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

My scriptwriting strategies for 2012

It is a little late to write down a list of resolutions for 2012, I know. But this has been the way the year started for me. I was on vacation for first two weeks which was followed by a hectic apartment shift and some heavy duty academic stuff by the side. I still have not picked up all the pieces. But I am on my way.

So why bother with this post? Let me tell me, putting down in public my strategies and commitments for the year and updating about them from time to time (1,2,3,4) has been one of the smartest things that I did last year. There was a steep climb in my writing curve. Also it gave a certain direction for the whole year.

To summarise last year in writing:

The plan-

I realised that rather than spending too much time on networking, I should concentrate on building up a body of work. What is the point of talking with a stakeholder if you really have nothing worthwhile to offer him?

Output-

I increased my productivity by putting consistent checks on the net and pretty much everything else. My page count doubled compared to previous year.

My short film thriller script ‘The search’ was bought by a filmmaker friend in Canada and we developed it further together. His previous short film has been to Cannes. Hopefully ‘The search’ is going to get made this year.

Co-written adaptation of a Malayalam film for a Bollywood director who already has 2-3 credits is getting some eyeballs. Another co-written thriller script which we had set up as an indie project has covered some ground after around one year.

Failures-

Restrictions on the net and the lack of mobility due to my current work cut down my networking dramatically. Continue reading

Strategies for 2011: 4th update

After 1st update on my strategies for 2011, 2nd, 3rd and now 4th updates comes at bigger intervals because whenever there is a crunch in writing time, frequent blogging is the first one to go under the axe. But this public display of both targets and my performance in terms of achieving them has been one of the biggest brain waves I had in 2011. Now there is an extra effort to at least have some modestly defend-able outcomes. So it appears that net can be put to good use, to increase your productivity.

Total number of days: 61

Total number of days where I finished 2.5 hours of writing: 33

Total number of days where I have not done any writing at all: 16

Total number of days where I have exceeded my 2.5 hour target: 3

Total number of days where I accessed net before completing my targets: 0

Even though the number of days where I hit the target time has increased slightly, there is something ominous in the above figures. The number of days where I have not done any writing at all has increased drastically. The key to productivity is writing something every day, however little it is. Also you lose the thread of whatever work you are doing, if you don’t go back to it consequently for a few days. So a ‘zero output’ day is more damaging than not achieving the 2.5 hour target.

Another issue has been the problem of finding time to sit in front of computer and actually type a treatment or screenplay from an outline. As I mentioned earlier, I am travelling a lot nowadays due to my posting and so most of my writing occurs during this time. Naturally outlining happens more often than writing full drafts in such a scenario. So in the last leg of the year, I am having at hand a number of rough outlines still requiring a lot of fleshing out. To rectify this problem, in the next two months, I will be trying a strategy of actually converting these ‘story spines’ to full treatments rather than searching for new ideas. Even though I was planning to develop some new strategies to network and actually set up some meetings at the end of this year, I am postponing it to next year as I would rather have some treatments at hand first.

Photo by Kassch3