read it.

    6. The Sphinx – Elena Gallen. Another script that I feel I saw instead of read. A lush cinematic treat. Hope we see more of her.

    5. Meat – Logan Martin. I tend to agree with some, there could more meat on these bones, but as a page turner, it excelled. A writer who knows how to put gravity on the page that I couldn’t resist.

    4. Across The Line – (script’s been deleted, don’t remember writer’s name). Just the title transports me to that Canadian plains location. For atmosphere, it wins hands down.

    3. Oasis – (also deleted, don’t know writer’s name) I didn’t love the presentation but it’s stayed with me as the best concept of the year.

    2. Goldie – Brett Martin. No surprise he makes my list every year if he submits. I remember his scripts as movies I saw instead of read. There’s never a reason to put it down. Memorable female characters as usual.

    And #1…

    My Sojourn In Hell – John Arvai. I felt that it could have had more mystery elements, but the writer took risks with it, excelled at the visceral violence and masculine insecurities, the pleasure and pain of revenge.

    Oh! and Happy New Year, everyone!

    • Scott Crawford

      You’ve just made someones head explode!

      • Randy Williams

        (with a wicked grin) I know…

    • ScriptChick

      Black Box was the script I loved talking about and trying to get friends to read. Glad to see it on the list (and cool list, btw).

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Thanks for the love, Randy. I had a blast writing both scripts. “The Commune” was a script I wanted to write for a long time. I knew major shootout scene, but NOT the rest of the movie. Point: some plots take a while to work through–just don’t give up!
      “A Heart Built on the Sand” was SUPPOSED to be the easiest script I ever wrote, but it didn’t turn out that way. Just something about delving into a dark place like that was hard for me to do.

      Anyway, look forward to reading some of your work when you post it here.

  • klmn

    Okay, Carson, here’s week 13. You didn’t call it that in the post, so go do penance. Say a few Hail Marys or donate a kidney or something.


    • carsonreeves1

      Ah-ha. It’s not really an entry but a setup. Cool! Thanks, klmn. :)

      • klmn

        Now you need to write a series of articles on how to write pilots, because the features market is looking more and more like a dead end.

        Or maybe virtual reality. I suspect that in a few years the movie business will be replaced by virtual reality products. (Just as soon as the devices are perfected, they’ll need content).

        How do we get on the ground floor?

      • Lironah

        I remember having trouble finding this to post to our Scriptshadow Challenge Facebook group, lol.

  • Avatar

    I don’t know if a few hours a day will really cut it, unless you’re Stephen King and you pretty much are able to write gold the second your fingers hit the keypad. A lot of that time isn’t even productive…so it’s bursts within the time frame that you get things done. At least, if you’re trying to make that goal of 2 quality screenplays a year….there’s a lot of rewriting, starting from scratch re-structuring, getting feedback and then figuring out how to employ the feedback. And all that takes a LOT of hours, burned. Doctors, lawyer, or even pro bball players don’t just spend a few hours a day.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, I’d consider 2 hours absolute minimum. Definitely do more than that if possible.

      • Avatar

        I think if writers checked in with you after a few months by showing you their script for a consult, they would have a wake-up call of how much more time they actually need to spend to engineer the different working parts. A lot of scripts have these bursts of good ideas, then a mess every where else because they haven’t reworked their screenplay enough. I didn’t realize that you actually wrote 12 articles, until I clicked on week 1. The plan keeps writers honest with reality – reality is it requires a lot more work than expected…even just placing highly in a competition.

  • ScriptChick

    “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas Happy New (Writing) Year, everyone!

    • Avatar

      In his early days, George Lucas would work all day on his Star Wars treatment till he had headaches.

      • ScriptChick

        tension headaches mean you’re working hard. ;)

        • Avatar

          He’s rocked pop culture for several generations now. The ripple effect from his little space opera (that several studios rejected) is still being felt.

  • klmn

    I’m about to watch Red River on the Inspiration Channel. Haven’t seen it in years.

  • Lironah

    I swear by the simul-write solution, but have used all three successfully. I also recommend cardio or aerobics when brainstorming, often in combination with some music that gets me in character.

  • RO

    This was a well timed and much needed article. I’ve currently saved all the weeks as .pdfs for reference later.

    This last year was moderately productive for me. I managed to only write one new feature and re-write three tv scripts (two pilots and one follow up episode). I usually average three scripts a year but free time has been scarce. I work 9 hour shifts six days a week and have an hour commute both ways. That’s 11 hours. If I’m lucky to get a seat during my commute I can write on my phone but that’s a rarity. I constantly jot notes down at work and my desk is always covered with various post-it notes, papers and print out scripts. From 8pm to 2am I’m either researching for a script, reading a script (from blacklist, redlist, bloodlist or for coverage) or outlining a script.

    I’ve spent most of today on my computer writing a pilot for a netflix series (It’s minus 17 here or 1 degree Fahrenheit your part of the weirdos that don’t use Celsius) and with tomorrow being a rare day off work, I doubt I’ll be going to bed as I’ll be revising my pitch package for the pilot and then going though another checklist to see what I got and what I need. Plus with the finish your script in 12 weeks as a reference I should be able to find some more opportunities to make this pilot better (I’m aiming for a more cinematic approach over conventional tv).

    In the meantime, I’d like to wish everyone here a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a productive one at that! Let’s make 2018 our year!


    If you don’t spend hours or days worrying about a decision at least one of your characters makes then it wasn’t really a decision at all…

    Write yourself into inescapable corners; write yourself out.

    Great article, C.

    Happy New Year to the best bitches in the world.

    Write on.

    • klmn

      And to all the worst bitches too!

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        Thanks klmn. With all these libs running around, it’s all about inclusion.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Happy New Year to all my fellow Scriptshadowians! Hope ya all have a great 2018! I finished off 2017 testing the fates with this:
    Nuts as always. Brycen made it all the way through blowing all these fireworks up. Riley made it through half. I think my brother had more fun than me lighting ‘em up this year. It was right around the freezing point when the bombing commenced.

  • susanrichards

    yeahhhhhhh…lets do this people. im up for it. gotta tell y’all..im soo so so so so pissed off right now. decided to watch the traditional abc new years eve crap. and i saw a commercial for a new tv show…that was an idea i had.
    splitting up together or some shit.
    it may tank. it may soar. whatever.
    she even had the laundry basket.
    see..thing is…i stopped my scriptwriting and took a dip in the tv writing pond.
    sounded like fun. why not? maybe thats my gig. who cares? so its tv.
    anyway. took a class. reputable real professionals with an actual resume of TV i have seen. so, it wasn’t like the local womens club or whatever.
    it was in nyc. like…THE CITY.
    i had no idea for an original series of my own, so, on the spot, pressed, i thought up a series of a divorced couple living together. with their kids. and her mom. (i dont think this abc show has her mom in it, not sure)
    not my life, but believable. at least i thought so.
    anyway. the biggest criticism i got from the instructor was that it wasn’t believable.
    “i dont get it. why is she living with her ex husband?”
    anyway, whatever. i wrote it, cos it was what i had. it wasnt my lifes dream, but it was what i was writing for the class. then..i dropped it cos LIFE GETS IN THE WAY. shoulda, coulda, woulda.
    thing is. i was right.
    just like many of you…having an idea for a script, and maybe you dont write it, but then you see it.
    and then you wanna scream. or drink. or both.
    ah. maybe its the jameson. or the miller chasers. or maybe its just me fed up with other people telling me what to do when i know what to do.
    just like you.
    write it, mother fu***rs. its good. it can be better. sell it. hell, ill sell it for you. like nike says.
    just do it. write it. believe in yourself. look at the crap that is out there. the difference? they finished it. they pushed it. they sold it. is it hard? yeah. but youre screenwriters, right? believe in yourself. do not give up.it doesnt have to be the next amazing thing. omg, it doesnt have to be “worthy”. it just has to be good! entertaining! watchable! marketable! omg, write the greatest love story later. just write something! stop pacing and thinking…omg what is good?
    i thought that series up in literally five minutes. why?
    cos i had to. i had a deadline. a five minute deadline.
    im giving you five minutes.
    do it.

    i will never, ever, ever…take the advice of a “professional” again.
    sorry carson.
    im going with my jersey gut.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      What are your feeling about capitalization, and forming coherent sentences? Just sayin’ that might be a good place for you to start in 2018.

      • susanrichards

        This isn’t writing.it’s just conversation.

      • BMCHB

        I thought it was the lyrics from the new J-Z feat. Rihanna song.

        I think it’s called “Five Minutes”

    • Malibo Jackk

      Do what works for you.

      Met a couple of girls last year (I can start saying ‘last year’ now).
      They were involved in pitching to (I believe it was) AMC and another network.
      Their concept – a horror anthology.
      What surprised me was their age. They couldn’t have had much experience.

      What I loved was the title of their show — TICK TOCK.

    • Midnight Luck

      “it doesn’t have to be the next amazing thing. omg, it doesn’t have to be “worthy”.”
      Nope, It just has to be “written”.

      I totally feel you.

      Seriously. Sometimes you just have to get so fucking PISSED OFF, you just freak out and write the mother fucking shit out of something, you have to make something happen.

      The last thing I wrote, I came up with a completely unique idea, something I’d never heard of, never come across, never seen anything like it before.

      I wrote, and wrote and wrote.
      I was so close to where I wanted to be with it.
      I massaged, I worked it, I figured out everything and made it mine. Made it all that I wanted it to be.

      And then another script was bought and presented, which was 90% the same idea!

      Mother fucking ass-wiping genghis-motherfucking-khan’s!!!

      I couldn’t believe it!
      Why the fuck does this shit happen?

      Like literally, I have NEVER seen this idea before. And then, I come up with what seems to be a wholly unique idea, and WHOOMP, NOPE, there it is. Someone else, at the same time, has it, and COMPLETES it, before I do!


      I feel, so feel, your pain.

      • Malibo Jackk

        That’s why I wear a tin foil cap.
        (No one’s stealing my ideas.)

        • BMCHB

          Are you wearing it on the right place?

          Did you hear about the male pornstar who was a conspiracy theorist?

          He wore a tin foil condom

      • TheDude

        I’m curious… what was it about? If you don’t mind me asking.

      • ShiroKabocha

        Why the fuck does this shit happen?

        Because you’re never as unique and special as you think you are.

        That great, visionary idea you think only you have ever thought up ? Thousand others have actually come up with it before you. It just so happens that no one else has presented it on a public forum at that point.

        The real geniuses / visionaries, the truly special individuals barely make up 0.00001 % of the population. You’re not one of them, I’m not one of them, otherwise we wouldn’t be roaming these boards wasting time writing about writing and whining about the state of Hollywood movies.

        But that’s OK :) I’d go for competent, good storytelling over mindblowing, world changing narration any day.

        Just remember to stay fresh, keep surprising your audience (never, never underestimate them), and above all, write with joy.

    • Frankie Hollywood

      I feel you. Early last year I finished a sci-fi pilot called Archangel-4S. It’s set in the near future and revolves around a new surveillance system (my tag line was “Big Brother’s doing a lot more than watching”).

      Flash forward to Dec 29 2017 (OK, go back in time 3 days) when the new season of Black Mirror’s released. Episode 4.2 is called Arkangel, it’s set in the near future and revolves around a new surveillance system. Directed by Jodie Foster, no less.

      Luckily our approaches are vastly different, but….. I blame it on the Collective Unconscious.

      You should make it an exercise to come up with at LEAST one new idea a day. Because we’re really not unique snowflakes.

      Best of luck.

  • klmn

    My theme song for the year.

    (The title refers to my scripts, of course).

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Time to end 2017/begin 2018 on a high note, Gunna re-watch “While You Were Sleeping” (Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman), which is probably my favorite rom-com of all-time. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c4b59aef71886f1320ed9ab74ae46fda5746ba395c98225d7fd3c32479b34fbf.jpg

  • Midnight Luck

    Thank You Carson for everything you do!
    Really appreciate it.
    And thanks for the inspirational article, here on the eve of another year of (possibly) failed, yet (incredibly) hopeful, promises.
    I hope 2018 holds all the presents every single one of us writers dream about, and hope for!

    Everybody Knows,
    Write Hard! (Talk Hard!)
    Let’s make 2018 THE YEAR we all break through to the other side!!!

    (and 3, and 2, and 1…..Happy New Year!!!!!)

  • moog

    Great advice in this article and the perfect kick-off to the new year. I do the simul-writing thing. Bouncing from one to another after each major draft/rewrite. Works out about the same time-wise, but in 2-3 month chunks. I find it creates a bit of distance from the material, so you’ve got fresher eyes on the return.

  • Malibo Jackk

    In the time it takes to read this article
    — you could write a screenplay.
    Using the Malibo App, all you do is type in your idea.
    The app does the work for you.
    Yes, it’s that easy.

    The Malibo App.
    Only $9.99.
    On sale everywhere.

  • Lucid Walk

    Alright, alright, alright.

    Bring it on, 2018!

  • Wijnand Krabman

    ‘(embarrassing but I can’t find Week 13. Google sleuths, please help!)’ hahaha that’s because you decided to bend the rules of the competition. But no sweat, in despite of my camping english, my script made it into the quarter finals of the final draft screenwriting competition. Since then I laugh my balls out of my pants. Happy new year!

  • klmn

    A little music to start the New Year right.

  • Scott Crawford

    Anyone want to test out their ideas? Get some reaction before committing too much writing time?

    I’ll warm things up until someone else wants to post.


    The world’s greatest train robber is freed from prison to rob the world’s fastest train.

    Had the idea yonks ago, never did anything with it. Worth a resurrect?

    • Stephjones

      Need specifics. Plus, train robbery feels dated to me. Is the robber stealing an object of value? Kidnapping a person? act of terrorism?
      Also, maybe consider going a comedic route. Released, after 40 years in prison, a bungling train robber plans one more heist…on the world’s fastest train.

      • Scott Crawford

        Dated, you say. I say… CLASSIC!!! One of the first big movies was The Great Train Robbery. And, yeah, what they want her (yep, she has boobies) to steal is a MacGuffin, a bit like the briefcase in Ronin. Lots of double crosses and stuff.

        I’m not 100% sure how much I like the idea. I enjoy heist movies but writing them is a bind.

        (I just wanted to start the ball rolling. Please, anyone else, join in. Especially if you have MORE than one idea to choose from.).

    • andyjaxfl

      I mentioned last week that I have an itch. Said itch is about Cortes and the conquest of the Mexican Empire. So that’s what I’m going to write about…
      However, while my dream is to see a movie or limited TV series that goes into great detail about the conquest from both sides, that’s probably not a good idea for me, so I’m focusing on one character.

      • Scott Crawford

        Hmmm… memories of Marco Polo on Netflix. It’s an amazing time period… the Tora, Tora, Tora, two-sides approach could work.

        El Dora-dough.

        • andyjaxfl

          A two-sides approach is my dream. Brian Helgeland wrote a really great script about the conquest with the perspective of Cortes and Cuauhtemoc (the last real Aztec emperor and who led the fight after the Spanish after Montezuma died), but his script ended before the conquest was even finished.

          One of the most iconic battles in the conquest was the siege of Tenochtitlan, the longest continuous battle in history at just under 90 days. Helgeland’s script ends a full year before the siege even begins (and it still clocks in at 165 pages).

    • Kirk Diggler

      I like it a lot better than your Fort Knox idea. BUT…. is robbing trains still a thing? Maybe he’s a great thief but robbing a bullet train creates a new challenge for him. I could see this working in China’s market because they have the fastest trains in the world, it’s a natural fit.

    • klmn

      This year I’m going to concentrate on smaller ideas – ones that don’t require expensive props like trains. Present time period for the same reason.

      • Scott Crawford

        Natures cheap and ALWAYS looks good on film.

        Grizzly Adams cheaper than Casey Jones.

    • Malibo Jackk

      You might remember The Anderson Tapes.
      A group of men try to rob everyone in an exclusive apartment building.
      If I was writing it – would do something similar.
      Men trying to rob everyone on that fast moving train.
      The passengers – some of the richest men in the world.

      • Scott Crawford

        I thought about that while having a slash this afternoon . Sorry for the color. But one of my favourite films.

        Again, not sure if I’d do it now but I like to get people and maybe encourage them to come forward with own ideas.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Just so you know
          I’m working on something that is different enough
          from this that I can still suggest that kind of approach.

          The concept is completely different.

          • Scott Crawford

            GO FOR IT!!!

    • shewrites

      Love train robberies. How does the fact that it’s a fast train affect the story? The robbers have to be done within a certain amount of time? If that’s it, every robbery is time-sensitive. Please elaborate.

  • Stephjones

    Since, creatively, I feel dry as a bone 2018 will be a “polishing year”
    Gonna polish a couple of old scripts
    Gonna polish up my old body with a triatlon
    Gonna polish the head of my husband’s dick…but probably only on his birthday.
    Gonna polish the bottom of my boat and move it the fuck out of alabama and into warmer waters. It’s 25( feels like 11) I shower outside, so not much polishing of hair and body parts in near future
    Gonna polish up my thoughtfulness and kindness.
    Gonna polish up the flip boat and sell it to buy our freedom. (Anybody want to buy a 1981 424 Pearson Ketch? )
    Gonna polish up my heels when my new pedicure thingee arrives from Amazon.
    Wishing everyone a happy, SHINIER New Year!

    • Scott Crawford

      Hey! I do the dirty jokes around here.

      In all seriousness, screenwritingwise, not a bad strategy. Two (highly) polished scripts is probably a better idea than starting something new.

      Hope 2018 doesn’t polish you off.

      • Stephjones

        Dirty joke? Which part?

        • Scott Crawford

          There was a lady named Jones,
          Who’d worked herself to the bones.
          To her husband in bed,
          She said “Ring a sex line instead,
          If you want to hear a housewife moan.”

          (All in good humor!).

        • Kirk Diggler

          He should read one of your scripts to understand you better.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Be sure to say hello to that giant pussy of yours. ;-)

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Wild post, Stephjones. It was this kind of spunk that beat me in 2017. Never change. The women at Scriptshadow rock!!

  • Erica

    Good morning and Happy New Years!

    So last night I made home made pizza and watched Wonder Woman. I absolutely loved that movie! I’m not big on superhero movies but that one I will watch over and over. There was just something that clicked on that one.

    Anyways, I hope not too many of you have hangovers today. Oh I remember those days.

    So for my new years resolution I’m planing on finishing 3 scripts this year. It’s a big order but doable. I’m supper pumped about them. I think I can do it, correction, I know I can.

    I do want to make a short film, but I’m just so comfy inside and making a short or feature is sooo much work, it’s hard to get out of the computer chair to do it. Guess that’s just age.


    • Scott Crawford

      Wonder Woman… lot of people citing No Man’s Land as one of the scenes of the year, but I’d also commend the beach battle. Jenkins is jenius.

      If you want to be a writer director, sometimes you have to stop directing and just write. James Cameron, who flies fighter jets and dives to the bottom of the Pacific i is spare time, says facing the blank page/screen for a first draft is the scaries thing he does. That’s why he writes scriptments (and uses co-writers?).

      Three scripts, three months per script (alternating betweendifferent drafts), you’d be done by September…. in times for the big script awards/script buying season.

      Sounds like a plan, might do it myself.

      • Erica

        I wonder how Jenkins would handle the next Star Wars movie. Would be interesting to have a female writer/director.

        • Scott Crawford

          Flick, yeah! Or Erica Benedickty, she’d be good.

          Representation matters. Read that somewhere.

          • Erica

            Lol! Yeah I would be good.

          • Scott Crawford

            Saw a great Star Wars doc the othe other day, I’ll post a link if I can, but they interviewed Gareth Edwards and he was saying how thrilling it was to see his name on the end credits with THAT music, in that font.

            Go on, Ms. Photoshop, make it happen…

            Written and Directed by
            Erica Benedickty

            “Do, Do, duh duh duh do do…”

          • Erica

            Well when the The Force Awakens was released we did do a special episode on one of my shows which was pretty fun to do. Of course the Star Wars music was replaced with music from our stock library but It was way better with the star wars music of course.

          • Scott Crawford

            Like me, the video is unavailable.

          • Erica

            Oh could be not allowed in your area, it’s also set to private, not public. I think you need to use one of those IP hiders to say you are in a different part of the world to watch it. Oh well.

    • klmn

      Supper pumped? Didn’t your pizza agree with you?

      • Erica

        Supper, super, tomato, tamato. lol

        Or it’s a script about food.

    • Citizen M

      I’ll see your pizza and raise you a loaf of sourdough bread (round because it’s baked in a frying pan because I don’t have an oven).


    • andyjaxfl

      So that looks good, which is weird for me to write because I hate cheese. Not allergic or lactose intolerant or anything. I just hate cheese. (waits to be blocked)

      • Erica

        It’s okay, I’ll let it slide this time.


      • Scott Crawford

        You’re a horrible person. Then again, you’re American, right? Home of cheese in a can. Top tip: never order the cheese board in an American restaurant, it’ll be shit.

        Treat yourself, smuggle some blue into the country. Stilton.

      • klmn

        Well, it’s rotten cow juice, so it’s surprising so many people like it.

      • Justin

        I can’t even go near milk or cheese, I’ll immediately gag and throw up. Which is strange, because I used to devour those thin slices of cheese that every kid ate when I was young.

        • andyjaxfl

          That’s how I feel about cheese. I see it and all I can think of is the scene in WE WERE SOLDIERS when one soldier pulls another soldier to safety by his legs, but his skin just…. BLEECCHHHHHHHHHH!

          Anyways, it looks like soft cheese to me and that scene certainly didn’t help with my distaste!

  • HRV

    Happy New Year all. Don’t know if I’ll get to writing anything new since I’ve got plenty of unfinished scripts/polishing to work on. Here’s hoping this will be a better year for AOW opportunities.

    • Scott Crawford

      We’re gonna run out of Pledge the amount people are polishing.

      We need a polishing article (and more tv stuff)!

  • Scott Serradell

    It seems like a cliche but when most men of a certain age (40s) take this time to reflect on the follies and failures of their previous year, a majority of them clamor to a specific remedy in hopes in reversing some of their misfortunes:

    They join a gym.

    And since I was tried-as-all-hell of my own Seth Rogan-esque physique, I joined one too. However, this time I wanted added insurance; I didn’t want to go through the usual awesome first month, followed by the lackluster second, and ending in the apathetic third whereby I cancel my membership and spend the rest of the year building the guilt and shame to restart the process next January.

    No! This time I signed up with a trainer for eight weeks. And on our first meeting he was point blank with me: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

    I could have rattled off any number of generic replies (“I want to look better”; “You know, health reasons”; “I want to fit in my clothes again” etc.)

    But after spending some years here in the ScriptShadow jungle, the word GOAL has a different meaning, because we’ve tied so intimately with STAKES and URGENCY.

    So suddenly this became my pitch; I felt like I was “selling myself” to this trainer. My goal couldn’t simply be a goal, it had to be THE goal. It needed stakes and urgency. It needed spark and chutzpah and to be instantly identifiable and interesting…

    “My goal?” I said to him, “My goal at the end of this is to look so good I want my wife believing she’s having an affair!”

    That stunned him for a moment. Mission accomplished.

    Happy New Year All!

    • Citizen M

      I want a body so good that when I look in a mirror I get a hard-on from seeing myself. (No homo.)

      • Scott Serradell

        Ha ha. The uncensored version of the myth of Narcissus (and don’t ask why he was so adamant about doing yoga…)

    • Scott Crawford

      Great line, put in in a script!

    • Midnight Luck

      “I want to look good naked”- Lester Burnham – American Beauty

  • andyjaxfl

    I hate fireworks and I hate people who use them from midnight to 2 AM in a residential area.

    • Erica

      Lucky here we don’t get much of that. I don’t think it’s allowed at new years, only Canada Day and May 24th. Also at New Years it was minus 400… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb8829cd5c34e6edd34b118b0b8c2b0c3f5fd8558aac6b16db78e78c7bc6d882.jpg

      • andyjaxfl

        There is a fantastic Facebook war going on between my wife and her allies against this guy and his cronies. Kinda funny. But since this is Florida, gotta add the disclaimer that I hope nobody gets shot over this.

    • Levres de Sang

      I felt the same last night. New Year has become a ‘who-can-make-the-loudest-noise’ contest.

  • Mayhem Jones

    HEY GUYS!!!!!! Ugh, I’ve been totally missing out on Scriptshadow fun ’cause my insane work months are Oct-Dec. Thank God it’s ovvv-ah. Can I just say how much I adore this article?! Instead of the 13 week challenge it’s like the 52 week challenge and honestly, that sounds pretty GREAT to me right about now. So, kudos to Carson for not making me feel bad about scaling back my work load AND kudos for not posting more about Star Wars HAHAHAHHA! (Sorryyyyyyy… I really only like the original 3… the franchise lost me after Jar Jar Binks…) Happy new years everyone!!!

    • Malibo Jackk

      The world can only get happier.

    • Scott Serradell

      More Mayhem for the New Year? I welcome it! Nice to see you in these parts again.

  • klmn

    I’ve got a one location feature script that’s very polarizing. I’ve been thinking of rewriting it (and retitling it) , because I wrote it several years ago and can do better now. Shoot me an email if you want to hear more.

    kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

  • Angie

    Happy New Year to Carson and to Scriptshadow nation!

    This article is just what I was thinking about. I couldn’t keep up with the 13 week challenge but can try again with an old idea rolling around in my head for many years. It never seemed to gel into a complete, integrated story or screenplay. Now, it may be worth a try.

    Best to all,

  • Malibo Jackk

    Are any of your shorts on the web?
    If so, would you want to provide links?
    Could any be expanded to a feature?

  • Poe_Serling

    HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone! …

    No matter the stomping grounds – from the EXT. BUSY CITY SIDEWALK to

    Between watching college football and some parade action, I’m over halfway
    through my Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy.

    A screenwriting thought from my annual TZ jaunt:


    You just never know where or when it might strike.

    It always amazes how many of these classic TZ episodes seem to have
    been the springboard for about every other sci-fi/horror film out there.

    From the current Annabelle horror franchise (Living Doll) to M. Night’s The
    Village (A Hundred Yards Over the Rim).

    Or outright remakes… Real Steel (Steel).

    And no doubt the original writers of TZ were inspired by a ton of their
    own sources too.


    Keep reading and watching… and just being an active participant in
    everything around you.

    Then find something unique in all those experiences and turn into a
    creative endeavor of some sort (script, film, short story, graphic
    novel, and so on).

    And remember;

    “Imagination… its limits are only those of the mind itself.”

    –Rod Serling


    • Scott Crawford

      For years I’ve tried to find interviews, behind the scenes trivia, all sorts of things to find out what inspired , you know, great movies and great scripts and great books. Often it wasn’t you think.

      * RUTHLESS PEOPLE, despite what SO many people will tell you, was not based on O Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Writer Dale Launer was inspired by the kidnap of Patty Hearst.

      * ROBOCOP was combination of two ideas by two different writers who then decided to write together. One had a script about a robot cop, the other about a genetically-enhanced cop. Put ‘em together and…

      * ARMAGEDDON was two different ideas by the SAME writer, Jonathan Hensliegh, one about a man who has visions of a meteor heading for Earth, the other a story about oil rig roughnecks. Put ‘em together and… Actually, it was his wife, the legendary Gale Anne Hurd, who suggested putting them together. The title came from Joe Roth, then head of Disney films. When Hensleigh pitched the idea he said “It’s like armageddon” and Joe Roth immediately said “That’s the title.” (They had to buy the title from Joel Silver.).

      * When Joe Roth read the script for 58 MINUTES, based on the book by Walter Wager, he thought it was such a ripoff of DIE HARD that they might as well make it DIE HARD 2. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was adapted from the spec script “Simon Says” by Jonathan Hensleigh while LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is based no the script WW3.COM which in turn was based on a magazine article “A Farewell to Arms” about future cyberwarfare.

      * Other movies based on magazine articles include SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, URBAN COWBOY, CON AIR, BLUE CRUSH, PROOF OF LIFE and, famously, TOP GUN. Simpson and Bruckheimer, after the failure of THIEF OF HEARTS, were purposefully looking through magazines for ideas when they saw a picture of a pilot standing in front of “the biggest fucking plane you’ve ever seen.” (It was a F-14.). They pitched it as “Star Wars on Earth.”

      * Don Simpson claimed to have come up with the idea for BEVERLY HILLS COP based on his experiences as someone from Alaska moving to LA. Michael Eisner claimed that HE came up the idea AND the title (Eisner helped pioneer the term “high-concept” while working on TV in the 60s and 70s). Jerry Bruckheimer diplomatically concedes that they were probably BOTH right.

      * Sylvester Stallone, famously, was attached to BEVERLY HILLS COP, and wrote a version of the script with the main character called Axel “Cobra” Cobretti, but it was rejected for being too expensive. SOME of the ideas – and the name Cobretti – were used in his screenplay COBRA. That movie, essentially Rambo in the LAPD, was supposedly adapted from a book called “Fair Game” by Paula Gosling, but bears little resemblance beyond the plot of a cop trying to protect a woman from murder. A slightly (not very) more faithful adaptation called FAIR GAME was written in the 1990s, again to star Stallone. The setting was even changed to Miami where Stallon lived at the time. It ended up starring Billy Baldwin and Cindy Crawford. And it was bloody awful.

      * The story of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM was built around set pieces conceived for but ultimately not used in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

      * INTO THE BLUE is a fairly obvious remake/new adaptation of THE DEEP, only with the locations, characters, plot points, and set pieces all changed. Writer sold it for $500,000.

      That’ll do for now.

      • brenkilco

        Supposedly The Third Man arose from a single sentence that occurred randomly to author Graham Greene

        ‘I had paid my last farewell to Harry a week ago, when his coffin was lowered into the frozen February ground, so that it was with incredulity that I saw him pass by, without a sign of recognition, amongst a host of strangers in the Strand.’

        Billy Wilder’s The Apartment supposedly was inspired by the director watching Brief Encounter. The couple has an abortive assignation at a third party’s flat and Wilder got to wondering about he guy who had lent them the apartment.

  • klmn


    • Kirk Diggler
      • klmn

        Did it ever leave the dock?

    • Scott Crawford

      Yes. But rather than waiting, I’d think you’d be better off spending that time writing or trying to make the short film yourself. Just saying. Or turn the short into a feature or a pilot. MUCH better idea.

    • 1st10

      I got my money on a “One Year Anniversary Announcement.” That would be Monday March 12th. Gives Carson exactly 10 weeks to put a bow on this whole thing, once and for all.

  • lonestarr357

    Knocked out four pages on a new script today. No big.

  • Justin

    Kicked off the new year by “officially” starting on a treatment for my pilot episode. And working on finishing the first draft of my feature by the end of January. And finishing up my internship for the film company. And (still) working on that spec script for the producer. And starting my classes next week.

    …Sigh. It’s gonna be a busy year. Fuck.

  • Adam McCulloch

    I’m aiming to write either two new scripts this year or one new one and substantially re-write one I previously thought was finished. This year has started well with another short piece published in the inaugural issue of Coffin Bell literary mag,


    I know it probably seems off topic for a screenwriting forum but, for me, it feels as if it all contributes towards the same goal for 2018.

  • jbird669

    My 2018 goals? REWRITE! That’s my weakest aspect and I always feel I need someone else to read it before I can do it. I have to work on it first before I give it to anyone else. I have Brick House to work on, 2 others to re-write and 1 I’m going to start later this year.