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How many pages per day?

I always wonder how many pages per day scriptwriters consider a reasonable output. On the Scriptnotes show, John August and Craig Mazin seem to think 3-6 a day is about average for them. I try to get 5 done before lunch and edit in the afternoon but don't always manage it. Any more seems and it seems like I'm getting ahead of myself!

  • I do one page a day. Even if I want and can go further. It leaves my brain time to mull things over. Also I NEVER get stuck, because I've left something for the next day. Keep in mind: I can revise as much as I like on the previous day's work, but only one new page. In 3-4 months, I'll have a screenplay.

    10 months ago
    • Not sure I could keep to that myself but fascinated by this process, Dan - especially the revision.

      10 months ago
  • Hi Nick

    I plan for three months then write a first draft screenplay in seven straight days. I block off the time and aim for around 15 pages a day (10 on the first, as you warm up, and 30 on the last, as you gallop towards the end).

    This gives an essential energy and follows Stephen King who talks about writing "faster than your fears can catch up with you!"

    It also gives you a mess of a first draft (but then all first drafts are a mess) and stops you becoming anal and analytical too early in the process. I then edit much more slowly - dividing the second draft into up to seven mini-drafts that will take another three months.

    Try it - it works.

    10 months ago
    • Cheers, Charles. Another approach - with three months planning you must feel comparatively confident when you get started.

      10 months ago
  • I tend to allocate specific time windows rather than focusing on quantity, although it depends on what draft I'm on.

    I worked on a first draft earlier this year where I came up with 45 pages over three days - but that was largely unstructured and just getting the basic ideas down on paper.

    Right now I'm working on a separate 3rd draft which is much slower as I'm ironing out specific structural kinks. For that one I'm allocating at least 30 minutes every day - and a few hours at the weekend - which normally balloons a little when I find a rhythm.

    Ideally you need a specific deadline - working towards competition entry dates is useful for that.

    10 months ago
    • Cheers, Nick. I'm finding that small allocations of time can be quite effective.

      10 months ago
  • I don't know how anyone could write just a page a day without going crazy!

    I'm a journalist, so I know that the important thing is editing. Get the first draft on paper and then edit, edit, edit until it really sings. It becomes sort of irrelevant how long the first draft takes, but because I tend to write very dialogue-heavy pieces, I'd do a short in a day and a feature in a few days. But that's just getting the first draft out the way and, of course, I wouldn't tackle the first draft until I felt like the idea was ready to hit the paper...

    10 months ago
    • Yeah, I get that, Nick. But where I differ is that I don't do step outlines, synopsis, etc. (I abandoned all that by the mid 80s). Each day is a discovery. Since I'm revising as I go, a first draft is pretty solid with very little rewriting.

      10 months ago
    • With you on the editing, Nick. Eventually find it difficult to bring new angles/ideas beyond a certain point tho.

      10 months ago
  • I don't think it's really a question of how many pages you write a day in general, I can spend weeks/months outlining and preparing before ever writing, I'll then write until I feel like I'm fillling in the dots rather than adding something new to it, I usually get out alot more pages when I have the whole outline to work with, when I feel I'm not adding something, I'll switch to another scene and work on that, the draft you're working on also comes into consideration, if you're on your 1st draft you have alot more room and aren't under pressure to scrutinise every area, on subsequent drafts you have less room and therefore you're gonna write less pages, quality always beats quantity, my first 4 scripts I wrote quite fast, now I let the story live in my head for months and the characters do the rest, obviously the output is alot slower by this point, so really it all depends on which stage you're at, I'd never come out with 4+ pages a day on a 3rd draft

    10 months ago
    • Again highlights the value of prep :)

      10 months ago
  • Interesting to read the very different ways people have of doing this.
    Once a story and character have got their teeth in me, I have no choice. My family tell me I write 24/7 but mostly not on script.
    Like Nick I set aside time windows when I must write. Starting with going over what I did yesterday, and going on from there. Sometimes it flows and I have to be dragged away from the computer to eat. Sometimes there are other things that must be done, but in the background scenes and story lines are presenting themselves and being sorted out. Some days (they're good days too!) I simply rip out events, scenes and even characters, throwing aside weeks of work that took the story down a side alley. So, very productive minus page days.
    Then, when its 'all done' comes the honing and polishing, usually about twice as long as the getting it down. Again with minus page days as well as plus. Cutting down is always essential, no matter how tight you think you already have it.

    10 months ago
  • I'm with Charles Harris on this. Plus I write the first draft with those pens they give out free at Barclays and often joke my screenplay is sponsored by them! But seriously, typing out the draft is the first edit of the mess you have. Once that's done the hard yards start.

    10 months ago
  • Totally agree, Steve.

    10 months ago
  • I seem to spend a long time (probably too long!) assembling the various aspects of a story, then put them together into a first draft fairly quickly. On those magical days when the words are really flowing, writing is a joy. But I must put in weeks of preparation first, just so I'm confident that I have a story worth telling.

    10 months ago
    • Hi, Andrew. This level of prep seems to be a common theme. I'm always primarily concerned that the plot will 'work', arcs will be achieved, ending will be suitably climactic!

      10 months ago
  • I've sold four scripts; had three commissions to write screenplays for producers. When writing on spec, I do it when the mood takes me -- when on the clock my formula is as follows. Two weeks to agree with the client a synopsis; they get ten days to review and give notes. I get a week to add their notes. Then I get ten weeks to do a first draft. They get two weeks to review and give notes; then I get two weeks to polish it up. First draft done. ...The payments are broken into four. The first payment comes on the commencement of the assignment. Second comes when I start the screenplay, the third when I hand in the first draft and the final payment comes once I've added the notes. Hope this helps. Good luck with it.

    9 months ago
  • Cheers, Adam. Sounds like a sensible pace. I suppose I follow a similar pattern: more structure and speed for clients, freestyle for spec stuff!

    9 months ago