Here are a few tips to organizing your screenwriting life.
This post was written by Ashely MacPherson.
New screenwriters looking to break into the industry often struggle with questions like “How do I get there?” and “Where do I find the time?” Balancing the workload, planning, and organization needed to reach writing goals can often feel daunting, especially given that new writers are often working full-time jobs in other industries.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. It feels like whoever said that had a lot of time on their hands to plan. But alas! There is truth to it. According to Harvard Business Review, goal setting works. Investing a small amount of time to plan and set goals can drastically improve your odds of getting to your end result.
Here are tips and tricks to create a screenwriting annual plan.
Reflect and Set Your Goals
Start by thinking about what you would like to accomplish in the year ahead and writing the goals down. The Harvard Business Review study found that ten years after graduating, three percent of MBA graduates with written goals ended up earning 10 times as much as the other 97 percent combined!
Make your goals as specific and as full of realistic expectations as possible. Define not only the goal but the behaviors that will keep you on a consistent track toward your outcome.
Some examples could include:
- Write consistently:Hours or words to write per day or week
- Get my work out there: Enter a number of screenwriting contests, labs, fellowships, etc
- Improve my current scripts:Get feedback on and rewrite a number of scripts
- Hone my craft: Read, watch or listen to a number of content pieces, or enroll in free or paid coursework
- Build my writing community:Start or join a writers group, class, or organization
Research Your Goals and Define What It Will Take To Accomplish Them
Once you’ve established your goals, it’s time to go one level deeper. This is the step where you take a goal, such as “Get my work out there.” Enter a number of screenwriting contests, labs, fellowships, etc., and make an action plan to get it done throughout the year.
For this example, research what contests/labs/fellowships are available, the various types, that interest you, what the entry process involves, and when submissions are due. Define how long you think it will take to apply, and what work you need to do to submit based on the requirements—which could include rewriting or polishing an existing script, writing a personal statement, creating a portfolio, etc. After selecting a doable number of entries, work backward from the submission dates based on the level of effort and time needed to get the submissions ready. Note the individual steps you would need to do monthly, weekly, and daily to get to your goal.
This “working backward” strategy helps with a variety of goals—such as finishing a script. Calculate how many pages you need to write per day to get to 90–120 pages, given how long you have each day to write, and your average word count per day.
Choose a Planning Tool That Works for You—Digital, Physical or Both.
Now that you’ve seen an example of the process of goal setting, it’s time to choose a tool that works for you. These tools can range from a simple notebook to more structured tools like Google Docs and Calendar, to sophisticated tools like Notion.
Notion is a strong contender for its multi-device accessibility, folder structure, to-do functionality, page organization, notifications, templates, and ease of sharing. It is a great home base for defining goals, specifying them, creating to-do lists, and more.
It can also be helpful to visually see your writing plans over a yearlong calendar view. According to Forbes, making your goals visible activates a different part of your brain and stimulates creativity. With simple wall calendars, you can write out when you plan to work on what, and see how you progress through milestones throughout the year.
Create Support Systems
Now that you’ve set, defined, and written down your goals, it’s time to own them. Sharing your goals with family, friends or other writers in your network can increase a sense of accountability towards meeting your goals, and you can also ask others directly to hold you accountable.
Creating deadlines and having set check-in points is also useful. A great way to do this is with a writers group, that you can attend at a certain cadence to present and discuss progress towards your goals, as well as receive feedback on your work.
To further support hitting your goals, remember to nurture your creative self. Consider setting Artist Dates with yourself—self-defined, solo expeditions to explore artistic interest you have which may, or may not be, related to screenwriting, but will help fill your creative cup.