9 Reasons Why You Can't Finish Your Freaking Script

Based on an unscientific poll of screenwriters I know, the following seem to be the biggest roadblocks:
1) You’re spreading yourself too thin with your full-time job, social life, family responsibilities and/or other interests that prevent you from finding enough quality writing time.
2) You’re working on too many scripts at once. Halfway done with this one, a third of the way with that, stuck with no third Act for another.
3) You’re so infatuated (or obsessed) with your idea that it’s turning into a creepy little Pygmalion scene or your psychotic Frankenstein monster. You just can’t let it go. You’re constantly tweaking and revising the same scenes over and over again.
4)You’re spending too much time thinking about the deal you’re convinced you’ll get or making notes about which stars to get the script to.
5)You get mad at the script, as if it’s a recalcitrant child who won’t listen.
6)You somehow expect the screenplay to fix itself.
7)You’re waiting for your Muse to do her part and you haven’t realized that she’s like that girl/guy who dumped you and left town without a forwarding address.
8)You have negative people around you who are discouraging.
9)You’re just lazy and more of a slacker than you thought.
Whichever point(s) above applies to you, there’s only way to deal with your inability to see a first draft through to the end: confront it.
It’s almost like going to therapy. You acknowledge your problem, figure out why you’re letting yourself be victimized by it, then take the necessary steps to get out from under it. Owning up to what you’re doing wrong (or not doing) is the first step.
Some problems are easier to deal with than others. If your brother or a parent or even a significant other ridicules or minimizes you for pursuing a screenwriting career, you must turn a deaf ear to the negativity. Let them carry on, smile and keep writing. It’s your dream, not theirs.
If you come to the conclusion that your biggest problem is laziness, i.e., you talk about writing a screenplay more often than you actually do it, you must give yourself a wake up call. Stop goofing off. Stop wasting time. Instead of going out drinking with your friends, shopping at the mall and doing all those things you do to avoid sitting at your computer and grinding out five more pages (even if they’re so-so) find a mirror, stare long and hard into it and remind yourself that writing screenplays isn’t a day at the beach.
It’s hard. Very hard. And it takes discipline, concentration and tenacity to finish one. In my next post, some solutions to getting around what's blocking you.


  1. Thanks for pointing out what I've been in denial about. Points 4, 6 and 8 apply to me. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

  2. I get mad at my scripts all the time. I have different relationships with each one. It's like they're my mistresses and either they tell me what to do or I tell them. Usually they win.

  3. My crosses to bear are points 1 & 9, as well as procrastination thrown in for good luck. I sometimes write like I'm still college, churning out the papers last minute; toying with ideas and not getting much done, then suddenly getting my mind psyched up, planting my ass down in the chair and writing 30 pages in one session.

  4. Wow. Writer's Prozac! Thank you DB!

  5. #7 The Muse. Don't underestimate or take her for granted. There are those wonderful moments when an idea strikes me and I feel inside everything open up and out. I can "see" the movie playing in my head and it's almost as if I'm taking dictation. Maybe it was easier in the old days to have that belief in mystic agents who breathed into you.

    If you do (as I do) believe in the Muse, remember, you can't take her or leave her as you will or because Survivor is on and you'll come back to the script later. If I'm feeling the "heat", I just lay everything else aside and go with it. I try to sustain the feeling, and it is a specific inner feeling I have. I can also feel when it's thinning out (and that's when I start to panic). What D.B. said about forcing yourself to grind it out really is important. Even if it's one crappy page, even if it's finding the next good line of dialogue.

    I usually write from the beginning to end of the story - very linear. But if a funny scene (I write comedies) or bit of dialogue hits me I write it down (I have pads everywhere) and if I can get out of my own way, she usually comes back and I'm back in business.

  6. Point #6 hits it on the nose for me. I keep re-reading what I wrote ad nauseum hoping that the answer will be there lurking.

  7. I am a 9... which has to be the worst reason on the list... awesome :/

  8. Number 8 is mine. Negative wife. Negative brother. Negative everybody. Even my cat gives me a dirty look when I'm writing.

  9. I'm with Carla. Yes! Prozac for writers. Just what I need to finish Act 3.

  10. All the numbers - especially #9 - have merit.. Jeeesh, I'm stuck on my stupid outline and it just won't write itself.. Maybe I should just ask for my old job back at that big bank that laid off 2,500 people? Back to the script..

  11. advice for 3): when you inevitably go back and re-read early scenes you've already written before you've finished your first draft, you're going to be disappointed/have ideas on what's wrong with the scenes. don't touch them or add to them, just make notes on what SHOULD be changed and what the overall effect should be in the final scene. (ex.: This needs to move much quicker, tension over John's mother NEEDS to come out more clearly here.)

    That way, you can assume that in the final version the scene works correctly without having to think about how to fix it.

  12. Ouch! Everyone of the nine reasons hit too close to home. But D.B. is right. Excuses won't finish a script.

  13. So true!!! I'm finishing my f-cking script, someday, soon, I'll get to it...LOVE THE BLOG!!! CBock

  14. I know my problem..i can't lay off the stash!

  15. Although it contributes at the same time! ;)

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  19. Thanks for pointing this out, but how about offer some help? I guess pointing out your own flaws and projecting them on the reader is easier.