Sorry for yet another delay in getting this out – trundled through a birthday, continuing work on the script and now have come down with a fun cold. I LIVE A SOLDIER’S LIFE BECAUSE I AM A CHAMPION OF SOLDIERING ON. Despite my aggressive soldiering, however, the updates this week shall be presented with minimal commentary by yours truly. I apologize to the none of you who are truly upset about this turn of events. Must save what precious little space is left in the brainmeats.

On to the Selected Ten – who, at the time of this writing, have just a tic over two weeks to set their scripts in stone and foist them upon the world via the Black List:


“Ahoy hoy, it’s Bubbe Bennett here. After being christened the Jewish mother of the group (that doesn’t work does it?), I’ve decided to thoroughly embrace my new Jewish heritage in time for Rosh Hashanah.

Mazel tov! Rabbi!

In completely unrelated news, I also spent the last 4 days in Miami. For those of you who have never been to Miami, it’s preposterously, bafflingly brilliant. It was with work sadly, plus is was raining pretty much throughout, but I still loved it. I drank rum, I watched lightning storms deep in the ocean, I had a blast. What has that got to do with writing? Nothing. But this is my weekly update, so shut up.

So, we’ve got three weeks left, and in a break from your regular broadcast, I’m mega excited! There are no worries, no panic, no scares. Now I just write the next version. But what if it sucks? Give. A. Fuck! I’m on that post-modernist, new wave, Kanye West shit from here on out. Now it’s time for some balls out / to the wall hot writing action. In the straight to TV movie of my life, this is where Shannon Elizabeth would turn up.

There is a motto that I have, that keeps me writing, keeps me motivated – ‘Just be better than everyone else.’ But Bubbe, are you saying you’re the next Aaron Sorkin, or Quentin Tarantino? Yes, I am.

I’m not. ‘Just be better than everyone else’ means tell the story you really want to tell. Don’t try to tell stories you think they want to hear. Just be better than everyone else in doing what you’re best at. As Marge Simpson would say ‘You don’t win friends with salad.’

So give them the meat.

Shannon Elizabeth would probably say that line.”

In my opinion, always helpful to step away for a bit before you start a rewrite. Fresh mind, fresh eyes, time to ponder. Yay.


“Being part of a writing team allows you to worry in shifts. Last week was Jesse’s turn to lose his shit. But this week he’s entered a Zen-like calm and is coolly churning out pages. So now Jerren’s up. He’s freaking out about his pages, about the deadline, about where he and his fiancée are going to eat. Whatever he’s doing, he does it at a fever pitch. It doesn’t help that Jesse keeps saying out loud, ‘Dude, I’m so calm. Look at my hands.’ And now constantly wears sunglasses when he writes.

We had a big realization this week. In the beginning of the challenge, we worried whether we’d picked the right script to write. Not because we didn’t love it, but because we knew it wouldn’t be easy to pull off. We had three solid ideas to choose from, and we thought two of them were ‘more in line’ with what we usually do, what our supposed style is. (Though we like to think we had a lot of variety going on in our past projects). The third idea–the one we ultimately went with–well, we thought it would be overwhelming, that it required a certain degree of research that we didn’t have time for, and a certain degree of responsible writing that we maybe couldn’t pull off. Most importantly, we didn’t think we could put our personal stamp on it.

Now, after four weeks of writing and updating, this script has become the most personal project we’ve worked on together. We both think the script COULD be super fucking cool. We’ve seen glimpses in our pages of what this could look like if we keep hitting the right notes. Because our process had never been truly tested in a pressure-cooker situation like this, we wanted to maybe go the easier route. That was dumb. The tight timeline has been an unbelievable motivator. It’s created an urgency that can be hard to manufacture without a deadline. Additionally, the weekly updates have clarified a lot for us. We’ve never had to detail our process before, and doing so has crystallized what (and what doesn’t) work. If we had known this stuff in our ‘der, which script?’ deliberations, it would have been much easier to just immediately go with the idea we were scared of, to trust that our process would get us through.

On the actual writing side of things, one thing we’ve been focusing on is not forcing jokes. It’s tempting, especially in the early going when we’re still figuring out our characters, to just jam-pack punch lines into the script in lieu of authentic character moments. It’s a nice thing to fall back on when we’re finding their voices, but we’ve had to remind ourselves that the more realistic our characters are, the better our jokes will be. The nice thing about this script is that we have a built-in device/story line that allows us to hit some bigger laughs, to be a little broad and heightened, but then we can still scale it back when we need to and have our characters just speak and behave like people.”

I like all of this.


“It’s nearly 3am and once again, I am lying awake and my mind is chewing over this bastard script.

I have to be honest – I am sick to the back teeth of it. I’m supposed to be on holiday, but I am spending the majority of my time either sitting down and writing, or being mentally distracted by my story while ostensibly doing something else. It’s starting to piss off my girlfriend.

I normally devour books while on holiday, but this time it’s impossible. I can’t get into them, as my mind is constantly drawn back to my work.

I almost swam into a sizeable jellyfish yesterday afternoon because I was thinking about how to make a particular sequence less shit.

But let’s be positive – I have an almost finished story down on scene cards. A big structural problem was solved when I excised an entire sub-plot because I could see that it was bolted on and did not serve any useful purpose but simply slowed down the pace.

It’s clear we all approach this in different ways, and I was worried that I was getting it wrong since a lot of the ten seemed to be blazing away at the screenplay stage very early on. For me, I have to know exactly what happens in each scene, and the whole story constructed, before I start laying down the script and dialogue. But I’m almost ready.

I knew this was going to be hard work, but I very definitely underestimated just how hard. And I have no way of knowing if what I have come up with is any good, or absolute drivel. Not long til I find out!”

Worried at the chances of Damian having shot himself in the foot by pre-writing this much. Hopefully this worrying is unfounded, but suffice to say I think he has an uphill climb at this juncture.


“I’m now working on the ‘penultimate’ draft of my screenplay. In a dark and twisted way, this is my favorite part of the editing process. I get to vandalize my own pages. I print out my script and go through it page by page, editing by hand. I make notes in the margins. I highlight themes and circle important plot points. I make squiggly underlines under the dialogue that I need to rework. I keep track of the biggest issues on a separate sheet of paper. What can I say? It’s complicated but so necessary. I love it.

I scanned the edited document and side by side, I will start from the beginning and apply the handwritten notes. I have the physical copy on my actual desk so that I can jump back and forth, tying up loose ends and planting seeds. Once I am finished with this draft, I’ll let someone else look at it. Maybe.
[I tend to keep my scanned edits, just in case something comes up in the future.]

So I just finished the handwritten edits on my screenplay, and let me tell you, this first draft was a car crash that I should have seen coming. In an effort to move quickly through the story and get it down on paper, I made a TON of small errors (mostly syntax and grammar) but I also made a few glaring story mistakes that I’ll have to work out in the rewrites. It shouldn’t be a too much of a problem, it’s just going to take a long time.

Time to get back to it!”

Love Chris’s approach to melding the digital and the tangible. Cannot recommend you try hand-written notes enough. Something about the act of physically writing deepens your connection to the material psychologically.


“I walked away from my first draft for a couple days, after giving it to some people to read. My exclusive harem of feedbackers is composed of two groups. Folks in Group 1 are genetically obligated to love everything I write–but awesome at catching typos. Group 2 is made up of screenwriters I only know via the interweb, so they have no problem ripping my heart out of my chest Temple of Doom style whenever my actual writing is unclear and/or unfunny and/or the worst.

I fixed everything the first group pointed out, and MOST of what the second group took issue with. At the end of the day I have to trust my lady beer gut to steer me in the right direction. There were times when I asked myself, ‘Self, what should I do?’ And my self was like, ‘You’re a grown woman. Do whatever the fuck you want.’ So I did.

It was unnerving how much I still loved my pages when I came back to them. Sure, the bitch needs botox and a nose job. But I couldn’t fault the bone structure….which isn’t reassuring at all because I’M only smart enough to know how dumb I am. (Insert long, drawn out sigh.)

I do take considerable comfort in sharing this experience with everyone. Speaking of comfort, it’s especially nice to know Delaney and I both find solace in the exact same children’s pasta entrees. We also have identical neuroses, leading me to the obvious conclusion that we’re estranged test tube twins and oh god I just realized I’m the DeVito.”

Enraptured applause to Rachel for taking criticism AND sticking to her instincts at the same time. Love love love this update.


“Helllo, all. Shorter update this week because work has been craaaaazy.

I can see the sun on the horizon. The promised land. Where the jokes flow freely and the scenes grow tall and strong. I’m of course talking about…

Act 3.

Act 3 is probably my favorite. It’s the culmination of everything. Jokes that seem stupid or unnecessary in the depths of Act 1 and Act 2 make more sense and have bigger payoffs. It’s where your characters on our their last thread and are fighting to keep what shreds of dignity, family, and limbs they have left. It’s joyful madness.

And bunches of fun. And best of all, the easiest (for me) because that’s where a lot of my outlining and planning took place. For me, what happens in Act 3 is dictated by what happens in Act 1 and 2, so why not start there? Also, Act 3 takes place in a single location, which is doing wonders for my creatively exhausted brain. I’ll keep trucking on, because endings are the best part, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a LIAR.”

Intrigued that Dan’s third act takes place in only one location. Lots of pitfalls in such an approach – and lots of cool opportunities too.


“So this past week I’ve read and re-read my previous draft. Asking questions of my characters. I sometimes have to force my more taciturn characters to open up, but these two (protagonist and antagonist) just won’t shut up. Perhaps why they are well-matched. 

This process has helped a lot with coming up with new scene ideas for the new draft. I have what I think is a workable outline. I won’t say it’s good until the whole thing is actually good, which I hope, God willing, will happen a few drafts from now.  It might even happen with this draft. We’ll see what my own hyper-critical eyes and the Black List readers say.

More questions must be asked.  More pushing will be done. More choices will be made. But that’s in the future.

A big challenge this week was something quite mundane – filing! I’ve got a million notes in a million different places. I had to gather them all up so that I wouldn’t lose any insights.

Was feeling a little homesick this week, so I did what I usually do – watch a few Hindi movies. Even though India isn’t home for me, they somehow manage to do the trick.

I highly recommend Kai Po Che, an independent (I think) Hindi movie, now streaming on Netflix. It was set in Gujurat, rather than London or New York, where every other Bollywood movie seems to be set (don’t ask me why). It had three very relatable protagonists. And best of all, it had a little Muslim kid who was a prodigy at cricket. No, not at bomb-making or wife-beating. At cricket. He gave his poor father – a Muslim man involved in state politics and, judging from the workers in his home, a bridal tailor –  hell with his sullen behavior and fighting. But when he played cricket, he mellowed.

Yeah, towards the end, their being Muslim became a plot point. But still, it was nice to see Muslim people on screen just being normal. Going about their daily lives. Working, fighting, playing, raising their kids. Happythankyoumoreplease. Which is why I’m writing what I’m writing.

Oh yeah and I can’t think of a good title for my screenplay. My working title seems to be it for now – Alien Love Story. What do you guys think?

Will be jumping into pages today. Godspeed, #sixweekspec –tacles.”

Trend this week seems to be “Stepping Away for a Minute” – which, again, I highly advocate. I share Sabina’s issues with fabricating titles. I wish I shared her love of Bollywood.


“Had a pretty good week. Last week was the ‘I should quit this whole stupid thing and TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD’ week. I think I was feeling a similar thing that Sabina mentioned – a mini crisis of faith. That, and I totally related to Delaney’s post about not feeling like I had the skills to do my story justice. And Dan’s post about how Act Two sucks. Basically – everyone who was struggling with anything last week, I related.

But I combatted these feelings by just forging ahead, and I got a lot of good writing done since then. I’m sure someone’s mentioned this already (maybe I have), but allowing myself to write crap, garbage scenes has been extremely helpful. It’s so much better to write a total shit scene, than to stare at a blank page for an hour. Because of this, my first draft will definitely be rough – and way too long. I’m around page 90 and still have a fair amount of story left to tell. As I was figuring out my characters, I meandered a little, so I have some scenes that probably won’t be missed at all. But, it’s good that I wrote them, because they helped me get a clear picture of who these idiots are. I’m glad this draft will be way too long, because I’ll have a solid objective for draft 2 – cut a LOT. Cut everything that doesn’t move the story forward. And I love cutting.

It’s still intimidating that people are done with their first draft already, and I’m not. I wish I were faster, but it is really hard for me to write a ton in one sitting. After I write a particularly strong, or emotional scene, I need a break! I need to think about something else for awhile! I need to go stare at the wall! I THINK by next week I’ll be done with a first draft. But, damn, these weeks are going by fast.”

If all Emily gets out of this experience is a sense of commiseration and a gelling of her process as a writer, this will have been a huge success. I think she’s going to pick up more than just those, though.


“You know how runners say there’s that ‘high’ they sometimes hit where they feel as though they could run for ever and ever and ever? Is there a screen writing equivalent to that? If so, I think I just hit it earlier today.

That’s not to say I killed my goals for this week. I’m not quite where I want to be, but it’s cool ’cause I’m not really sweating it. Okay, I’m sweating it a little. But not nearly as much as I expected I would or probably should.

My point is I’ve finally gotten to that point where I don’t really want to stop writing / thinking about writing. I’m finally enjoying my story. The fear that I’m not funny, witty, smart, etc. enough to write it is still there, but it’s been rearing it’s ugly head less and less lately. Writing my favorite scene (thus far) probably helped that a little. Or a lot.

There were also a lot of holes in my story I finally patched up this week. I always knew how I wanted my story to begin and how I wanted it to end but I had some shit in the middle missing until just a few days ago. Now they’re filled with ideas I don’t completely hate. I also replaced my very mediocre opening scene with a slightly less mediocre opening scene. Overall, exciting progess.

As for page numbers, I’m in the 70’s. (Someone please tell me if I should be legitimately worried about this.)

Let’s see… I think that might be it. Mostly good stuff from me this week. All hell is due to break loose this time next week ’cause, ya know, it’ll be October. Holy shit.”

On page numbers: remember that, for the vast majority of scripts, 1 page = 1 minute of screen time. So if you’re sitting on only 70 pages and your script is finished, you’ve probably got some more work to do. If you’ve still got stuff to write, you’re probably in good shape.


“The writing retreat thing went pretty well. I won’t bore (disgust) you with tales of the drop toilet and the time I heard a noise outside and WENT TO CHECK WHAT IT WAS LIKE A HORROR MOVIE DROOLING IDIOT. I am now on page 68 and I think I have the bulk of the story. I have practically no description and the action is limited to stuff like ‘A picks up the stick’ and ‘B enters’. So I’m fairly certain I can make up another 20 pages telling the reader what the hell is actually going on.

Since I have come back I decided to step away from it for a couple of days. Last night I let myself think about why it’s just not very good. I think I have a logical plot, lots of conflict, and interesting characters. So what’s wrong? I think it’s that it all feels a bit easy. I’m putting the characters into very dangerous situations, but there is not a feeling of real fear and threat of true loss. I’m trying to write something fun, but I still think without those moments it’s not satisfying. So I need to stoke up my fires of blackness and despair.

I’ll need some of that panic to get me over the line as well. 20 days to go and I’ve slowed way down. Soon I’ll be forcing four poor professional readers to sift through my garbage. Fuck. Yeah, I think that worked.”

Once again, there’s the need to step away. Once again, my guess is that it will cast a positive spell on the script itself.


That’s it for this week – check back in next, when hopefully I won’t feel like I’m dying.


Quick turnaround this week along with a rapidly-ticking clock: all you writers have officially LESS THAN ONE MONTH left to write. IT IS CRAZYTOWN UP IN…WHEREVER YOUR TOWN IS.

Let’s check in on the Selected Ten, shall we? Yes. Let’s shall. Funny/interesting note: several of these guys sent in their weekly summaries with a note saying some form of, “Um…sorry, this week’s entry is long. Really long.” Good thing I didn’t try to make anyone adhere to that two-paragraph bullshit, eh?


“So we haven’t yet talked much about the benefits of being a team, but we’ve hit the time when that aspect is definitely informing the way we’re going about this slash getting us through this.

The way we generally work is Jerren writes ahead at a pace Jesse considers to be superhuman, laying down the skeleton of the story, while Jesse spends time focusing on how our main characters speak and act. Jesse’s scenes then get dropped into the skeleton and Jerren keeps blasting ahead. At this point Jesse begins a pass starting from PAGE ONE wherein he’s revising and, in theory, trimming. (When either one of us ‘edits’ a scene, it often ends up longer. This became very apparent when the skeleton draft hit 84 pages and we were in early ACT II stuff.) So being a two-person team gives us the ability to get to the “editing/revising” phase before even technically finishing a draft.

We know the big Act III beats, so Jerren has jumped ahead and started on that stuff, working backwards to meet Jesse in the middle, like a rogue wave (if we understand rogue waves correctly). The tricky thing is that any change Jesse makes can have far-reaching implications for future beats that Jerren is writing. Likewise, Jerren sometimes realizes that we haven’t sufficiently set something up that needs to be addressed early on. The interesting result is that the middle of the story, the belly of the beast (Act II if you want to call it that), is constantly changing. This is a huge benefit and also a challenge. It requires a LOT of checking in.

For this process to work, it is imperative that our “voices” match, that it becomes impossible to tell where one of us stops writing and the other begins (as Geoff so graciously brought up at the start of all this). It is something we’ve worked hard at on all our projects together, leading to this.

This brings up another crucial benefit to working as a team: Having a pal! (To boost morale/confidence). We were writing long hours during Week 2, mostly apart, so we both inevitably had moments of second-guessing that sometimes turned the corner into deep existential panic. There has been a lot of late-night emailing. Here are some excerpts, along with translations:

From Jesse: ‘I did 3 shifts today and still have a ways to go. Lollllllllllll.  I’m a little anxious about my pace vs. the deadline, but I hope we’re still in good shape. ‘

Jerren knows Jesse well enough to understand that this translates, roughly, to: I am fucking freaking all the way the fuck out.

From Jerren: ‘If it makes you feel better, I’m actually way intimidated by the scenes you’ve been turning out. It usually takes me so long to get to a point where I’m even ready to show YOU stuff, and we’re skipping that step because of the time limit, and it’s making me just full up on self-doubt.’

 Rough translation: Actually, exactly what he said. This was a very honest, confessional email. What a mensch.

 This initiated a series of frank, VERY intimate messages wherein personal insecurities were expressed and much appreciation and support was offered in return. CAPS LOCK featured heavily. Jerren wanted to include this part, but Jesse felt like: can we maybe keep some mystique intact here?”

I am fascinated by these guys and their process. I want to point out: THEY’RE WRITING THESE UPDATES TOGETHER. Their seamlessness in such kind of blows my mind. Way, way back in the day – we’re talking late 90s/early 00s here – I attempted to write a script with a partner (I had totally forgotten about this until very recently). It was kind of a halfhearted attempt, and the script was terrible and I had no business trying to write such a thing, but my writing partner was (and still is) a very cool and passionate guy with a shit-ton of creativity…and I just couldn’t do the sharing-the-stage thing. Still can’t. Probably never will. My ego is too inflated and my need for control too consuming. So I’m duly impressed by two extremely talented people that can blend their voices together and make it work. I am genuinely excited for their script, and I think you should be too.


“Week 3: Page count 44. This week has been a hoot, a cracker, a bobbydazzler! I’m in a sweet spot where I understand my characters well enough that I can put them in a situation and everything flows from there, but I haven’t run out of scenes to write yet. The only thing I’m struggling with this glorious week is budget. I have way more things going BOOM than I meant to. They’re important BOOMs though. There’s stakes and drama and character growth and shit. I’ve decided at this stage to not let it hold me back. This is going to be my aspirational spec and the next can be more realistic. I’m focusing on what works for me to get it finished, and just to try and have fun with it.

I feel I should report on the wine-as-literary-lubricant experiment. I did write a few pages, but it quickly devolved into inappropriate instant messages. What did work was to sit with a friend across a desk and make each other feel awkward about slacking off. I wrote 10 pages in 4 hours with that method. If you don’t have a writers group then find one. Those wonderful people do amazing things to my writing quality and productivity.

If you don’t hear from me again it’s because I am spending a long weekend alone in a caravan. I’m hoping to finish a first draft of at least 70 pages and to not be murdered.”

First of all, let’s pray like gangbusters for Claire and her caravan-based safety. Second, it’s great to see that Claire seems to be breaking through a little bit and getting more comfortable within her story – and she has PLENTY of time to get all the way there. Third, while I’ve never personally worked in a writer’s group, I have worked in group writing settings (in the industry we call them “roundtables”, which I love more than anything), and let me tell you…sometimes there’s nothing more productive than bouncing your ideas off other smart people. DO IT. But lastly, I want to highlight something Claire’s worried about that no aspiring writer should never be: the “budget” of your script. First of all (hey looks like we’re doing this counting thing again), your script has no budget. It does not exist. It is imaginary at best, and it’s not even for your imagination. Second of all, coming up with a budget and/or worrying about what it might be IS NOT YOUR JOB. It is someone else’s entirely, and they get paid very well to figure it out. And third, just write. Just write. If you get lucky enough that your script is in front of someone who wants to make it but they think some stuff needs to come out to make it more economically feasible, worry about it then and only then. Until that point, JUST. WRITE.


“I’m worried.

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting any sympathy. #SixWeekSpec will be full of tweets such as ‘Old cocky-locky Bennett with his completed first draft is worried, I’ll save my tears for the children starving in Africa (which I hate, the situation that is, not the children)’.

Let’s back it up a bit. I read my script all the way through for the first time. I’d spent a few days away from it. I went in with soft eyes (Oh Prez, how I miss you). Afterwards, I felt pretty darn good. I mean, it wasn’t anywhere near good enough to submit. But, my story, it was there, hidden in the rough.

Why am I worried I didn’t hear you ask. I’m worried about what to do next. I have 130 pages sat before me. I have a laundry list of things I know I need to do. I am struggling to know where to start.

There is only so much I can accomplish in the remaining time I have. What should I work on the most? Is it the plot? Is it the characters? Should I just make the whole thing funnier? How many pages do I need to cut? When should I get people to read it? What do I usually struggle with? How many days do I have left? Ideally I would work on all of those things.

But, I’ve had an apostrophe, lightning has just struck my brain (Oh Bob, how I miss you). Any of the Selected Ten who say that they’re not secretly hoping for four 10/10s is a liar and a braggart. We’d all love that, if someone were to receive that they’d be made King or Queen of Hollywood. But I cannot write with that goal in mind, I must write the story I wanted to tell in the first place. It will not be perfect, it will need work, but it will be my story, it will be my voice. That is all I can do.

Still worried though.”

Ah yes. The fear. When you hear the old saying, “Writing is rewriting,” you often don’t hear the afterwhisper, “And terrifying as a crispy fucking hell.” Louis faces a daunting specter: potentially having to cut 30 pages out of his script. And when you’re happy with what you’ve written, you don’t want ANY of it to go. And yet, you must start culling pieces of you. There is no escape. Good luck, Louis. Also, I’ve nominated you the Selected Ten’s Jewish Mother of the Year.


“Happy to report I finished my first draft. I was worried that going into this with an outline might stifle me in some way, or discourage me from changing course as I went along. Fortunately that wasn’t the case at all. It was nice having a battle plan, but once I got down into the trenches…parts of my “strategy” induced so many forehead slaps that I’m pretty sure I knocked myself unconscious at one point.

So I deviated as necessary. Even when there was nothing technically bad about an aspect of the story as I’d conceived it, I still found myself coming up with better options on the fly. Everything stayed fluid.

That said, I’ll definitely stick to this process of creating an outline going forward. Even though doing it sucked like a Hoover, and some of it wound up either altered or discarded–when I got to the actual writing, to the FUN part, it felt so much more focused and productive right from the beginning. It was like it helped me tap into the good stuff sooner.

Like the effort I put into outlining was me shaking the mustard bottle so I wouldn’t get that gross dribble of neon yellow water when I took the cap off. (I guess another option would be to use my brain more often so it doesn’t have a chance to settle and separate in the refrigerator. But whatever.) First draft done!”

Congrats to Rachel on finishing, but an even bigger congrats for finding a process from FADE IN to FADE OUT that worked for her as well as it did. Make no mistake about it: the ability to adapt on the fly and know if you need to shutter an old idea for a newer one is a skill you will spend the rest of your writing career developing, and it will NEVER be a sure thing. But when you learn to get it right more often than not, you’re in a very, very good place. Now Rachel enters Louisland and the inception of the first rewrite. Fingers crossed.


“It’s been a week in which I have done almost no formal writing work, but where I have been gifted a couple of golden story nuggets all the same. I think I am still in credit at the bank but will very shortly be overdrawn unless I sit sit down and put the graft in.

It was my last week at the day job before my summer holiday, and those weeks are always heavy going. It was also my rota’d weekend, and I then had to pack and get us to our holiday destination, which took 2 days. So I have a proper sick note from matron.

I’m stuck in Act 3. I know how it starts and how it ends but I don’t know how to get there. But that’s ok; I now have 2 weeks on a small Greek Island, with more time available than I know what to do with. That’s a double-edged sword; I work to deadlines every day of my professional life, and deadlines have a way of making you turn in the goods. Too much time could easily lead to a sense of beer today, writing tomorrow, but I know it’ll be ok. I’m working to a 6-week deadline anyway.

I have absolutely no fear of not finishing in time, but I have plenty of misgivings about the quality of what I am producing. Part of me feels that since we only have 6 weeks to write an entire screenplay, no-one can reasonably expect it to be any good. A bigger part of me wants to believe I can actually produce a gem-quality script in that short timeframe. Dangerous thinking which is very likely to lead to big disappointment, but being knocked back is as much a function of being a writer as anything else.

I have no words of wisdom to offer fellow embryonic writers save for one: when you do the work, when you sit at your desk or table and actually write, in a way that makes you tired and gives you a headache, things start to happen. Ideas and thoughts do accrete, and come to you seemingly out of the blue, often when you are least expecting it.

This is my third script in 10 years. My first was pretty good, the second (following a 9-year gap) was utter rubbish, and I hope to be able to say my third is the best so far. We shall see.”

Fun Fact: Damian posted a picture of the island he’s on (https://twitter.com/DamianONeilBBC/status/512892239304200192/photo/1) and all the beach umbrellas there look like penises. Neat! Damian also assured me that some of the locals’ penises look like umbrellas, so he seems pretty set to me.


“This update is a play in two parts called, ‘The Two Fucks’.


Ugh, fuck Act 2.

So for that reason, I’m doing Act 3 first. When I plan out a movie in my head, paper, or Etch-a-sketch, I always start by picturing the beginning and the end. That great attention-grabbing scene paired with that touching, emotionally fulfilling ending. They’re like the delicious, butter roasted buns of a meaty movie sandwich. From there, you simply find the right lettuce, roast beef, ham, bacon, cheese, and everything in between to slot inside for an enjoyable cinematic experience.

Geoff described his screenwriting method on Broken Projector one week about just sailing forward and seeing where the story takes him. That blows my mind, because I have no idea how he does it. My brain needs to know where all the ingredients go before I can start roasting that hamburger. But even then…

Ugh, fuck writing jokes.

Writing jokes is the best and worst part of screenwriting. When a joke just pops into your head that you will just fucking kill at that moment in the script? It’s the closest thing to a magic I will ever experience. But when you’re coming up like California in the past six months (read: dry), it’s a damn slog. (See that garbage ‘joke’ I just wrote? That was painful.)

That is compounded by the fact that I come home from work after spending 10 hours with some of the funniest people I know. The ONN writing staff at the Onion is cranking out what seems like five thousand jokes a day. They’re an endless bowl of funny soup, and some days it seems the only thing keeping me sane is that I have, on average, eight years before I ‘have’ to be as funny as they are.

Have being in quotes because, well, if I wanna play with the big dogs, I gotta be that funny now. But for now, back to the joke mine.”

I know how Dan feels. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, do I know how Dan feels – about the jokes. There is pure terror as a comedy writer – and I’ve spoken about this before – that you’re going to sit down one day to write and find out you’re just not funny anymore. Or that you never were in the first place. “What if I’m out of jokes? What if I can’t get it back? What if I never had it to begin with?” It is absolutely maddening, and the only thing you can do is write and pray for the best. And you know what I’ve figured out? The jokes always come. Always. As for Act II issues, welcome to probably the greatest existential bane in the history of writerdom. Act II is tricky as shit – you have to keep the story going forward, but you have to keep knocking your hero back a bit. You have to learn SOME things, but you have to save others for Act III. You need to pay off beats from the first act and create NEW beats to be paid off in the next. Of all the Acts, it’s the most philosophically retarded. Goddamn it all to hell. Sorry I don’t have anything here for you, Dan. Just keep on truckin’ and focusing on making the pages turn-worthy at the very least.


“I just finished writing the climax of my screenplay and I pushed all the way through to the FADE OUT. I still have a handful of scenes I have to go back and write, but I am confident that I have a solid skeleton to build on and refine in the coming three weeks.

I think it is important to take a break from your writing time to time in order to ‘cleanse your palette.’ Tunnel vision is a real thing, and I can see my scenes becoming more narrow as I get toward the end of the screenplay because all I want to do is get there. Sometimes it’s easiest to just push through a scene with expository dialogue and making the intent of the scene outwardly obvious, before coming back to it later and reworking the dialogue to be not so ‘on the nose.’ That is why, quite frequently, my very first draft of any script comes in shorter than I expected. Accordingly, I won’t post my page count on this update, but I will tell you that I have currently written 17,082 words (although this quantifier is essentially meaningless).

Unfortunately, my writing schedule has become somewhat more sporadic than I would have liked. I’m in the process of finding work in Los Angeles while sleeping on my brother’s couch, but I do have a few days off a week where I can find solid blocks of time to work. This weekend I have two full days to myself, so I should be able to write those last scenes and next week start working on my ‘Penultimate Draft’ (more on this next update).”

And we have our third finisher of a draft! WHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, these guys are flying. I couldn’t agree more with Chris about walking away from your writing every now and then for a matter of perspective. In every script I write, without fail, I’ll come up with a handful of jokes that are so good that I’m positive I’m going to walk out of my office and get blown by angels…and then I come back an hour or a day later and all I can see is the worst fucking writing by the worst fucking writer that ever lived anywhere ever. Likewise,  I’ve been positive I was never going to crack a certain scene, only to walk off to clear my head and crack it ten minutes later. Your focus can indeed narrow, and sometimes you just need a goddamned break. Give yourself one.


“Whoa. This week flew by. And my pace is slowing waaaay down. I think I wrote ten pages total. I’m at the point in my screenplay where I might be putting it down and working on something else for awhile if it wasn’t for this strict deadline. I’m pretty far into Act Two and writing this thing is becoming a lot more of a chore than the fun, quick Act One was. As always, my outline wasn’t quite as detailed as I thought it was. I’m winging it a lot more than I thought I’d have to.

I find myself avoiding my screenplay for as long as I possibly can throughout the day. I’ve been super productive in other areas, in an attempt to not feel quite as guilty about my neglect – I’ve been reading a ton, cleaning everything I own, exercising – but then I’ll get to my computer at about 8pm, feeling guilty as ever. When I wait all day to start writing, it creates this sense of dread towards my work, as if it’s been looming over me like a dark cloud all day. And that’s really not good. So this next week, I’m going to TRY to be one of those people who writes while the sun is still out.

Overall, this week kind of sucked. Act Two is hard.”

Another one bites the Act II wall. It is a real thing, and it is daunting. And the only thing I can say is: keep writing through it. Just get words on paper, make sure your ideas are somewhere in there, and come back to it as you need to. But also…don’t feel guilty walking away for a couple days. Sometimes you need to. Sometimes you need to allow yourself not to be stressed about it. And Emily? Give Dan a call. Maybe you two can force each other through the haze.


“I’m trying to feel more than think this week – my gut is much smarter than my brain. I don’t want to charge into things as much. My adrenaline levels are much lower, which is good for my health generally.

And my gut has been telling me that my protagonist is the key.

The odd thing is – I’ve never really written a single protagonist film. Ha! All of my films so far have been multi-protagonist.

Maybe that’s why I felt the need to experiment with structure. But I’ve realized – dude, I NEED that first act. To set up the protagonist, to build the world, to introduce the alien – the benefits of that first act are legion. I am however keeping what Linda Aronson calls a preview flashback- a little flash-forward right at the beginning to the second act turning point where the protagonist has lost everything. Hopefully the contrast between that and her cock-sure self in the first act will be enough to keep people flipping those pages.

I realize what I lost last week. Fun and joy. And hanging out with my characters is a lot of fun. I started a sci-fi novel when I was 19 and I had so much fun researching that I spent six years doing it and never really wrote the novel. Ha! I was probably too green to get it done anyway.

I also had a mini crisis of faith as well. It’s pretty normal around this time in a project. My husband says he can pretty much set his watch by my crises of faith. And he even parroted back to me what I usually say, ‘What am I doing? This is stupid. Nobody cares. I should just get a job. At least then my parents would be proud of me.’ He even imitated my voice. If you ever meet him, tell him I do NOT sound like that.

Jobs are funny things. For some reason, society gives you a badge of honor for killing yourself doing something you hate. I had all kinds of health problems when I had a 9-to-5. And I was generally good at what I did. I still got laid off twice and fired once. And in later years, I tried to get back into the workforce but like Legolas from Lord of the Rings, ‘the pain is too near’.

Still the old question was raised, not just by me, but by someone who wrote into John August and Craig Mazin – at what point do we say, ‘This isn’t working?’ I guess the answer is different for everybody. Chip and Dan Heath (who wrote this great book about decision-making called Decisive) might like me to put a deadline on it. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life so I can’t do that. But I’ll know that time when I see it. When I’ve done everything I can and screenwriting still isn’t working.

But right now, the only deadline I need to worry about is October 15th.

And goshdarn it, I’m happy writing and I feel better than I have in years. Without the over-eating and over-sleeping. I call that a victory.”

Anyone sensing a trend here? As we reach the halfway point, many of our Selected Ten are feeling the pressure condense. What they should see – and what many of you writing along should take to heart – is that this happens to EVERYONE at one point or another in one script or another. How you end up overcoming it or not simply comes down to how you choose to respond. And here’s the only important thing about that: it doesn’t matter HOW you respond, just that you do and get on with it. So figure it out. And get on with it. Yeah, that’s easy for me to say, but don’t make it harder to do than you need to.


“Remember that one time I mentioned I wasn’t really worried about this yet? Yeah, that’s all gone. Poof. Vanished.

The anxiety officially kicked in this week, but I’ve decided that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It made me realize I kinda need to get my shit together.

Looking back on my first two weeks, I was moving at the speed of a glacier. I don’t regret that, even though I cranked out pages at a significantly lesser pace than almost everyone else, because that’s what worked for me. For those who don’t really know me (aka everyone), it’s a truth universally acknowledged that I do pretty much everything at a much, much slower pace than the average person would. I walk slowly. I write slowly. I’m always still sitting at the dinner table 20 minutes after everyone else is done eating. That’s me. So I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that, after reading last week’s updates, I was miles behind some of you Energizer bunnies.

But I’ve finally realized that I can’t keep moving at this pace and expect to finish in six weeks. It’s probably not so much that I just realized, because I think I really knew all along, but I’m just now coming to terms with this harrowing fact.

Hence the anxiety.

I tried working at a super quick pace on Day One, because I heard that’s what all the cool kids were doing, and it felt weird to me. So I slowed way, way down. To be honest, it makes me nervous to speed things back up again. I’m out of my element, here. But to be equally honest, I’m also kind of excited to be writing in an environment that I’m not at all comfortable in. I feel like there’s a lot to learn in this situation. And to be ultimately honest, I really don’t have much of a choice if I want to finish this damn thing. So, roll tide.

I’m hoping to have an entire first draft and a partial second draft by this time next week.

In other news, I just want to say how much I love reading everyone’s updates. Y’all rock my socks. But Rachel in particular said something last week that I can one thousand percent relate to so I wanted to mention that quickly… She worries that her story’s great, but she’s not smart enough to write it. THIS FEELING IS WHAT MY NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF. Reading her update made me feel as if I was reading my own mind. I’ll go on the record and say that I think my story is awesome. Really. I’m in love. If my story got down on one knee and proposed, I’d say yes without any hesitation. But I’m now living in a constant fear that I’m not smart enough, funny enough, witty enough, whatever enough, to do the story justice. Not that I would wish that feeling on anyone, but it was nice to find out I wasn’t the only one experiencing it.

Also in other news, I started letting my friends read my script this week. I discovered I have exactly one friend who will give me something more than ‘this is good’ or ‘this is funny’ so she’s been extremely helpful. I originally didn’t want anyone to read my script until it was done, and I’m so fucking glad I changed my mind. She’s been helping me a ton with character development and pointed me out to a few different issues I didn’t even know I had. For example, the other day we were talking about my male lead character and she asked, ‘Is he supposed to be an asshole or are we supposed to like him?’ My response was, ‘Both.’ But I hadn’t really written a character that was both an asshole and likable. Or at least she didn’t think so. Of course I’m going to like this guy, I created him. But that doesn’t mean anyone else will. So she helped me realize that every once in a while I need to take a step back and try to read what I’ve written from the perspective of someone who didn’t write it. I honestly hadn’t thought about doing that before, so infinite snaps to my awesome friend.

Good lord, I rambled. This felt very much like free therapy. I’m already looking forward to next week’s session.”

Love that Delaney connected with something that Rachel was feeling, and I want to be very clear about something, and I mean this: I don’t think either of them have anything to worry about, but I’m glad they’re worrying. It shows they care, and it shows they doubt themselves, and the best writers use that to propel forward. So that’s great. I also want to speak to the light and the dark of Delaney having her friends read her script. On one hand, it is VITAL that you have someone that you trust to look over ALL your drafts. What Delaney experienced is, in my opinion, one of the reasons movies so often fail after going the whole way through the development process: the people who’ve worked on it are too close, they have the ENTIRE UNIVERSE of the story in their heads, and no one can see the holes or what’s missing. It’s impossible to – your brain fills in the gaps. Enter: your trusted reader. They are clutch. That in mind…no offense personally to Delaney’s friend, but people who don’t read scripts…you know, ever…are only going to help you to about 10% of the capacity you need them to. This is why it’s vital to make contacts with people who work in the industry and/or read scripts for a living in some form or another. These are the people you need. Find them however you can.



Some week, huh? Will the Selected Ten overcome? Will they be battered back? WILL THEY GIVE UP ENTIRELY???? Those pussies! Check back next week and see if they’ve written themselves out of trouble or into more of it.




Sorry for the delay on updates – wanted to give these guys a little room to breathe in their prep/first stages of writing, so we took last week off.


For my part: I’m still working on writing a pitch that I recently sold, and it’s taking a bit longer than expected – but in a good way. You can never say enough about working with the right creative team, and so far in my (very short) career, I’ve been lucky enough to be tethered to people who have the same vision for our projects – for the most part, at least. No exception this go-round, and what I’m really excited about is the fact that everyone wants to get it *right*. We’re not even remotely trying to reinvent the wheel here, nor are we imbuing some false sense of importance on our story. That being said, it still needs to work, and it still needs to sing, and most importantly it needs to be fun. And I can’t tell you how confidence inspiring it is to place those necessities above rapidity.

Also worth mentioning: since this WAS a pitch, I’ve been working off an outline, which is a double-edged sword for the way I work. I’ve spoken before about specs vs. assignments/pitches, and by nature the latter require a fleshed-out story to be conceived so you can walk into a room and make sure everyone knows EXACTLY what kind of movie you intend to write. These days, writers are required to do more than ever before when it comes to pitching – you’re expected to have every detail of the story down cold and be able to answer any questions about it at the click of a snap. And while it’s good to have all your core ideas set, it’s tough for someone like me who thrives off the improvisational aspects of writing – that is, writing yourself into the story as opposed to writing the story out as you’ve already planned it. It’s something I’ve always struggled with and that I’m STILL vying to make peace with on a creative level. I’m confident I’ll get there, but in the meantime, I’m frustrated with myself that I’ve not yet figured out how to optimize the process.

Based on my pitch, I have a responsibility to the studio and the producers – I am to deliver them the story I promised. And deliver it I will. And if I’m being honest, I’m VERY happy with what I’ve come up with so far. I’ve actually pleased myself, which, contrary to the way my substantial ego often shows its hand, is a tough feeling to come by on first drafts. That, again, I owe very much of that feeling to the people who are, so far, developing this story alongside me. So perhaps playing the tortoise in this particular race isn’t such a bad thing after all. I hope. Maybe this will be the adventure during which it all clicks into place. We’ll see.

Of course there’s always the frighteningly legitimate chance that I’m completely blowing it and this is my last ever spot of gainful employment as a writer. In which case I should let you all know that this has been an incredible amount of fun, and also, where can I learn how to write a resume and do you have any applications I can fill out?

Onto the Selected Ten:


“I have a confession. It’s something I’m hesitant to admit openly. I’ve finished my first draft. And I feel awful.

I finished my first draft in nine days. Part of me thinks that this should be cause for celebration. That it gives me five weeks to rewrite the hell out of this script. That part of me is an idiot. A romantic, and a fool.

I have never written a script this fast, ever. I tried something new with my outlining. I broke my story up into eight 15 minute chunks. I wanted something to happen every 15 minutes, and I wanted to be building up to that each time. I had an index card for, roughly, every 2 minutes. It was a lot of index cards.

It meant that I never stopped writing, I had scenes in front of me at all times. I added a tonne of additional scenes whilst I was going through as well, but I just kept on writing. I was very pleased with my outline, I knew the scenes, I had acted them out in my head, it all poured out of me. It was joyous.

Now I’m done with the first draft, and I’m full of doubt. Is it all guff and blunder? Will I spend the next five weeks polishing a hefty turd? Urgh, I hope not.

I really like my story, I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s a movie I would want to watch. I really like my characters, I know I can make them sing. But, nine days…dude. If I’d spent three or four weeks writing it would feel more (too) legit (to quit). But, I’d have less time to rewrite. I’m never happy, am I?

Plus, now I have the added stress of potentially being the knobhead that finished in nine days, had five weeks to rewrite, and still got four 1/10 reviews…oh god, I think I’m going to be sick.

In the end, fuck you playa haters. I wrote a first draft in nine days, and now I’ve got more time to rewrite. I’ve got material to work with, pages to edit, and cut, and improve, and…

I just thought about those four 1/10 reviews again…”

First of all, a standing ovation to Louis for getting to FADE OUT. That’s incredible, especially in nine days. But do you know what I love about this most? That Louis is scared. That he’s doubting himself. That he feels almost self-assured that he’s blown it. In my mind, those are the most healthy traits a writer can have. Unease and worry and fear drive us, in some odd and counterintuitive way, to force ourselves to not settle for failure. Remember just a bit ago when I was talking about how good I feel about the script I’m currently writing? That feeling is BLANKETED in terror. Because of that, I may be confident, but I’ll never be SATISFIED. And I think that’s what Louis is experiencing here. And to me, that’s the sign of a writer who gets it.


“I started bright and early on September 1, working as quickly as I could through my outline. I had hoped to have most of my script finished by now, but at the time of writing this review, I’m on Page 63. I still have three pages of outline to write through, so I’m sure I’ll be done with the first draft by the update next week.

Along the way, I’ve skipped over a few of the larger, more important scenes in the film. I’ll come back to these once I’m done with the skeleton, spending more time to make sure these scenes are just right. Spit shining.

I do most of my writing in the mornings, when the world is still quiet. I can settle in with a big cup of coffee, and get into the “atmosphere” of my story. I have a playlist on my computer of songs that remind me of my story. I have books and pictures around me that focus on my topic. I listen to some music and look at the pictures and then I’m ready to write.

Back to work!”

I’m really becoming more and more confident that I picked the right people for this challenge. Sixty-three pages is incredible in this amount of time, but much more than that, two things stick out to me here: Chris knows what works best for him as a writer, and he’s having fun writing. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it please me to hear that. I’m chuffed. I feel chuffed. It’s so easy to distance yourself from your writing when it goes from being a necessity to a commodity. But there’s ZERO reason that it can’t be both. I talk to writers all the time who love the end product but hate the process of sitting down to write, and nothing makes me sadder to hear. And all too often it leads to the sense that this is JUST a job, JUST a paycheck, JUST a work-for-hire that you need to bang out like an automaton. Commerciality does not have to equal banality; creativity does not have to be vanquished by the perception of “selling out”. It’s great to be reminded of that every now and then – so thanks, Chris.


“I have 52 pages written so far. None that look good enough to introduce to anyone. But a few that I’d consider making out with if all the lights were out. And I was drunk. And someone dared me to.

Whenever I get stuck on a plot point or a piece of dialogue, I go for a long walk. Of course I’m in Phoenix, where the average temp is still hovering around 105, so occasionally the heat stroke gets me before the inspiration does.
Sure I get weird looks from the neighbors when they catch me doubled over in their front lawns, feverish and dehydrated. And naturally I want to reassure them. “This is what following your dreams looks like, BITCHES!” But the dry heaving makes it tough to say anything so I usually just give a big thumbs up instead. Then I hallucinate my way home and tap out some more words.

Some days I worry my story’s not good enough. Other days I worry it’s great and I’m just not smart enough to tell it. But it’s mine, and I’m inclined to show it to the world, even though it’s a guaranteed embarrassment. Basically I indulge in the same kind of thinking that keeps the Sears Portrait Studio in business.”

After reading this, does anyone doubt for a moment that Rachel’s 52 pages contain some absolutely terrific stuff? No? Me neither. Rachel hits on much the same territory as Louis did, but I love the part about thinking it’s good but wondering if you’re actually capable of knowing the difference. NEWSFLASH: this feeling never goes away, nor should it. As a writer, you have to strike the delicate balance between believing you know what’s good/trusting your instincts and also being dead certain that you will never be sure and may very well be totally wrong. That’s the only way you stay open to criticism, and that’s the only way you’ll ever get any better.


“Okay, so I’m kind of worried about how not worried I’ve been so far. I figured I’d have my first panic attack about this around September 2nd, but I’ve kept really, really calm since beginning and I have no idea how. Even after someone announced they’re damn near done with a first draft (I won’t say any names but you know who you are LOUIS) I didn’t really freak out. This is all very unlike me and I’m hoping this new, awesome nervous system of mine sticks around for a while.

Anyways, pages-wise, I have about 30 put together thus far and I don’t totally hate them, which is also a very new and unexpected thing for me. Writing hasn’t been too difficult yet, but my story’s really just an exaggerated retelling of personal experiences, so I’m really just writing what I know. My roadblocks as of now have really just been family-related. My parents like to come in the room, stand over my shoulder, and ask me what I’m doing even though they KNOW GODDAMNED WELL WHAT I’M DOING. (You’re all writers so I’m sure you know the totally awful feeling that is someone standing over your shoulder while you’re trying to fucking write.) And my brother, Jordan, is now constantly bombarding me with all his film ideas because he’s convinced he can do this better than I can. The other day he said, “You know that movie about the dude that’s born old and gets younger? Benjamin Buttermaker, or whatever? Yeah, you should do something like that, but the guy does the opposite.” I said, “You mean someone that just ages like a normal person?” He said, “Yeah, exactly.” This is what I deal with here.

So I’ve been taking a break from everything/everyone and couch surfing in IL. Currently writing this in grandma’s basement. Back to MO and writing tomorrow.”

And, articulated at just the right moment, here’s Delaney with a different kind of fear: she’s worried that she’s not worried. This is a real thing. Writers are terrified at having created something good – it opens up the doors to too many other possibilities that we might not be ready for. “What if I have to do it again? WHAT IF I CAN’T DO IT AGAIN??” I haven’t read any of Delaney’s work yet, but I’m glad her process has been smooth for the most part (save for her family hanging over her shoulder – if you know a writer, DO NOT FUCKING DO THIS, as it does indeed make you the worst). Could she just be lulling herself into a false sense of creative security? Sure. Could she really be clicking and on top of her game? Absolutely. But the fact that she’s self-aware enough to have even thought this way is a damn good sign that she’s on the right track.


“The past ten days haven’t been too bad. I’ve kind of just decided not to panic during these six weeks. I’ve been writing pretty much every day. A good day for me has been 6 or 7 pages, a bad day, zero pages. But the thing I’ve really figured out that works for me is to free write before every single scene. Or before a scene, and then during a scene, too, if I’m getting lost. I use the site 750words.com (it tracks your word count and the days you write and makes me feel accomplished), and just do a big ol’ mind dump before I face my script each day. I think this is why I haven’t been panicking. Because by the time I get to my scene, I know exactly what needs to happen in it, and where my protagonist’s head needs to be by the end of it.

Also, I’m used to writing with a partner and endlessly discussing what we’re working on, so this free writing thing kind of serves the same purpose. It’s like I’m endlessly discussing with myself what I’m working on.

I’m on page 45, and feeling okay about it. I’m not really letting anyone read it. I have a weekly writers’ group, and I haven’t been sharing pages. It’s too fresh, and the deadline is too soon. I don’t want five different opinions on it. I’m worried it will make me doubt myself. Or make me want to rewrite the whole thing. Or somehow just mess me up. So I’m protecting it, for now…”

I sense that Emily is slightly frustrated at the moment (please correct me if I’m wrong, Emily), but her update was one of my favorites this week simply because she’s finding her way. This is an early script, it’s early in the process, she’s just finding out how to get her head in the right place, she’s working for the first time without a partner…these are all hurdles. What’s great is that Emily seems to be just leaping over all of them, doing what she can to lock into the best first draft she’s capable of. That’s tremendous. She’s even found practical tools that help motivate her. Emily strikes me as someone who’s as intent on learning about writing as she is about writing itself. I think that’s going to serve her brilliantly. And anyway, some of the most fantastic work comes from the people who don’t know any of the pitfalls or contrivances and just go and WRITE. Maybe that’s Emily.


“Shit, are we really 3 weeks in?

My plan to have a completed outline/treatment from which I could write the screenplay by the end of week 3 has not quite come to pass, but neither is it far off.

I think overall, I am reasonably happy with what I have got down. There have been a couple of lightbulb moments where things have come together and problems have been solved, seemingly without
any effort on my part. I know that is nonsense; the fat, juicy worms have come wriggling up because I have been ploughing the field, but such moments are memorable.

It is not the most original story, but as far as I can tell, it makes some kind of sense and most of my scenes seem to lead into each other for valid narrative reasons. Most of them. Some of them. I think. I hope.

Six weeks is nothing. Absolutely nothing. But as far as my chosen avocation is concerned, this is the most intensely productive single period I have ever had, and for that reason alone, I am loving being a part of this. My day job has been especially busy the last month or so, and taken together with the Challenge, I have been feeling pretty strung out on occasion lately. But there is light ahead; my beloved and I are heading off very soon to a Greek island for our annual holiday.

I am massively looking forward to it, and feel that pressing on with my screenplay on a sunlit balcony overlooking the Aegean or whatever it is fits in quite nicely with my delusional, romantic notion of what it means to be a Writer.

So, halfway. Whatever happens, in another 3 weeks, I will have a finished script.”

I ask a serious question: how can you read the above and NOT want to immediately drown yourself in whatever Damian is writing? What I think is so important here is that Damian has a demanding job that keeps him away from his script, both practically and mentally/emotionally at times. So many of you struggle with the same, and that’s not even taking into account, you know…LIFE. How do you keep yourself jazzed to typetypetype and be clever and tell a story you’re not even sure anyone else wants to hear? That’s a question without a one-size-fits-all answer, but are you starting to notice a pattern? In case you aren’t: writers learn to figure shit out, and writers learn how to make their time work for them. I’m not worried about Damian in the slightest, even if he lost time at the outset of this embedded in (basically) a war zone. But what can YOU do to keep the flame alight? Whatever it is: find it. If you can’t, that’s a pretty big sign.


“I have a day job and children so there is no chance I am going to join these young upstarts with their bajillion pages by day 3. I have been dependably plodding away producing at least two pages a day and am now on page 24. On day 2 I nearly switched stories to something about emus as I had not done nearly enough world building for my science fiction script. I couldn’t describe *anything* as I hadn’t figured out what anything looked like. Suddenly something set in 1930’s Australia seemed so, so appealing. But I pushed through, putting in place holders, which I am gradually filling out as everything becomes clearer to me.

I write academic papers all day so I am accustomed to writing precisely and concisely. This makes it extremely difficult for me to waffle in a screenplay and therefore my page count creeps painfully slowly. If I’m going to make it to page 90 I need to chill the fuck out. I think tonight I am going to drink a bottle of wine and set my characters free. Every line doesn’t need to advance the plot. I’m not writing a scientific argument. It just needs to be entertaining.

Don’t fret. I’ll get back to the emus.”

I get the sense that Claire thinks she is behind in this challenge, and I would like to dispel her (and any of you feeling the same way) of that notion; you are, indeed, not. Some people write quickly with no regard for their own personal safety. Some are deliberate and considered. No way is better than the other until it comes to what you’re comfortable with. Once again (and seriously, I’m posting these in the order I receive them each week), we find someone who has a demanding job and an entire life that come before writing. It’s nothing to dismiss, and being that she’s (approximately, statistically) 1/4 of the way through her script with all of that on her plate is remarkable. The idea that having a few drinks will cause you to pour forth all you’ve been holding back in your writing is a terrible cliche and one that I support wholeheartedly. Sometimes you just need a pressure release. Claire may think she’s hit a wall here, but in reality she’s just softening it up so she can finally break through.


“Just to reiterate Jerren’s ongoing spelling struggle, we are now actively working with a document he created titled ‘ACT II CHORNOLOGY.’ Cool.

On this note, we tend to send ideas back and forth via whatever email thread we have open, some of which have subjects like ‘NEW MAD MAX TRAILER OH FUUUUUUCK,’ so it’s been a challenge keeping track of things we’ve discussed. For this project we made the long overdue move of attempting to centralize all of our ideas into one document, which lasted 9 hours.

On Day One, Jerren was still at the Telluride film festival. We had prepared for this by divvying up Act 1 scenes before Jerren left. BUT HE HAD TO WRITE HIS SCENES LONGHAND WHILE WAITING IN LINE TO SEE BIRDMAN, which is very gross for other people to see. I know, tough life, huh, Jerren?

Though the condensed time frame for both preparation and writing had us a little worried at first, the actual typing of the ‘vomit draft’ — a term we both hate because we are always always ALWAYS eating while writing–has been moving quickly. (We’re at about 64 pages now) (Which should really be about 35 but oh well) In fact, because of that pace, we took off this past Monday to throw a giant ‘One Week Of Writing Excellence’ party. Nobody came. It was a block party.

The unexpected speed at which words are being vomited (uggggh) gives us the confidence to ease up on the proverbial gas pedal and keep talking about everything. We scrutinize, outline, email, and scrutinize some more, weighing the effect of every single choice and beat we make and what the ramifications are. This shines a light on areas we haven’t thought all the way through, disconnects in plot points/tone/CHORNology, or when one of us beat-for-beat writes a whole sequence from DREDD. We know from experience that it’s just so easy to lose track of what we actually started writing thematically, especially in a comedy, so we’re constantly stepping back to re-assess what the ultimate goals and arcs of our characters are, and to nail down the most compelling way to disseminate that info through the narrative.

The other big thing we’re striving for is creative ways to get in some set-ups/pay-offs. Our project is dealing with a genre that has no small amount of iconography and standard tropes, so we’re working very hard to mask or obscure all our set-ups behind character beats and/or jokes, usually a combination of the two. We think set-ups can usually be seen a mile away and thus blunt the effect of the ultimate pay-offs, so a lot of our focus is going into this aspect.

But good God for reals have you guys seen that Mad Max trailer?!”

Focus on the last paragraph here, because…well, this is where I’m telling you to focus. Don’t question me. This is important: these two are ACTIVELY thinking about what they can do to make their script stand out, to make their story more memorable, by paying attention to the details. Look, there are no new stories left in the world. None. It’s all been done in one form or another. That in mind, never be afraid that you’re walking a well-worn trail – you are. You definitely are. Everyone is. So what sets you apart is how you make those details your own, how you this familiar tale into your own. Seen it before in a movie? Change it. What to? Well, what HAVEN’T you seen before in that situation? Moreover, what would YOU like to see in that situation. Here’s the best way I can describe it: everyone’s gotten into an argument that they’ve walked away from, only to twenty minutes later come up with a line that’s the nail in the coffin – the “AH FUCK ME WHY DIDN’T I SAY THAT??????” conundrum. Well here’s the great news: if you’re a writer ALL OF YOUR ARGUMENTS GET TO END PERFECTLY IF YOU WANT THEM TO. So manipulate that shit. This is where you get to be you to the very apex of your own narcissism. Have at it. You can’t give us something new, but you can give us something better or unexpected. And then, at the very least, you’ve piqued our interest.

PS – If it makes you queasy, you don’t HAVE to call it a “vomit draft”. Anything excretory will do.


“Nearing the end of week two I find myself nearing the end of Act One. That’s good, right? Six weeks = two weeks per act. I haven’t taken a math class since senior year of high school so it sounds right to me.

I know there’s a bunch of hubbub in the screenwriting ether about act structure, its benefits, its negatives, who its going to take to prom, etc. I personally just use it as a general guide. Act 1 is setting up your rules, Act 2 is playing around, and Act 3 is the big finale. The length, tone, if they’re divided into smaller pieces, and everything else about those acts depends on what story you’re actually telling. It’s a helpful guide, not a formula.

For this one, Act 1 is a bit unique. Chronologically, it takes place over the course of half a day. The entire script will take place over about two weeks, so that is a full 1/3 of the page count all taking place in half a day. It’ll hopefully give it a full-steam ahead energy that’ll grip the audience and not let go. When they blink and realize they’ve been following along for a half hour, they’ll realize they are past all the boring setup and into the fun stuff. And their wallets are gone.

Another fun element is the transitions. For the first twenty or so pages, almost every scene transitions to the next through either a sports show or a phone call. Why? I don’t know. Seemed like a fun idea. Stop asking so many questions.

Next week, I dive into the untamable quagmire that is Act 2. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think a pest control guy is knocking on my apartment door. Cheers!”

“It’s a helpful guide, not a formula.” Dan, I am going to kiss you on the mouth. You could not be righter. This is part of something I try to tell writers as often as possible. There are “rules”, but there are really no RULES. At the end of the day, the only thing  you ever need to worry about is keeping your reader entertained enough to want to flip from page to page and ultimately satisfying them in one way or another at the end. That’s it, and that should always be in the back of your mind: “Have I made the reader care?” Structure is only necessary insofar as the people making the movie agree the story needs to unfold. You can have the tightest, most bit-by-bit screenplay imaginable…and it can still suck big fat wet dogcock. On the flipside, you can have a thrillingly exciting set of scenes that absolutely go nowhere without glue to bind them and an engine to propel them forward. What I’m saying is: don’t be concerned about the box. Be concerned what’s in the box. If someone gives you a stack of cash in a paper bag, are you going to bitch at them because it didn’t come in a suitcase? No. If you would or have, I’m calling the police.

Also, I’m very interested in Dan’s transitions, because I consider stuff like this to be the ultimate hit-or-miss tool in screenwriting. If they feel organic to the tone/theme/story, they can be great. If not, they come off as sad gimmicks. The fact that Dan’s putting a lot of thought into it leads me to believe it’ll be the former.


“Well, these past few weeks have some new kinds of challenging. I was mulling over my outline the Sunday night before lift-off and thought it looked pretty boring. Not visual at all.

One possible solution to that – this seemed like a good idea at the time, I swear – was to get rid of the first act and instead pepper the rest of the movie with it in the form of distorted surreal flashbacks.

I haven’t read over my pages yet, so I don’t know if that’s working yet.

Another pain in the backside – I’m a good 40 pages short. Yep. 40 pages. I’m up to about 55 pages and have pretty much written every scene I thought of in the outlining stage. Needless to say, development is needed.

I’m trying to figure out why this happened and one good reason might be…I didn’t use the board. Yeah, the good old-fashioned corkboard. If I fill a corkboard with index cards, I know that I have at least a 90-page script. Too much more and I know I’m going a bit too long.

Maybe I’m writing short because I want to get the heck outta there. It’s been a lot more painful than usual, writing pages. Sure, writing is hard most of the time but once I’m done, I’m usually quite proud of myself. But this time not so much. I don’t know the world well enough. I haven’t done my time researching or outlining or getting to know the characters. At least I don’t think so.

With my previous scripts, I knew what the “house” of my screenplay looked like even though I didn’t really need to go into every room. I feel much more like a stranger here. I know that a lot of people in #sixweekspec find this compressed time-frame challenging and compressed their process to uncomfortably short lengths. I suppose that’s the point of this whole exercise – what really works as far as process goes. And what SO doesn’t.

Note to self: Use a board.

Oh yes and this writing 10-pages-a-day shtick really doesn’t work for me. At most, I can manage 6 or 7.

Another note to self: pages are meant to be savored, not devoured.

But on the upside, some extraordinary stuff has been emerging re: theme and meaning. I think this screenplay is about activism, ego and free will. How awesome is that? This from someone who didn’t even take Philosophy 101 at university.

Yeah, writing kind of blows right now. But I’m sure it’s going to look up eventually. It might not be at the end of this six weeks. But it will eventually.

It might have nothing to do with writing actually. My husband lovingly decided to share his cold with me. Family gave me grief. Just general suckiness was had in other areas of life. It’s amazing how everything happens at once, doesn’t it? That’s life and all that.

Sigh. Back to pages.”

Sabina hits on a real truth here: sometimes writing sucks. Remember back there when I was like, “I’m baffled by people who hate the act of writing?” (Remember the last time I asked you if you remembered that other time?) Well, that’s true – I am. But that’s also a macro thing. In the micro, writing can be a real fucking tit sometimes. Everyone had bad days, bad weeks, bad months. Some have bad careers (I’m not sure I’m not one of them, honestly)! And if you find yourself in that position, what do you do? Whatever your answer is, it HAS to end with, “…and then I buckled down and started writing again.” Sabina, I know, gets this. I also love the fact that she’s aware of what her weakness is right now – she doesn’t have the whole story yet. When you come up short in your page count (the total of which is imaginary but we all have a basic idea of what to hover around) the problem is almost always that you don’t know, completely, what  you’re trying to accomplish or what you’re trying to say. When you do, you’ll have a frustrating amount of extra pages, not fewer. I also love love love love love that she’s taking a BIG chance with her first act. That’s exciting and interesting and GOD that is so much better than a writer always adhering to what they think they SHOULD do.



I’ve got to say…I’m absorbing a lot from these guys, and I’m almost inexplicably impressed with the considered approaches they’re taking to their scripts. It’s immensely gratifying. They all care, and they’re all thoughtful and cognizant and AWARE. Who knows where each of these 10 scripts end up – will they all even be completed in the first place? – but it’s pretty safe to say they’re all coming from the right points of origin.

More later this week. I’ve heard from a few of you with your own tales and I might still post some at some point – I’ve just been trying to finish up my own shit over here. But continue to write and ask questions and update me on your progress. It’s been a great learning experience/commiseration so far.