Script writing strategies for 2014

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So how was my last writing year?

Less regular writing. But more output. Strange, isn’t it?

Less internet. Got a bit distant from my friends. I should blame it on my insistence to finish my writing first.

More outlining and brainstorming. Less writing screenplays. Good or bad? Not very sure.

Less co-writing projects. More solo adventures. Less speed. Less protection.

To be honest, it does surprise me that I am still here after 7 years. I am still doing this. I have a day job. I have a family. And still I am hanging in here with the skin of my teeth. I realise that I should be an obstinate bloke to be writing even now.

I would not have continued writing if not for the tidbits of validation I had from different quarters. Thank God for those.

So what changed this year?

The single most important change is that I focused more on outlining rather than on writing full scripts.

It has worked at least on an experiential level. I feel that I have got more work done last one year than most other years. By forcing myself to disengage from a project and focus on something else after a reasonable amount of time, I have improved my time efficiency. Most importantly, by postponing the ‘rush’ into the first draft, the ideas change and gets more mature.

Time will tell how much I am losing out by not writing full scripts. I don’t inherently like this method. But this came out of sheer compulsion from the ‘ticking clock.’

The setbacks?

Networking. What really suffered last one year is not writing. But time spent on finding like minded people and cultivating relationships.

The scarcity of actual meetings. But that was intentional. Because it occurred to me that I am not yet ready. Be that spider. Make sure your web is strong enough. And wide enough.

So what are the plans for 2014?

At least 15 hours of writing every week.

To keep time on writing targets and to monitor my own ability to set ‘reasonable’ targets.

To be ready for meetings by April.

To start meetings in May- at least one every month.

To spent at least 7 hours every week on networking.

At least a blog post per week. Even if it is two lines.

To plan reasonable incentives/punishments for meeting/failing my targets.

Photo by deiz92

Scriptwriting redux

Redux 012/365 by ☆   Tabrel
 

This is an interesting phase in terms of writing for me. Probably the most productive phase I have ever been through. I mean in a strict output-time efficiency sense. There have been periods where I spent more time per day on writing. But it was more in a ‘savour the process and the page count be damned’ mode. Really what it amounted to was more obsessive detailing mostly an hindrance and distraction to the stories that I was trying to write. Now I can tolerate more the imperfections of what I have put down on page. I am much more ruthless in pulling the plug when a project does not appear viable from a practical sense.

So what has changed? Probably what helped are some deadlines looming over the horizon. Planned meetings, scheduled narrations, other commitments heading my way. Until this point, these meetings were a abstract possibility far far away.

My eyes were opened because despite all these years of writing, I am still not in a perfect situation where I am all prepared for a meeting. So I guess, I will have to learn on the fly and move on.

Photo by ☆ Tabrel

Deadlines and scriptwriting

scissors by danielgrenell
photo by danielgrenell

The question is- should one really self impose deadlines in creative writing? Can it harm the quality of the writing?

Often great ideas come when you are least expecting it. If you are mechanical about the various stages (‘After 10 hours of outlining, I am just going to write it’), you may often miss on some great breakthroughs. Writing in itself is a process that cannot be fitted into boxes and flowcharts. Often the associations you make are bizarre and counterintuitive.

But the issue that adds counterweight is the problem of productivity. Writing is not the kind of job where at the end of the day, you can count the number of words and decide whether you have worked well or not. And when it is compounded by writers’ eternal problem of procrastination, it becomes very difficult not to fool yourself. I can just daydream for months lying on the sofa and pretend to myself that ‘I am outlining.’ And if that ‘brilliant idea that burst out of nowhere’ is the criteria of good work, it may also turn out to be damp squib the next day.

So is it a good idea to restrict the time you use for outlining or writing a treatment? Probably not. But what if your outlining goes on for months? How do you know for sure that just because you have spent 2 months for developing something, it is going to be better than spending 2 weeks on initial development and then taking more time on rewriting?

Advantage of spending more time on outlining is that you save a lot of time while actually writing the script. Also most of my unfinished scripts happened because I didn’t outline. On the flip side, often you realise what you really want with the story after you write a complete draft. If you have spent too much time on outlining initially, you lose some of the mental flexibility to revamp the theme and plot of your first draft if it is required. Anyway I have decided to try out the second option- jump into the first drafts after a fixed amount of time in outlining. I need to try all methods to see which one really works.

Writing strategies for 2013


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What is the point of putting down your strategies for the year after 7 months have gone by?

-First of all, it was a conscious decision to delay this post. In the beginning of the year, I was in the middle of a relocation and change in job. So any planning without any idea about the new environment was not going to be useful. Second, I realise now that this post on strategies in the beginning of every year has been really helping me to set my priorities. Making a complete ass of yourself by declaring your goals in public definitely helps.

Now that I have eased into my current job and location, I realise that certain things have changed. Certain advantages have been irretrievably lost. The most precious one is the stability of routine. It is difficult to say before hand how many hours I would be free to write on a particular day. Writing in the weekdays is now a little bit more difficult. At the same time,  now weekend means two free days compared to one last year. The load of academic work has decreased. But being with family brings in its own set of distractions. So overall I feel the amount of time available for writing would be the same. But, the instability of routine prevents me from pursuing daily targets. So I have decided to shift to weekly targets.

The next one year is going to be very crucial in terms of meetings. My biggest weakness is that my writing occurs in a vacuum mostly divorced from external environment except for 2-3 writer friends/co-writers. I need to see where I stand and how others in film field respond to my ideas. I have realised that cultivating relationships is more important than going ‘hit and miss’ with celebrity film makers. Also I have decided to concentrate on my pitching and narration skills.

As it often crops up in my yearly assessments, my problem is not most often not working, but working too much on too little. I need to put up completed work. Despite all the writing, the amount of time I have put into writing does not reflect in the number of completed works. Instead I have half boiled treatments and concepts stuck in mid birth. So I need to improve my time management skills in writing.

I am glad that in the last few months, I have made giant strides in this aspect. I realise now that after a point, the amount of time put into outlining or treatment does not correlate with the quality of the script. Instead, more time need to be put into rewriting after the first draft of the script. You realise what you are trying to write after the first draft. So, I have decided to keep a tabs of sort regarding how much time I am spending for various stages of development on a particular script. Also I need to see how much the reality tally with my initial assessment regarding the time it is going to take.

So the targets are going are going to be-

-18 hours of writing every week. Every day, minimum of one hour of writing needs to be completed. A tally of what kind of work is being done is to be maintained.

-6 hours to be spent on networking activities per week.

-An actual meeting has to take place at least every month.

Photo by martin.trolle

Writing screenplays on android tablets

The widgets

First things first.

I have not done a comprehensive review of all the screenwriting widgets available on net. In fact, I have not tried any screenplay widget which is not free. What I believe is that if you can’t find a free widget for doing something, probably that function is not either relevant or important. I don’t want to buy things that I don’t really need.

But if it is any consolation (to myself included), all the screenwriting widgets I have not tried mostly have very poor rating. So the untested ones are screenwriter, celtx, fade in (paid version).

And my vote is for MyScreenplays free version.

MyScreenplays has a very different format which needs a little getting used to. It is different from other screenplay programs that we use routinely. It treats every segment of dialogue or action as a different unit. You have to open these separate units individually and edit. But after some use, you get used to the structure.

Its biggest strength is import and export. MyScreenplays is one of those few android screenwriting programs that get this one right.

It can import and export to celtx and final draft. Export function has been smooth. But my experience with importing has not been that good.

The only difference between free and paid version is absence of ads. I am seriously thinking of buying the paid version for honoring their decision not to restrict certain functions in the free version.

Fade In free which is very good in other aspects lost out here. I couldn’t export my work in any meaningful way. It is possible that this problem with Fade In Free is very tablet specific (I have a samsung 750 (10.1)) and it would work well in other tablets.

The weakness of MyScreenplays is definitely its unconventional structure and interface. But I assure you, it will grow on you. It needs some getting used to.

I should also mention dubscript here which is a final draft reader. It is a useful widget to read all those finished final draft scripts.

The experience

As I have mentioned earlier, I bought a tablet for productive rather than recreational purposes. Writing screenplay on a tablet is not going to be as smooth as in a desktop, but you can do almost as good as a job once you get used to the keyboard on a tablet. Having a bigger tablet definitely helps for smoother typing.

I thought I would be doing more outlining than actual script writing on tablet. But I was wrong. I found it difficult to outline on tablet. Outlining is the heavy lifting part of the writing and I found the tablet and the interface too distracting. Nothing beats pen and paper for jotting down random incoherent ideas while you are trying to solve a specific problem.

Run…

Things have not gone according to plan last month. Needs more discipline with the writing. The reason is- the time is almost up to really go out into the world. Until now, even though I have been networking through social media, it was more about making myself familiar to others. Within a few months, tenure of my current job position will end. Then comes the opportunity that I have been waiting for all these years- to go and meet film makers.  When I do that, I want to be able to offer a variety of stuff if they want to see my work. So need to step up my act. And punch out some treatments and scripts.

Photo by ADIDA FALLEN ANGEL