How to Plan Your 2015 Screenwriting Goals
Since 2014 is now a thing of the past, it’s time to plan your screenwriting goals for 2014. Instead of listing how many specs you’d like to finish, try creating more comprehensive goals that will help you become a better writer. If you focus on honing the craft, by the end of the year, you’ll have more tools in your tool box to carry into the next year instead of simply having a few more specs finished.
1. Time. How much time will you dedicate each day/week/month to becoming a better screenwriter? Write it down on a calendar, put it into your phone, schedule it as if you would a doctor’s appointment or important meeting. For those that like a visual reminder, cut slips of paper for each hour you plan to spend writing each month. Put them all in a jar, and each time you spend an hour working on improving your skills as a writer, move one slip of paper to a second jar. By the end of the month, the original jar should be empty and the second jar should be full. Seeing the time you’ve spent this way can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
2. Write, but don’t just write scripts. Becoming a better writer means doing more than just writing. Writing exercises from screenwriting books like Now Write! Screenwriting and other similar style books help you learn to write better characters, plot, and dialog without having to spend 110 pages doing it.
3. Listen to the Experts. There is a lot of information out there on the art of screenwriting. Listen to the what the experts are saying. Check out writers’ conferences, panels, expos, and seminars in your area. Going to even one of these allows you to actually be in a room with working writers and ask questions. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other writers and spend a day or two, or even a week, focusing on your writing without interruption. And if you can’t physically get to a conference, check out the myriad of webinars available online through organizations like The Writer’s Store. One of my webinars titled ‘Creating Strong Female Characters’ is still available there if you’re interested.
4. Join a writers’ group. The great thing about writers’ groups is that it gives you access to other writers that will read and critique your work, allows you to read other people’s work and practice looking for the good choices and bad choices, and it keeps you from falling behind on your writing. These groups should be supportive and yet honest enough that you feel you’re getting some valuable feedback on how to improve. You can find local groups online or through meetup.com, and if there’s not one in your area, try starting one yourself!
5. Read articles. There are a myriad of free online magazines and sites that post articles about screenwriting and filmmaking. Don’t just read the articles on screenwriting. It’s important to understand other aspects of the process as well. IndieSource is published four times per year and is free. There are many others too. Find some sites and publications you like and read those articles.
6. Social media is worth the time. You can connect with pretty much anyone on Facebook and Twitter simply by following them or liking their page. Search #screenwriting and #writetip on twitter frequently to find new people to follow that are tweeting about writing. They’ll often tweet great articles and contest opportunities and it’ll take the legwork out of finding those things yourself. Two examples that I recommend are @scriptcat (Mark Sanderson) who posts great articles for new screenwriters on his blog scriptcat.wordpress.com, and ScreenplayHowTo.com run by William Robert Rich. Follow him at @screenplayhowto. I, of course, dedicate most of my posts on Twitter and Facebook to information to help new screenwriters as well.
7. Watch more movies. But don’t just sit and munch on popcorn as you do. Take time to watch your favorite t.v. show or movie and as you do, break it down structurally on paper. Note any great lines of dialog you’d like to remember or anything that gave you info about the character that you thought was done in a particularly clever way. Before writing my ep of Law & Order: SVU that placed in a national competition, I watched four episodes and broke them down by time code into acts. Then, I equated time code into page count, and created my own episode using the exact same structure. It’s a great exercise and you may end up with a great spec out of it.
8. Budget for your own personal ‘screenwriting education.’ If you can set some money aside at the beginning of the year to put toward your goal, that’s great. Then, when conferences come up, or you feel you’re ready to go ahead and purchase the upgrade of your screenwriting software, you don’t have to deny yourself because you’re not sure you should spend the money.
9. Read more scripts. If you join a writers’ group, you’ll have the opportunity to read some scripts. But if not, then find another way. There are web sites like IMSDB.com that allow you to purchase scripts, but you can also try to connect with other writers online and exchange scripts to critique. Be sure to register your script first with the WGA, west for your own protection, send the script as a PDF instead of a FinalDraft or Word doc, and always retain the email that proves the script was sent. Including your name and the date of the script in the header of every page is also an extra measure of protection as it’s time consuming and difficult to alter in a PDF.
Hope that helps you come up with some ideas for goals in 2015. By including these things in addition to spending time writing, you’ll end the year a better writer, and not just a writer with a few more specs.
Happy Holidays & best wishes for a successful 2015!
Follow me on twitter @CConradt and Facebook at Facebook.com/ScreenwriterChristineConradt