At the beginning of 2013, I wrote about the 6 things I'm doing to write my best screenplay ever this year. Since no one is paying me to write my best screenplay ever, I'm only accountable to myself. With that in mind, and with half the year over, I thought it would a good time to review my screenwriting progress this year in relationship to these 6 things. I also realized instead of being only accountable to myself, I should be accountable to the NFS readers who were kind enough to read and comment on the original post. So, here's my mid-year review of the 6 things I'm doing to write my best screenplay ever (including a report card!).
For those of you playing at home, below is my personal report card for my screenwriting goals for the first half of 2013:
1. Schedule Writing Time Every Day: A/B-
I’ve done a great job of waking up every weekday by 5:30 am so that I can write, hence the A. As a result, I finished the first draft of my latest screenplay by the end of March, hitting my target for writing a new screenplay in twelve weeks. After a short break, I rewrote the script over the following month, finishing the rewrite at the end of April.
I took another break in early May. Since about mid-May, however, my actual screenwriting during those early hours has declined sharply, hence the B-. After the rewrite, I shifted my focus over to working on putting together plans for my first feature – which is moving at a snail’s pace. Also, I’ve been stuck figuring out my next screenplay idea for too long, spinning my wheels in those early morning hours, but not doing much actual writing. For this reason, I've amended this goal to “Schedule Writing Time Every Day (Then Write).” Time to boost that B- back up to an A.
2. Set Deadlines: B+
The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting worked as an effective deadline to get my script written with enough time for some rewriting before the final deadline. Honestly, I recognize that I will need to spend more time rewriting the script to get it to a level where readers, managers and producers will take notice (I’m anticipating my Nicholl rejection around Aug. 1), but the deadline still kept me motivated, and I now have a solid script worthy of a rewrite. Is it my best screenplay ever? No, but thankfully, I have almost another half-year to achieve that goal.
Once Nicholl passed, I found myself a little more aimless with my writing, as I mentioned above. I need more discipline to stay focused for the rest of the summer and into the fall and winter. At the beginning of the year, I didn't think I would submit to the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. I loathe spending money on screenwriting competitions, but I'll admit that I appreciated BlueCat's notes on my previous script. So, I think I'll use BlueCat's Sept. 1 deadline to push through another rewrite and look at the entry fee as a reasonable amount to spend on good notes from a qualified reader. I don't expect BlueCat to open any doors, but that's not the reason I'm using their competition deadline. This also means I need to get more work done on my next script idea concurrently with the rewrite so I can finish another screenplay in the next few months.
3. Write in My Head: A+
I do this better than anything else, but it doesn’t result in words on the page. Writing in my head does help me play around with story ideas and address individual story problems without making concrete commitments on the page, and I find that valuable. I’ve even been writing this blog post in my head for a while now. But I don't want to use this as an excuse for actual writing. I’ll certainly keep writing in my head on my daily walks with the dog or when I’m working out because it helps the actual writing flow better, but I need to write the words, not just think about them.
4. Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite: C-
I finished one substantial rewrite on my latest script, but then let it sit. And sit. And sit. If I want it to become my best screenplay ever, I have to rewrite it. And rewrite it. And rewrite it again. So, no more excuses, it's time to start the next rewrite, which will actually help me get moving on my next screenplay, too. Rewriting begets writing begets rewriting.
5. The Script is Never Finished, So I Need to Know When to Move On: B+
The flipside of walking away from my latest script after the rewrite was that I was ready and eager to move on to a new screenplay. The question was, “Move on to what?” I don’t get paid to write screenplays (yet), so there was no writing gig waiting in the wings. Usually, I have a few story ideas that I want to tackle as soon as I finish one screenplay, but that wasn’t the case this time. I need to do a better job keeping viable story ideas “on deck”, so I can keep my creativity flowing.
6. I Need to Set the Bar High Because the Competition is Fierce and the Odds are Against Me: A
I have no trouble setting the bar high. I have trouble clearing the bar. That will never change. But at least I know the only way I'll ever get close to clearing the bar is to keep writing.
So, to recap:
Essentially, I need to make better use of the time I set aside for writing, set meaningful deadlines for the rest of the year, get to work on my rewrites, and start writing a new screenplay soon. I can certainly improve my GPA by the end of the year and have the screenplays to show for it.
Have you written your best screenplay ever this year? What steps have you taken to overcome your own obstacles to reach your screenwriting goals? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the Comments.
[Underwood typewriter photo by Flickr user mpclemens (CC)]