If you’re looking back on last year and wishing you’d got more writing done, we’re here to help you turn the next twelve months into the year you step it up, and setting screenwriting deadlines is the key.
Here are our top tips on setting screenwriting deadlines that help you get more (and better) writing done.
1. Focus on one main project at a time. You might be jotting notes on others on the side but make one project your priority.
2. Commit to a finish date for the polished script, whether that’s a feature film screenplay or first episode of your television series.
Aiming for a particular screenwriting contest deadline can help with this. Check out our curated list of the most respected screenwriting contests, script competitions, labs and opportunities.
Ideally you should be aiming to produce one polished script every twelve months.
3. Set mini-deadlines. Your outline won’t quite gel and your first draft of the script won’t be brilliant and that’s normal for every writer, however experienced. So create deadlines for the outlines and drafts of the script that you need to write and rewrite to make your final 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.
Writers on our screenwriter coaching programme are delivering new material (story outline, character work, or a draft of the script) every month. 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.
Check out our tips and practical advice on putting writing at the top of your plans in our article ‘Organise Your Writing Life’.
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 development professional.
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 and will pay dividends when you come to write your script pages. 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, scene-by-scene) be sure to include these in your schedule.
For help making outlining work for you, check out our advice in ‘Outlining and Your Screenwriting Process’.
9. Review before you send. You might find our Industry-Ready Checklist helpful here.
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!
Find out how we can help you to elevate your writing and projects through our Screenwriter Coaching service.