Hello, Film Doctor friends.
This week, our Monday Prescription offers writing advice to the screen scribblers among you. Specifically, how to improve your process. Some of you might be more accomplished and some of you might be about to embark on your very first project.
Either way, here’s a helping hand.
1. Collect ideas on a regular basis – As you know, ideas come and go and often find you away from your laptop/notepad. Get yourself in the habit of carrying a little pen and pad or use your phone’s memo options. Then, once back with your screenplay, fish out all the necessary details and ideas and see what works. Do NOT let ideas go to waste!
2. Set a daily writing quota – Whether it’s 20 pages or 3 lines, the amount you set yourself doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stick to it. Then, after a while, you can look back and track your progress. By sticking to a quota you will have your cake and eat it – your project will get some daily attention/progress and you’ll carry out your other job(s) efficiently too.
3. Time yourself – Similar to establishing a daily writing quota, this can help you monitor your progress and meet deadlines. Sit down and set your alarm to go off in X amount of time – you decide whether it’s going to be 30 minutes, an hour or a whole 9-to-5 routine. The important thing is that you have a timer set on your writing process – no cutting short, but also no overtime. This will give some structure to your days, some routine to follow and your script will be promptly finished. No internet or calls or anything in that time – just WRITING!
4. Change your scenery – Sometimes, just a simple change of surrounding can help your writing process. Remember a certain favourite spot or a place that makes you feel inspired? Take your work there. Whether it’s a buzzing city coffee shop or a picturesque meadow, the important thing is to immerse yourself in an environment that makes you creatively productive.
5. Shut the noise out – TV, radio and the internet are not friends of the writing process. Although, for some people, light, ambient music might help, in general, any external noise or distractions obstruct the flow of thought required for successful scene/dialogue completion.
6. Don’t write – Yes, sometimes it is better to step away from your project for a little while. Put it in a drawer for, say, a week. Then you can come back to it with fresher eyes and make any necessary revisions/additions/cuts/twists.
7. Enter screenwriting competitions – If getting your work read/seen isn’t a big enough incentive, then this is definitely a great deadline-setter. Get your script ready in time for a reputable competition or screenwriting conference/festival. It’s a fantastic stimulant!
8. Stay informed of film industry news – Often, emerging (or not) screenwriters are so focused on their craft and creative process that they overlook the importance of having ‘market awareness’ – knowing what’s happening in the industry, in terms of business. What projects get commissioned, who’s working on what, which companies are looking to fill their production slate, what actors are attached to what projects and who’s looking for parts, etc. All of that will help you make informed decisions about your own project and stay on top your game. So even while deep in the writing process, DO read: industry trades, newsletters, follow relevant social media sites and art/entertainments sections for updates.
Curious about other creatives’ writing routines? Check out Mason Currey’s publication on famous writers’ daily rituals .
And to further help you boost your “creative juices”, you can revisit last year’s “Productivity Prescription”.