If you’re looking back on 2016 and wishing you’d got more written then we’re here to help you turn 2017 into the year you step it up, and setting screenwriting deadlines is the key. Here are our top tips for getting it done.
1. Focus on one primary project at a time. You might be jotting notes on others but make one project your priority.
2. Commit to a finish date for the polished script; feature film screenplay or television episode one script. You should be aiming to produce one polished script every six months.
3. Set draft deadlines. Your first draft won’t be brilliant and that’s ok, so create deadlines for the drafts that you need to write and rewrite to make your script not just good but brilliant.
4. Be realistic. You might love the idea of getting your first draft written in a few weeks but if you’re only writing a few hours every weekend that’s unlikely to happen. On our six month Screenwriter Coaching programme our clients are turning around a new draft every three weeks. Think about what you can achieve based on the number of hours a week you’re able to dedicate to your writing. Find a timescale that works for you.
5. Write your screenwriting deadlines in your diary or calendar. Making a written commitment helps to anchor you to your goals. Scheduling it into your personal diary or calendar gives it legitimacy and makes your screenwriting deadlines and goals as important as any work or family commitment.
6. Find an accountability buddy. Being accountable to someone other than yourself really helps you to commit to your screenwriting deadlines. Just telling a friend or writing peer your deadlines and asking them to check in with you on that date is a great first step. Better still, find someone who will not only hold you to your promise of delivering a draft by an agreed date but also review that draft and give you constructive feedback on how you can improve it. Find someone whose opinion you trust and value; that might be a writing friend or an experienced script consultant.
7. Get support. Writing can be a lonely business so make sure whoever you choose as your accountability buddy isn’t just there to crack the whip but also there to support and encourage you.
8. Story planning work counts. Writing a screenplay is a process that starts well before you write your first pages of the script. Setting deadlines for that foundation work is just as important. Whatever story planning stages work for you (logline, outline, beat-sheet, one-sheet) be sure to include these in your schedule.
9. Review before you send. Make sure you schedule time to put your project away so that you can tackle the rewrite with a bit of distance. A few days might be enough but don’t leave it so long that you lose momentum on the project. Ideally get fresh eyes on your project from someone else. It can be hard to see your script objectively when you’ve been so deeply immersed in it for so long. Always get someone whose screenwriting opinion you value and trust to give you feedback before sending your script out – that could be paid-for feedback from industry professionals or peer review from writing friends.
10. Move on. It’s fine to keep tweaking a script for years (we’ve all heard about films that were in development for twenty years) but there comes a time when you need to call it done, get it out into the industry and start on something new. Until it’s filmed your script can always be improved but don’t let it stop you moving on to your next project. Take what you’ve learned from writing this script and use it to make your next script even better.
Experiment to find a process that works for you and keep going!