Welcome to another installment of my screenwriting lessons.
Last week, I shared my thoughts and tips on writing strong female characters. This week will be about finding the perfect time to write your screenplay. I'll share with you what works for me and how you can find the perfect time to write that idea you've had in your head now for way to long.
Take a seat. Class is about to get started.
I know you can't see me, but I'm currently turning my chair around and sitting on it backwards. You know, in the way that says, "I'm a laid back and cool teacher".
First off, ask yourself this simple question: Are you a writer or are you an aspiring writer?
If you answered writer then you're already ahead of the curve. If you answered the question by saying, "aspiring", then we've got a problem.
If you're aspiring that means your not a writer yet, but hope that one day you will be.
The only way you'll be a writer is by...
You don't have to earn at least ten thousand dollars to be considered a writer.
You don't have to have a regular spot at your local coffee shop to be considered a writer.
You don't have to have a ton of life experiences to draw from to be considered a writer.
The only thing you need to be considered a writer is to write.
So when do you write?
1. Wait for Inspiration?
Are you waiting to be inspirited before you write? If so, you're fucked.
When does real inspiration truly strike us? How long does that inspiration last?
If you're a writer who can only find the time to write when you're inspired to write then the only type of writer you'll be is a hobby writer. A writer that has been working on the same script for the last five years and still not anywhere close to "fade out".
Things should inspire your writing. Maybe a situation you found yourself in. Someone you met. A conversation you overheard while shopping. Something on the news.
These are things you can put into your story. Things that can help shape your script.
You shouldn't wait for things to inspire you to write. What's really going to motivate you to take a moment of inspiration and turn it into 90+ pages of story and months of hard work?
The only thing that'll truly inspire you to write is writing.
I've had several times where I just didn't want to write for one reason or another. Maybe I wasn't in love with the story. Maybe looking at a blank white page scared the shit out of me. But as I started typing away, the gears started moving and not only did those fears flush out of my system, I found myself inspired by the things I was putting on the page. I was motivated to keep moving along.
That's not out of the blue inspiration. That's inspiration from doing the actual work.
2. Write At Least One Word
If you Google, or if you're more high-class, Ask Jeeves, you'll find a ton of advice on how much you should write, how long you should write for, and how often you should do it.
Some writers will tell you that you have to write at least five pages a day, seven days a week.
Others will say it doesn't matter how many pages you write as long as you write everyday.
I say nay (kinda) to both of these.
Sometimes you'll just have a day where the words aren't coming out correctly. You'll have some days where other obligations take you away from writing. Or you might be in the planning stages of your script and usually you won't write pages and pages of stuff when doing that. This, though, is a whole other topic for another day, which I'm sure I'll get around to.
Personally, I write with the motto: "Everyday be a step closer to the finish line then where you started."
This means there's no word or page amount goal to complete everyday, just that you're closer to the end than when you started. Even if it's just one word, write that one word.
Also, don't write yourself to death. Just like a regular job, you need a day or two off.
I try to write at least five days a week, but the lenght of time I write can vary.
Some writers say they have to write at least eight hours a day. But I think those writers are just trying to make themselves sound impressive.
For me, it's all about the project. Is it a personal project or something I've been hired to write? Is it a feature script, short, or teleplay? If it's a teleplay is it a half-hour or full-hour?
When I sit down to write I usually make it a goal to write at least ten pages. That's if it's a feature film script. If you break it down that way, it should only take nine days to write a feature length draft.
If I'm writing a teleplay I always try to write a full act.
For half hour scripts, that would be three or four acts, which would be three or four days for a completed draft.
Hour long scripts would be between four and six (ish) acts. So, about a week for a draft.
If you can do this, especially for teleplays, not only will it help with your writing and completing projects, but it'll help you with meeting quick deadlines. Most shows spend two weeks per-episode for writing. One week for outlining and breaking down the story, and one week actually writing the script. (So I've heard).
If you can do this on your own, time after time, you'll be ahead of the curve when it comes to writing on shows.
But as I've said, this is something I do, and not something you have to do. Even if you write just one word today, you'll be one word closer to having a finished script.
3. Procrastination is Everyone's Writing Partner
Some of us work on our scripts by ourselves, but we're really never by ourselves when Mr. Procrastination (or Miss Procrastination for the female writers) is always looking over our shoulder.
If you call yourself a writer but are never distracted from writing, then you're a lair, or not a writer at all.
The Flash has Reverse Flash. Batman has the Joker. America has Obesity. Writers have procrastination. It's something we'll battle with until the end of time, but that's what makes typing "Fade Out" at the end of a script that much more satisfying. Not only did we complete a story, we defeated procrastination.
"I'll be back! You haven't seen the last of me!" - Procrastination
And while procrastination vanishes into thin air, we writers hold our heads up high knowing we won, but understand we'll do battle once again one day soon.
And guess what?
Sometimes as a writer, you'll open up Final Draft and go to start typing away only to realize its hours later and you've gone down a Youtube rabbit hole watching prank videos and compilation videos of people falling off of ski lifts.
This will happen, but as long as you power through, write at least one word, you've come closer to having a finished script.
4. The Perfect Time to Write
And this takes us to the title of this lesson; the perfect time to write.
There is no standard time. Everyone is different.
I find I do my best writing late at night. I guess the darkness and quietness let's me really focuses on the words appearing on my computer screen.
Plus, there's not many places to go at 3am (except Wal-mart) and people to talk to at those hours. So other than Youtube, Netflix, and PornHub, there's not much more to do than to write.
If you've been writing for a few years you know when the perfect time for you to write is.
If you're just starting as a writer this is something you'll have to find out for yourself.
With that said, no matter what time you decide to write, that's the perfect time, as long as the words get on the page.
For me, it's those wonderful hours of 12am (or a little later) till the sun comes up.
There are rules for formatting. There are rules for how to tell your story (show don't tell). But there are no rules to when and how you should write, only that you should.
If there's one thing I hope you've learned in this blog post it's that to be a writer all you have to do is write, and be one step closer to a finished script everyday.
I have some ideas for the next screenwriting lesson that I'll post sometime next week but I haven't made up my mind a hundred percent on what it'll be just yet.
I hope you stop by to check it out though when I finally make a decision.
I also hope you found this post helpful. Don't hesitate to reach out to me on any of my social media accounts (links at top of page). I love connecting with other screenwriters and people in the film business.
Leave a comment below on what your writing routine is. When do you write? How many pages or words do you try and write a day/week/month? When's the last time you got into a fight with Mr./Misses Procrastination?