How To's | New England | Screenplay Doctor | Screenwriting

Ask the Screenplay Doctor: Beating Writer’s Block and Getting Feedback on Your Script

1 Feb , 2014  

Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by:

This month, Screenplay Doctor Susan Kouguell offers advice on how to overcome 'writer's block', and, once the draft is completed, how to find the best feedback. Email screenwriter@newenglandfilm.com to have your screenwriting question answered in an upcoming issue.

This month’s questions cover one end of the screenwriting spectrum to the other – getting stuck more than halfway through on a screenplay – and once the draft is completed, how to find the best feedback.

Question: I’m looking for feedback on my work. What kind of people do you think would be the best to provide that?

Screenplay Doctor: Getting feedback on one’s work is essential in the screenwriting process. Look for someone who has experience reading and analyzing screenplays, and will offer an honest assessment of your work. A family member or best friend, for example, may have experience, but might be afraid to tell the truth so as not to risk jeopardizing your relationship. Writers’ groups, screenwriting classes, and private consultations, (such as the ones I offer through my company Su-City Pictures East, LLC), are good venues.

What you can expect from a script consultant’s services:

  • Objective feedback.
  • Detailed suggestions on how to solve issues with story, characters, dialogue, structure, and genre.
  • Advice on what film industry folks’ expect of your script, and to what degree your script meets these expectations.
  • Someone who is honest and will tell you not just what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.

Question: I have a story and it’s about 3/4 written, but I’m really struggling with the ending and I keep revising things in it. How do I get to the finish line? I’m not sure if it’s writer’s block or something else that’s keeping me from resolving the story with these characters that I have created.

Screenplay Doctor: Arguably there are some people who do not believe in the term “writer’s block.” (Maybe the word “block” is unproductive and getting you stuck…) But let’s not get stuck in terminology. Let’s get you back to writing.

In my experience teaching and consulting, not to mention with my own writing, sometimes the reason one is struggling comes down to the fact that something is not working in the script. It could be an issue with the plot or characters, or the way you’re approaching your storytelling process.

Top Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block and Getting to the End of the Finish Line:

  1. Put your script aside for a period of time and give yourself some breathing room.
  2. Set attainable goals and realistic deadlines. For example: Maybe writing five pages daily is unrealistic with your work schedule.
  3. Write character biographies in your characters’ voices. (My book Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays! offers templates and examples from films to guide writers.)
  4. Synopsize the script in prose, in a short story form. This helps to give you distance from individual scenes and characters, and helps to hone in your plot, find plot holes, and to follow your main characters’ journeys with more objectivity.
  5. Outlines and beat sheets are effective tools that offer necessary objectivity to determine what’s working and what’s not. Outlines and beat sheets will help you to determine any issues about structure (pacing, turning points, and so on), characters’ arcs, plots and subplots. These tools will also help you strengthen your main characters’ journeys
  6. Have a group of friends read it aloud. (An informal staged reading.) “Cast” your parts and have someone read the action paragraphs, too.
  7. Avoid thinking about specific scenes; often this gets writers’ stuck.
  8. Think about what inspired you to write the script — that “aha” moment where you said to yourself – I must write about this! This can spark new ideas and breathe life back into the script.

Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and industry executives worldwide. (www.su-city-pictures.com; http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog/).

Susan wrote THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! (St. Martin’s Griffin) and SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises, (14.95) which is available at $1.00 off by clicking on www.createspace.com/3558862 and using DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD. On Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009SB8Z7M (discount code does not apply).

Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter.


Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and industry executives worldwide. (www.su-city-pictures.com; http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog/). Susan wrote THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! (St. Martin’s Griffin) and SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises, (14.95) which is available at $1.00 off by clicking on www.createspace.com/3558862 and using DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD. On Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009SB8Z7M (discount code does not apply). Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter.