5 Traps to Avoid While Writing a Screenplay

by ScreenCraft on October 7, 2016

You’ve had a great idea for a movie, and maybe even started the screenplay – using The Aspiring Screenwriter’s Guide to Page One, of course, so you’re off to a promising start.

But between now and FADE OUT there lies a potentially rocky road. And sometimes it's not even the pursuit of mastering the craft that's the hardest part. Writers -- screenwriters included -- often throw up their own psychological roadblocks that make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.

So how can an aspiring screenwriter navigate the road successfully and finish that screenplay? Knowing which hidden pitfalls to look out for can definitely help. Here are some of the most common:

1. The “Too-Late-to-Start-Now” Mindset

Often, a writer will come up with a brilliant idea for a movie, yet take no action for years. As time passes, the excitement and motivation behind your clever vision may begin to fade. When this happens, it’s all too easy to tell yourself it’s too late and that you should forget about it. This isn’t necessarily true.

All creatives have an inner voice that guides them — that magical spark that starts as an idea and blossoms into a work of art. If an idea has stuck with you over time, it’s very likely there’s something about it that can still inspire you. Take some time to re-examine that original idea and see if you can reconnect with the spark. If it’s there – if you feel compelled to write it – go for it.

2. Lack of Confidence in Your Talent as a Screenwriter

As with all professional and creative projects, confidence is a key factor; when we don’t believe in our own abilities or the work we’re turning out, it makes it that much harder to finish a project.

If this is an area where you’re struggling, confidence-boosting writing exercises can help.

Writing exercises to build confidence & self-esteem:

  • Journal prompts are a way to naturally write your thoughts in a personal setting, so you can practice your writing while getting to know a new layer of yourself.
  • By writing positive affirmations, you can gently guide yourself into being kinder to yourself, and maybe even positively alter your perception of the world.
  • Write down your worries, then burn them. This ritual helps you let go of the doubts that take up space in your mind.

3. Being a Stereotype

You know the cliche: stereotypical screenwriters are brooding, lonely, and tortured. But who says you have to be?

Yes, you should pour your emotions into your screenplay. Yes, you should make time for yourself. But everything in moderation, as Oscar Wilde famously said. Balance your more isolated creative time with activities that lift you up and help refill the well – including spending time with friends and family.

4. Seeing Screenwriting as a Hobby Rather Than a Job

Whether you’re able to work part time or full time on your screenplay, you need to treat writing as you would any other job. Set working hours and goals, and reward yourself when you accomplish milestones.

Treating your screenwriting as a professional project will help it manifest as one.

5. Fear of Writer's Block

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Writer’s block is common, and being afraid of it only makes the situation worse. Having a plan in place for when writer’s block hits can help take away some of its power. So take a deep breath and try these techniques:

  • Read inspiring quotes.
  • Brainstorm ideas in bullet points.
  • Call an old friend.
  • Spend time with someone who makes you feel good.
  • Create a new routine.
  • Make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea.
  • Listen to music.
  • Read a book or an article.
  • Change your environment.
  • Play a game.
  • Get rid of distractions.
  • Go for a walk.

Or try some advice from these Award-Winning Screenwriters on Writer’s Block and Screenwriting Education.

Not every strategy will work for you, but through experimentation you’ll find the tools you can rely on when the situation arises.

Being an aspiring screenwriter, you live in the land between dreamer and professional. In order to ensure your success, you need to watch out for common obstacles that will keep you from reaching your dreams. When you have a plan in place to overcome these obstacles, you clear the path for an ultimately successful screenplay.

Kim Wells-Ball (@kwells2306) is a blogger and Ace Essay Writer, who loves backpacking and abseiling. Also, she loves reading Byron’s poems, watching old movies and baking cupcakes which actually helps her take her mind off things.

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