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Do eyes glaze over when you pitch your screenplay idea? Do you keep starting scripts, but never finish them? Perhaps it feels like you’re always one step behind other screenwriters?
You could be making a big brainstorming mistake - just like Bumbling Idea Guy. *Cue thunder and hunched-over man playing the organ.*
1. Writing your first idea
"But my first idea was tha shit, Screenwriting Bae!" says Bumbling Idea Guy. Maybe, he's right. But could it have been better? Did he push it far enough? Did he explore the most interesting aspects of his idea? Do you want to write low hanging fruit like Bumbling Idea Guy, or a juicy, bloody filet mignon (vegetarian tofu steak optional)?
Play with your idea. Mind-map it. Google it. Ask yourself: Does something like it already exist? How can I flip this idea on its head? How can I relate it to my own journey? How can I push it as far away from my own journey as possible? Sit on it. Write it from different angles and get inside it before you commit to it.
2. Writing something because it’s “current” or “guaranteed”
It can be tempting to ride the wave of trends, but if a shark movie blows up you can bet there are at least a hundred other shark scripts clogging up Hollywood inboxes like chum in a motor. (Groan) Same goes for writing a particular type of sub-genre that seems like a “guaranteed” money-maker. It’s not. Everyone will be onto the next thing by the time Bumbling Idea Guy finishes his screenplay. And honestly, who wants to be the Sharklock Holmes Versus CroctoBoobs guy?
Avoid gimmicks. If a trend or genre isn’t your bag and you’re forcing it because you think you’re going to make money - you won’t. Tell a good story, period.
3. “If they did it, so can I”
Bumbling Idea Guy paid fifteen bucks to watch a shitty movie, and thought: “Hell, if a pile of crap like that can make money, surely I can be a screenwriter!” Then he took his crap-inspired idea and wrote a crap screenplay. :(
Never let this be your motivation for writing. Write because you can't live without it.
4. Writing what you “know”
Bumbling Idea Guy shared his screenplay with his peers and they told him to cut a boring scene. His response was, “but it actually happened!” Unless Bumbling Idea Guy has a fucking crazy - and I mean fucking crazy - story to tell, he shouldn't do it. No one wants to watch The Story of Bumbling, Boring, Navel-Gazing Idea Guy... again.
"Writing what you know" should be the voice that you shape your story with. It generally happens on a subconscious level. If you hear yourself saying the dreaded words -- “but it actually happened" -- cut it! Cut it now!!! Copying moments from real life doesn't make a story feel real - compelling characters do.
5. The procrastinating-working-on-another-idea idea
You do it. I do it. We all do it. Suddenly, in the middle of a half-finished screenplay you get this AMAZE-BALLZ!!! idea! But then in the middle of writing that idea, you get another AMAZE-BALLZ!!! idea! Maybe the problem isn’t that Bumbling Idea Guy can’t come up with an idea, the problem is he has too many. He has five screenplays on the go, but none of them seem to be getting anywhere.
If you could only let one screenplay see the light of day (heaven forbid) which one would it be? Write that one. Don’t starting writing a second idea until you have a finished first draft of the first one. You can write the second one while you give yourself a breathing period — post-draftus. Just stay focused on one idea at a time until you have the discipline to juggle.