HAPPY NEW YEAR, SCREENWRITERS!
It’s that time again when we set resolutions, promises and milestones for the next 12 months. Now that’s all good, but remember that the important thing is we follow through with these resolutions. That means that more than just planning, we have to ACT to make these things happen!
So as screenwriters, what are some goals that we can set for ourselves? And what exactly should we do in order to accomplish these goals?
Here’s 8 goals that you can go after this new year:
STUDY HARD, BUT WRITE HARDER
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t study screenwriting anymore. Consuming more material that will help improve your screenwriting knowledge is crucial, but it’s also a relatively easy new year’s resolution. The question is, are you applying what you’ve learned?
Anyone can read and watch as much as they want and learn how screenwriting works. But as a screenwriter, you have to go beyond that. You have to take these learnings and use them.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit down, turn on your laptop and write. Write as much as, if not more than you study. Apply what you’ve learned and only then will you improve as a screenwriter. Books, scripts and movies are important sources of learning, but experience will always be the best teacher.
BUILD A HABIT OF WRITING
If you haven’t realized the power of a good habit yet, it’s about time. Think of screenwriting as being similar to working out. If you want to build those muscles, you have to be consistent in your workouts and diet. Working out once a month brings slow progress, if any at all. Same goes for screenwriting.
HOW TO DO IT: Set a writing schedule for yourself. It can be daily, six or five days a week; it’s up to you. I recommend that you set a daily schedule. Then set a number of hours for you to write. Try at least an hour of writing. Follow this schedule like gospel. It can be difficult in the first few weeks, but if you keep at this for around 2 months, it becomes a habit that you’ll find yourself doing on autopilot.
PRIORITIZE SCRIPT QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
This isn’t a game of who’s got more screenplays than who. Sure, having a lot of screenplays ready to deploy to producers can increase your chances of selling, but producers don’t look at who has the more scripts submitted. They look at screenplay quality (aside from market potential, of course). Does your script have a great story? Is that story told well? Will people pay to see it?
HOW TO DO IT: Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite! Don’t be satisfied with a first draft. Find ways to improve your script until you’ve told your story the best way you can. Avoid rushing to finish as this can affect your script’s quality.
AIM FOR A CERTAIN QUANTITY TOO!
Yeah, I know, I just contradicted what I said. But listen, it won’t take you a full year to finish one screenplay. If it does, then you might be procrastinating a lot somewhere along the way. Or you might not have set a definite deadline for you to finish that one screenplay.
If you stick to a routine, you can finish a script in three or four months. Maybe even less. So you have eight or nine months left for the year. What are you going to do with those? Write your next screenplays!
HOW TO DO IT: Set a deadline for your current screenplay. Yes, rewrite it again and again until it’s the best it can be, but don’t take forever! Having a deadline pushes you to be more disciplined, and discipline is a non-negotiable if you want to be a successful screenwriter. Following a strict deadline also allows you to move on to your next screenplay, instead of spending too much time getting your current screenplay “perfect”.
EXPAND YOUR NETWORK
Connect with peers, fellow writers, students, industry leaders, gurus… anybody who has anything to do with screenwriting and the filmmaking business in general. Exchange scripts or business cards with them. Help your fellow writers if you can! You can learn a thing or two about the craft and business of screenwriting with their help. Also, getting known in these circles will give you the clout you’ll need to accelerate your screenwriting career, so never take them for granted.
HOW TO DO IT: The internet has made it a lot easier to connect with whoever you want in this day and age. Search screenwriting forums and get yourself in the conversations there! Ask for help and offer help to those who ask! But if you have the opportunity, go to where these people are and engage with them face to face. Talking to strangers may be scary, but it’ll pay dividends later on.
SUBMIT YOUR SCREENPLAYS!
Scared to submit your screenplays for fear of rejection? That stops now!
You won’t get anything from having your screenplays sit on your shelf for months. If you really want to test your potential, submit them! Enter contests, contact producers, answer calls for entries! Who knows, one of them may be picked up!
HOW TO DO IT: There’s a lot of screenwriting contests out there waiting for your screenplay. Just google them and see how you can submit. You may also have a local contest or festival that’s calling for entries. Contact them and seize the opportunity. And remember what I said about networking? This is where they’ll come in handy. Ask them if they know any producers you can submit to! Wherever you choose to submit, just take the leap of faith. Don’t worry about them not answering you back. Rejection is part of the process. You’ve already won when you submit because you’ve overcome that fear.
PUSH YOUR BOUNDARIES
If you want to become better, you must aim higher!
Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone. Stretch yourself continuously, little by little. Try writing more challenging material. Test and experiment. Yes, play to your strengths, but don’t lock yourself around them.
HOW TO DO IT: The easiest way to do this is to write in genres that you haven’t tried yet! Are you more of an action screenwriter? Try doing rom-coms! Maybe you can adapt some of your storytelling devices in your action movies for your rom-coms! Ever wonder how that’ll turn out? Who knows, it just might be a recipe for success!
BE KINDER TO YOURSELF
New Year’s resolutions are all about being better. As a screenwriter, you aim to be better at your craft. But don’t forget that it’s more important to be a better version of yourself overall. That includes being kinder to yourself. Hold yourself to higher standards, but remember to nourish a positive outlook always and don’t be too hard on yourself.
You will encounter screenwriting failures this new year. Accept it, embrace it and make peace with it. By doing so, you help yourself approach these with a more optimistic perspective when the time comes.
HOW TO DO IT: Don’t push yourself too hard and expect too much out of yourself. Take well-needed breaks. Engage in other activities that will help replenish the creative fountain. Don’t punish yourself for your failures. Instead, look at them as learning opportunities. Remember, a “no” only means “not yet”. Keep your head up and write on!
Whatever your New Year screenwriting resolutions may be, write them down and commit to them faithfully. It can be a struggle to follow them at first, but hang in there! You do that, and you’ll be surprised at the progress you would have made at the end of the year.