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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I've been working on this screenplay for so long and just can't seem to finish it.  Do you have any advice, DcH?

Sarah B.

This week's Answer: 

I've Been Working On The Screenplay All The Live Long Day

Yes, I do, Sarah.  My advice may be a bit profound, possibly too subtle, and you may have a hard time embracing its message.  But here goes.

finish your screenplay

I know that may be kind of deep and could take years to finally fully absorb. 

And do you know the greatest well-kept secret for finishing screenplays is?

I certainly don't.  But I do know this:

Screenplays are never finished

"What's that?" you say.  It's the truth.  Or another way of putting it is that, once you "finish" your screenplay, many others will "finish" it.  The screenplay is a mercurial, ever-changing form that can, like a chameleon, take on the colors of its background, the "background" in this case being the agent's, the producer's, the investors', the director's, the actor's, the caterer's, your mom's, and so it goes.  That's a lot of background to blend with.  

Instead of thinking about finishing your screenplay, another way to look at it is to just keep writing it until, as far as you're concerned, there's nothing left to write.  Then, in a way, the screenplay "finishes" itself.  It informs you.  I'll explain by providing a dialogue between you and your screenplay:

A Dialogue Between You and Your Screenplay

You:  I think I need to tweak the second act and polish the third one.

Screenplay:  Oh, no you don't!

You:  That's amazing.  Did you just talk to me screenplay?

Screenplay:  I certainly did.  No more polishing.  You try being tweaked hours upon end and see how you like it.

You:  But I'm not completely satisfied with my writing and need to keep improving you.

Screenplay:  Improve something else.  Improve your forehand or your macrobiotic cooking.  I need a break.  Soon all these others are going to want a piece of me.  I need a vacation before a producer gets his hands on me.

You:  I never thought of it that way before, screenplay.  Actually, I have done a pretty good job on you as you are right now.

Screenplay:  Exactly.  That's what I've been trying to tell you.

You:  Now that you mention it, I am pretty sick and tired of seeing you day in and --

Screenplay:  I get the idea.

I hope you get the idea.  Sometimes the trick is to sometimes know when to stop writing.  I'm enjoyed communicating with you.  I must go now.  I have to polish my letter to my housekeeper.

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