February 27, 2015

Stop Reading This Post Until You Have Written Your Screenplay for 20 Minutes!

Stop Reading This Post Until You Have Written Your Screenplay for 20 Minutes!
If you are reading this sentence, you have either a) written your screenplay for the past 20 minutes; or b) you are not following instructions and need some guidance.

If you fall into the category of b) (and I’m sure most of us do), I predict you are about to waste a minimum of 20 minutes of your life surfing the Internet instead of using that time to write. And when you are complaining later today/this week/this month/this year that you just don’t have time to write, I’m calling BS on you (and me).

So, here are five things you can do right now to work on your screenplay for a mere 20 minutes and get more s#!t done:

Use a pen and paper

Turn off your computer, grab a pen and paper, and start writing. If you do not possess pen and paper, go to the store and buy some. Or ask a friend if you can borrow some pen and paper. Make sure your friend knows you won't be returning the paper, just the pen. Don't be a klepto with your friend's pen. That's how you lose friends.

If you must use your computer to write, turn off the Internet right now.

Since I don't trust you, I suggest you download Freedom and tell Freedom to turn off the Internet right now for the next 20 minutes. I promise the Internet will be here when you get back from your writing. Pinky swear.

Take a walk.

Let's face it: you've already wasted an hour of your time on the Internet not writing before you got to this post. You need to get up out of that chair and go for a walk. You need to get some much needed exercise to get the blood flowing and to get those ideas churning. You may be saying, "But hey, if I'm walking, I'm not writing." True, but you're also not surfing the Internet (which I will remind you that you are still doing right now if you are reading this sentence instead of going outside for a walk), and I can virtually guarantee that if you focus on your screenplay during your walk, you will come up with at least one idea that you want to write down when you return 20 minutes later. Then I have a hunch that you will want to keep writing after you jot that idea down. So move it! Oh, and if it's already dark outside, bring a flashlight, a friend, a dog, or a friend's dog. But don't be a klepto with your friend's dog.

Talk to yourself.

Stop posting comments on the Internet. The Internet doesn't care. Save those words for your screenplay. Start talking to yourself. Out loud. About your script. Right now. Talk to yourself for 20 minutes about your characters, their arcs, their relationships, that plot point that you just can't figure out, that obstacle that would make your protagonist's life hell but would be great for your story. Now make that a bigger obstacle, keep talking to yourself about the movie you would like to see on screen and how your screenplay can make that happen. When you're done talking to yourself, write some of it down. If you're afraid that you can't remember what you said to yourself for a mere 20 minutes, record yourself -- but don't start surfing the Internet on your smartphone! Which leads me to...

Turn off your smartphone/Put your smartphone in another room/Get rid of your smartphone forever.

See, I know you may have downloaded Freedom on your computer to turn off the Internet, but you're cheating with your smartphone right now, aren't you? Aren't you?! All I'm asking for is 20 minutes, so turn off your phone (yes, we once survived this world without smartphones or wearables or made-up words like smartphones and wearables, and you can do it again for the next 20 minutes), take it off your body and put it in a different room, preferably with a door that you can close behind you, thus separating you from the Internet in your pocket. If you live in a one-room studio, get creative. (Seal it in a Ziploc bag and hide it in the toilet tank like it's a gun you're gonna use later in your script -- except that's been done too many times, so it's a trope, so don't put that in your script, but do put your phone in the toilet tank -- again in a Ziploc bag, don't forget that part, that's important -- unless you're done with smartphones for good.)

If you've made it this far reading this post, and you haven't followed the first instruction in the title or taken heed of any of the five suggestions above, I don't want to hear it when you say you never have time to work on your script.

In fact, I sincerely hope you keep writing after those prescribed 20 minutes. Stretch it to an hour or two. Do it everyday.

When you forget to do this (like I may do from time to time), come back to this post and read the title. That's all you'll need to do to get back to writing your script.     

Your Comment

18 Comments

This is actually hilariously engouraging and impressing. I will be taking that walk, keeping in mind that -25 outside :)

February 27, 2015 at 12:36PM

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Okyanus Askin
Videographer
92

I also found it very funny and encouraging. Just wrote a very nice page. :)

February 28, 2015 at 5:40AM

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Gilles van Leeuwen
Filmmaker
363

We do waste too much time on the internet. I'll sit down to check emails and Facebook and Boom! an hour passed by. Like now, what am I doing? I gotta go write.. signing off..

February 27, 2015 at 12:54PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
548

To paraphrase McKee and no doubt what other writing guides have noted, writing is a labor intensive task involving similar levels of effort as attaining a professional degree and the journey is more at ease when writing in a genre loved. With that said, roughly 75% of the work required to write a well crafted and complex screenplay is done before the first word for it is typed in spec script format.

February 27, 2015 at 2:10PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1434

So 20 minutes and one page of screenplay later. ;)
Thank you, haha.

February 27, 2015 at 3:35PM, Edited February 27, 3:35PM

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Rachel Marie Smith
Marketing @ Resolution Rentals / Film Producer
104

I honestly feel trying to inspire people to get on or back on the writing horse is pointless. If you're not writing, it's because you're not interested in writing a screen play. If this is you, instead you might want to try just writing a treatment and hire a real writer to do all the heavy lifting of finishing your story.
It's also like trying to cast someone you feel has it in them to act in your movie- who isn't an actor. Sure, they may exhibit some uninhibited qualities that parallel your character. But if they're not acting in their spare time, just go find an actor. Go find a qualified cinematographer. Director. etc...
Know your limitations. accept them and move on.

February 27, 2015 at 4:12PM

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Vincent Gortho
none
860

Vincent, I completely agree your points, especially "know your limits..."

Sergio Leone co-wrote the first draft for Once upon a time in America w/out him or his team writing a single line of dialogue. They knew it had to be American English, they were Italian, thus they hired out for the dialogue. Sergio had an exact sense of time needed for each segment of dialogue to match the pace of the story and purposely spaced out empty lines appropriate for the duration of each dialogue delivery w/in the first draft.

February 27, 2015 at 7:15PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1434

Really great information Daniel.
A couple of my filmmaking pals are so bent on making sure every aspect of the film has their hand in it. More power to them. But you never make a good film alone.
And besides, no matter what input you get from a well qualified person. The directors gets all the credit anyways. lol.
" Love the way he moves his camera."
" I never even touched the camera or moved a light."

February 27, 2015 at 10:29PM

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Vincent Gortho
none
860

"But you never make a good film alone."

unless You are Shane Carruth.

February 28, 2015 at 9:08PM

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Tomas Uher
Director / Filmmaker
127

Couldn't agree more.

This article feels completely out of place. Writing, like listening music, or reading, or making music, or learning an instrument - all should find its place in a person's life.

If you systematically procrastinate on facebook when you should be writing, then you're probably not the kind of person who should call yourself a writer in the first place...

March 6, 2015 at 6:20AM

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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
625

Perfect timing! This fit like a glove in my. Lately I was doing the paper and pen, and shut down my computer. But I will follow all the others tips. Really thanks!!

February 27, 2015 at 10:51PM

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Mateo Baldasare
Filmmaker
247

I high recommend giving McKee's "Story" a read (and then read it again).
If you don't own it, buy it today. Seriously.

Some prefer "The 21st Century Screenplay" by Linda Aronson.

March 1, 2015 at 7:42PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1434

Yes right now I´m finishing the reading of this incredible book Story by Robert Mckee, it helped me in a way I never thought, makes me see the writing like never before, and is just the first time I read it.
Maybe sounds exaggerated but is true because nobody will pay me if I make a good or bad commentary about the book. So Read it :)

March 2, 2015 at 10:36PM

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Mateo Baldasare
Filmmaker
247

Excellent point and applicable beyond screenwriting. I'm going to email and post links to the article on social media. ;-p

March 1, 2015 at 10:19AM

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Pen and paper is what works for me, I get distracted far too easily thanks to YouTube.

March 2, 2015 at 1:36AM

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David Molina Cavazos
Little bit of everything
81

I've found that the two most effective activities for spontaneous good ideas are when I'm showering or trying to fall asleep (mostly the former). With those activities, there are zero distractions. (I'm married, so I have no distractions in either the shower or in bed.)

March 5, 2015 at 8:24PM

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The tail end of your comment gave me a good chuckle. Thanks for that!

What your describing is a writing/creative habit.
As funny as it sounds, there is particular street corner I visit where ideas bloom.

March 6, 2015 at 9:05PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1434

Yet another article that seems like it wasn't written for emerging filmmakers but rather amateurs who don't really have the vocation...

Am I the only to notice that the quality of articles posted by NFS is gradually getting worse and worse?

Are you guys running out of inspiration? Or instead letting quantity outweigh quality?

March 6, 2015 at 6:23AM

4
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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
625