Script Coverage Chronicles – April 2021: Is Fear Hurting Your Final Drafts?

 This month I’d like to talk about fear in our screenplays.  

I’m not talking about the horror genre.  I’m talking about the writing process itself.  


I’m talking about writing in a state of panic – fueled by the fear of failure.


This is a phenomenon I’ve seen fairly often.  It goes like this:


A writer (often an excellent one) is closing in on a finished draft of a screenplay and getting ready to send it out.


Actually sending a script out – that can be scary.  


And when the fear hits, there’s a very specific thing many writers end up doing.  They go into:




My screenplay needs more!


It needs more conflict.  It needs more drama. It needs more laughs.  


It needs so much MORE!


As a screenplay consultant, I often read many drafts of a single script, and it’s on that last cut, the polish draft, that this more mode usually kicks in.  And here’s the thing:


It almost always does more harm than good.


I’ve seen very funny writers do this in comedies, adding ten more jokes at the end of the writing process, and they almost always feel forced.   


I’ve seen really talented dramatic writers do this too.  But instead of adding jokes, the last draft suddenly births three new characters and five more scenes.  Or half the characters get a bunch more backstory.  Or we get several additional Act Three plot twists.  


All this “more” thinking has a tendency to make screenplays too complicated, which ends up detracting from the story.


What you should be doing in your last draft isn’t adding more.  


What you should be doing is making sure everything you already have works on all fours.


Every moment should be crystal clear.


Every action should be properly motivated.


Every emotion should feel authentic.


And you’ll do it all best if you:




Don’t panic.


Don’t add more.


Nail down what’s already there.


If you do that, there’s nothing to fear.