If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, sometimes the hardest part about living your passion is sitting down and actually writing a script. As you’ve probably heard before, writing is a muscle you need to work, and the only way to get better is to do it consistently. Or, as I like to say about any challenging goal, “the only way to it is through it”. Here are some tips on some writing goals you can set that’ll get you into the right/write mindset for tackling your next screenplay:
1. Make a Plan!
When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to get excited about an idea for a new feature, pilot, or spec. Diving right into your script may seem great at first, but you’ll likely find yourself backtracking to fit major plot points into your story. Do yourself a favor and make a plan before you start: map out your script with an outline. My good friend Josh just writes fade in, without an outline – he says it frees him up to be more creative – but about half way through he always ends up stuck and has to do an outline then. Plan out the basic storyline, the plot and acts and character arcs; the more detailed the better. Even identifying where to put a specific joke or a certain conflict point can help you keep your thoughts organized about how to build the dramatic action of your story.
2. Don’t Overthink It
Now that you have a game plan for your script, it’s time to start writing. You’ve done the hard work of outlining, and that’s going to make everything easier, but what’s going to make writing even easier is if you loosen the reins of your original plan. Follow your main path, but be willing to take detours as you write. Writing is about making decisions and exploring what path is best for your characters, and many times it’s not the first one you come up with. While every screenwriter’s writing process is slightly different, just about everyone can agree that you often don’t know exactly where your story will end up until the final draft. That discovery process is part of the joy of writing.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
So you churned out 5 pages of your pilot, great! That’s progress, but it’s only going to matter if you ultimately finish it. If someone asks to see your work, you don’t want to say “I have an idea for a pilot” or “I started writing a great movie,” you want to say “I have a completed screenplay. Would you like to read it?” A super important part of being a screenwriter is not just having good ideas, but also proving that you can do the work. So, instead of just coming up with good ideas and never really executing them, add holding yourself accountable to your list of writing goals. Deadlines are a great motivator, so create some for yourself. If you find that doesn’t work, ask a friend to hold you accountable. No matter how busy you are, if you have a deadline it’ll be a lot easier to find time to chip away at your script until it’s finally finished. Good luck!
Writing Goals Tip: The first goal isn’t to write a script as fast as you can, the goal is to write a script, period.
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.