Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Talkback: When you lost the patient.

Jumping off of yesterday's topic - here's today's Tuesday Talkback discussion topic - when did you know you lost the patient?

Is there any script or concept that you've developed, written, rewritten, and rewritten again until there came a time where you eventually had to accept that you'd done everything you could with it and there was no saving it? How long did it take? How many drafts did you go through? How many people did you show it to? Did you try radical rewrites to salvage the idea?

Most of all - did you learn something? In all of those rewrites, did you stumble across an idea that you later put to use in another script? Did seeing why this story wasn't working teach you anything about how to make future stories work?

I can understand people not wanting to give out too many details of story concepts they've worked on, but please feel free to share the experience of writing.


  1. I worked on an story for a year. Kept getting 30-40 pages in and starting over.

    Finally realized story was not "cinematic" enough to be a film.

  2. So what do you call it when you have a patient who looks good and "saveable", but then other patients keep coming in who look like more fun?

  3. I'm on my first struggle which is a science fiction plot. I've so far been able to find solutions to fix plot issues, but I often feel I'm running the risk of overwhelming the audience/reader with too much 'made up science' that would take away from the drama and entertainment. Next concepts will have to go through a more tedious outlining process.

  4. Bitter script reader,

    I'm pretty tenacous, I don't give up easily. Three stories I "gave up on" really I plan on tackling at a later time.

    1) An epic fantasy novel I wrote. 1st draft, 900/1000 pages. E.C. Henry's "Lord of the Rings." I don't have the mythology of "Lord of the Ring," BUT I would contend I've developed characters FAR more interesting then Tokiens.
    It's on the afterburner because of what it takes to get published. If you're not famous or have a platform, good luck getting a book publisher to take you on. They want you to self publish, and sell copies of your book out of the back of your car. Two words: kcuf that!!!

    2) My reinvisioning of the "Planet of the Apes." 2nd script I wrote. Knew I had to go through 20th Centrury Fox. And when I did I got a cease and desist letter from a VP. Still got that 1st drafted script. Hoping to do more with it IF I ever break in, and can get 20th Century Fox to give me permission to proceed.

    3) Two months ago I thought I had a good sci-fi script. But in the back of my mind I could see some problems. Motivation for an ACT III shoot-out I wanted to happen. (I LOVE a good shot-out) Also was agonizing over some alien affects needed in the movie. Basic plot is carded out. I know the ending. Just a few key details need to be hammered out...

    As pertains to question posed in your post I don't think I've come to the point where I felt something I started writing was a lost cause, it's just sometimes you don't have the answers. I think the key is when you reach these points is to switch to another story. It is very defeating when you think you've failed/couldn't pull a story off. I'm a believer that time heals story problem.

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  5. Oh all the time. I usually write the first draft and then realize it's just not worth it to continue. I figure if I don't like what I'm writing, it's not worth it to continue.

  6. I've had two scripts that I've been told are unsellable. One a former Paramount story editor said was fundamentally flawed because the main character had no motivation or want (my intention while writing), and the other a friend who's currently writing on 'Flashforward' told me would never sell because the main character ends up shooting up an abortion clinic. I've shelved them both, but now that I'm thinking about them, I might give them another look. Or throw them up on TriggerStreet.

  7. I suspect my current project's probably not sellable, but I'm going to finish whipping it into shape anyway as it will hopefully be at least a good calling card, which I understand most specs end up as anyway. It's a ghost story-Western, so F/X, period piece, locations, and night shooting -- just about everything you can do to make your screenplay less marketable (except, hopefully, not being very good to boot).

    However, it's my second feature, and the first I've taken to this point, so I've learned a lot from it. And I really like the story, so it hasn't been too much of a drag to keep working on it. Doing a fine-tooth comb edit & minor rewrite of the seventh draft now, following a major rewrite resolving some big story problems that wouldn't go away.

    Patrick Sweeney

  8. I've had to let go of a couple scripts, one early one which was a quarter-finalist in the Nicholl and my agent at the time was really excited about, but eventually I had to let it go ... the reason being it was a serial killer script, and it was good, however, the very next year serial killers blew up all over TV, there's one on television every week.

    To me, that's the largest reason, if the story you had that WAS unique is no longer as special, due to the changing face of the market.

    I mean, it was also an early script of mine, I did things in it that I don't do any longer (long paragraphs of action) and I know more now than I did then, it had its fans, it wasn't a bad script, just not a great one ... and it wouldn't be.

    Some ideas, you know that they're not necessarily marketable (like, let's say, Napoleon Dynamite, before it was released ... not a hugely marketable film idea, everything was shocked, right?) at this particular time ... but you wait with it, nurture it in between your other projects, and hope that at some point its time will come (like ER, Critchon wrote that 12 years before it came to TV, put it in a drawer because medical dramas weren't considered money-makers, pulled it out over a decade later for Spielberg and realized he wouldn't have to change too much of it to update it as a series) and it will be marketable to an audience of an acceptable size ...

    But some ideas, their time has come and gone, like my serial killer script, and you must let them go ... it's part of the cycle of life, baby.

  9. Whenever I run into a wall, I recreate the story as a comic book or short story or something. Every good idea deserves an outlet, and I am sure everyone here can find one that will let them sleep at night. Just letting a patient die is way harsh.