Screenplays I May Never Finish Writing


Some friends of mine lovingly mock me for constantly rewriting my anthology stageplay, Dream Fragments. That's nothing compared to my screenwriting track record.

When it comes to writing plays for the stage or screen, I'm a hopeless tweaker, endlessly rewording dialogue, adding or deleting scenes, changing characters, and on and on.

My screenplays fall into three stages:

1. The Eternal Drafts -- These are the ones I've actually finished, but for some reason my brain won't accept them as complete. Every time I re-read them, I feel compelled to modify them. My heart refuses to acknowledge them as "done" -- they're "not ready yet" for me to submit or shop around or, heaven forbid, produce. This category is filled with stories I've been working on for years, feature-length tales averaging 120 pages each, with a beginning, middle, and end. The scripts are complete, right up to the last "Fade to Black," but I still feel they could be better. Screenplays from my high school days are here like Rest in Peace and The Lost Planet, next to scripts for my undergraduate university student films like 4Ever: The Summer of '88 and the thesis script for my Master's Degree, Enter the Dreamers. Even though they're all complete, I still can't help thinking of them as very rough drafts.

2. The Partial Plays -- These are the dozens of scripts that I've started but, for various reasons, are incomplete. Some are just brief scenes like The Protectors: When Heroes Die or the Urban Fantasy film project I was collaborating on with a friend. Others are much further along, but still have a long way to go before I can consider them finished first drafts, like some of my stage plays that started out as screenplay ideas and might still become movie scripts before all is said and done, like Lancelot and the Theater of War, Sons of the Eagle, Childish Things Behind, Snow White and the Seven Deadly Scenes, and my adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost. I have pages and pages of segments from all these stories, but they are all a jumble waiting to be finished.

3. The Seeds of Future Scripts -- This is the largest of the bunch. Here dwell all the ideas I have ever had for cinematic stories but never officially started writing. I have character sketches, vague outlines, brief lines of dialogue, notes, notes, and more notes, filling up a bunch of notebooks, sketchbooks, and digital files on my computer -- everything from The Mystery of the Midnight Strangler, which I've been thinking about since I was a kid but have never actually started writing, to the more recent Sword of Skanderbeg and The Search for Yeshua. There are countless others, from the stupid and cliched concepts that I just can't stop revisiting to the ideas that really inspire me but I just can't seem to find the time or motivation to sit down and actually write.

I have three big problems that keep me from finishing what I start:

(1) When I do have free time from my day job and family responsibilities, I'm easily distracted with books, TV shows, movies, plays, music, acting gigs (when I get them), and of course my daily blog;

(2) I enjoy working on multiple projects at once, diving from one story idea to another, so even though I'm having fun jumping from writing project to writing project, I never actually devote enough time to any to see them to a satisfying conclusion; and

(3) I'm just plain scared of rejection and failure, so even when I do have a script that's finished (or close to it), I still try to think of ways to improve it so I don't have to show it to anyone and have my fears realized that I'm nothing but a talentless hack. (Okay, maybe that's a little over the top, but it's probably not far from the truth.)

Who knows? Maybe if I could actually sell my scripts someday, I could finally let them go.

Comments