“Write The Script You’ll Finish.”

“Write The Script You’ll Finish.”

As the Recurring Feature Header above implies, I will be blogging, on a regular basis, about John August and Craig Mazin’s Scriptnotes weekly podcast.  If you’re not familiar with it, you should be.  It’s a free weekly Masterclass on screenwriting by two people who know what they’re doing.  (I’ll always be blogging about an episode that is still free at the time I am posting.  The last 20 weeks are always free; the older episodes are available through a monthly subscription at a crazy low price.)

Sooooo… why did I choose to start with an episode from last month?  The reason I started with Episode 278, is that it features a great question (at 52:32 mark) from my sometime-writing-partner and longtime-friend, “the wonderfully named,” Tully Archer.

I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast, but Tully’s question is a good one:  Should a person “write wild,” skipping from one genre to another — or– Should a person stick to one genre to become known within that specific genre?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end the end of this post.  Tully’s answer was that she can’t fathom not “writing wild.”  Mazin’s answer was to “write wild” until you get pigeonholed in a particular genre.  (Then you’ll have a decision to make on how to proceed.)  John August agreed somewhat.  However, he pointed out once you are pigeonholed (unless you love that genre) you should use whatever cache you have at that point to break out of the stereotype.  Then, John August added, “Write the script you’ll finish.”

There rests my answer. Writers have thousands of stories in their heads, but I can tell you the next four film scripts I’m writing.  I’m “writing wild” the four that I know I will finish.  I know I will finish them, because these four stories are the four I think will sell over the next few years.  There’s a reason we call this “show BUSINESS.”  If you don’t finish a script, you can’t sell it (usually).  If you don’t start selling something, the issue of pigeonholing will be moot.

Getting back to the issue of genre, my next four scripts are a romcom love triangle Christmas movie, a romcom love triangle (with talking dogs), a mother-daughter dramedy, and a family dramedy.  Writing wild — but all with the same Jon Meyers tragicomic tone.  The common thread is I will absolutely finish all four.

If I were to write outside this wheelhouse of mine (let’s say, a horror or a war movie, for instance), the end result would be– well, non-existent, because I would never finish such a project.  Other people would be just the opposite.

If you’d like to add your own two cents to the topic, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the COMMENTS below.  And as Tully would say…


JM 1.2

(PHOTO CREDIT: Graphic adapted from JohnAugust.com)


2 thoughts on ““Write The Script You’ll Finish.”

  1. After they answered, I did some more thinking. Here’s the three things I’ll have ready to go in my portfolio first: a horror, a comedy, and a thriller/drama. It sounds disparate, but because I’m writing wild, they’re not. They’re me. Without intending to unify them, I wound up with similarities between all three. It was like watching one of those performing painters, where you watch close up as they move around the canvas, doing cool things with flourishes and confidence, and it’s beautiful but you don’t know what it is, until they finish and the camera pulls out and you finally see that it’s not abstract, it’s a really cool drawing of a Thing. That’s what I think a writer’s “voice” is. You concentrate on what you’re doing, and then you concentrate on another thing, and eventually you can pull back and look at all the pieces you’ve done and see the real pattern, the picture of you that all of your works combine to create – or rather, triangulate. It was there the whole time.

    Apparently my voice is about killing small children, forcing optimists to lose hope, and serial killing. Muah ha ha ha haaaaaa!


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