Screenwriting 101: It’s Not Gonzo

By Michael Schilf · June 4, 2010

There’s a horrible misconception that writers are drunken, chain-smoking, free spirits who use a pharmacy of stimulants to maximize productivity during writing sessions when the muse happens to hit.Not true.

But what about the infamous legend that Jack Kerouac typed On the Road in three weeks on what he called “the scroll”, 120 feet of tracing paper taped together? Okay, so he did write “the scroll” in three weeks, but it took nine more years (and a ton of more work) before the final copy was published.

Unless you’re the next Hunter S. Thomson with a voice for Gonzo journalism and a taste for psychedelics, the hard truth is that good screenwriting is a “nose to the grindstone” occupation. There is no secret pill to take. It’s just a lot of hard work. And if you want to be a serious screenwriter, you must make the commitment. Be disciplined, get organized, prioritize, and above all else, write – everyday! Create a reasonable schedule and stick to it. And always have a plan.

One of the hardest parts is starting fresh each day, but here’s a trick: try stopping in the middle of a scene. It’s a great way to get started the next day.