Can You Write a Screenplay in 22 Days?

me skiing at Sundance Film Festival 2011

*I wrote this screenwriting blog series about 6 months ago–it took me this long to get the BALLS to post it.*

I should start by telling you how I fantasized about writing a screenplay for more than ten years.  Then, about three or four years ago, I actually began saying, out loud, that I wanted to write a screenplay.  As in, out loud to other people. But only in a joking way.

Like, “One day I’m going to write a screenplay and win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Ha Ha Ha. Isn’t that hilarious? I mean, that’s ridiculous, right? Um… yeah.  What were we talking about?”

Then last year, I had a sort of breakdown, breakthrough? around my career choices and I walked away from my business. I shut everything down. I wiped the slate clean. I hit the re-boot button on my life and went off to the Sundance Film Festival with my husband. (He had to attend for business & it was on my Bucket List, so it worked out awesomely.)

Last year, on January 27, 2011, I declared: “This is the year I’m going to finish my screenplay”.

Finish is really the wrong word, because ‘finish’ implies that I had actually started, which I had not. What I had done was collect a couple of lines of dialog and a few descriptive passages in a word document somewhere on my computer.

And for the last 11 months, I’ve done a whole lot of reading & researching, plot outlining & procrastinating but not much actual screenwriting. 28 Days ago I had all but admitted defeat.

I guess I’m just too damn scared to write this thing — WTF is wrong with me?!

But the idea of finishing this screenplay continued to haunt me, I couldn’t escape it. Then one day, December 11th to be exact, I was sitting on a ski lift, as I often do on the weekends during the months of late November through early April, and I was just enjoying the day, I wasn’t even thinking about the screenplay.  I believe I was thinking about going back to Sundance again.  How much it had inspired me the year before.

Then a thought crept in.  At first it was a mean thought: “You’re going back to Sundance next month and you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.  You didn’t finish your screenplay.  You did a lot of other things, but you didn’t do the ONE thing that you said you were going to do.”  And then, as usual, “You suck.”

My inner critic is loud and she likes to tell me how much I suck… at everything.

But this day was different.  After the anticipated and expected “you suck”, another amazing and brilliant little thought appeared.

“YOU HAVEN’T FAILED YET… Technically, if you finish your screenplay before you leave for Sundance, you will have done exactly what you said you were going to do!”

Then -

“I wonder how many work days I have before we leave for Sundance and I wonder if I could just write the damn thing before I leave?”

Then -

“I mean, I know it won’t be any good. It will need to be edited over and over but at least I could say that I wrote a screenplay! A first draft of a screenplay! How great would that feel?!”

And just like that, sitting on that ski lift one Saturday in December, I got a little bit excited and inspired again at the possibility of actually completing my screenplay, like NOW.

I called my super-efficient writer-ly friend, Melani and told her I HAVEN’T FAILED YET.

I asked her; “Is this crazy?  Am I crazy? I think I can do this.  Am I crazy?” She said. “Yes! Of course you are crazy AND you should definitely do it.” That was exactly what I needed to hear. I was officially excited now.

I got out my calendar and mapped out the days that I could write.  Taking out the days that my mother was staying with us for Christmas, taking out the weekends when I’d be back on the magical ski lift and taking out any other days that I knew I wouldn’t get any screenwriting done.  It all came down to 22 days.

22 DAYS!

Oh shit.  22 days.  Is that even possible?

One more quick call to Melani and I was convinced that it was possible.  I could do it.  I would do it. Dammit.

And off I went.  Here is the rough plan that I came up with:

An average screenplay is 100 – 120 pages.  (I honestly have NO idea how accurate this number is. I did a little research online and that’s what I found.  It gave me a loose structure to work with).  I settled on 110 pages with an average of 180 words per page. Which is very scientifically based on looking at screenplay versions of Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. Which would make an average screenplay approximately 19,800 words total.  I then divided 19,800 words by 22 days. That’s 900 words per day. Totally doable, right?

I had to convince myself that it doesn’t matter how good or how bad the words on the page are…It’s about showing up. Getting shit done.  Getting my shitty screenplay done.

I think I can do this, y’all. Yee-haw.

 

NEXT: I’ve Been Lying to Myself- Screenwriting Day 4 – Click Here*

 

 

 

 

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