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

A letter to the 18 year old myself

My dear son, let me tell you... by Funny Fish
 

Hi there,

While looking for something, I happened to stumble upon those diaries that you are so religiously writing right now. Quotations, long handwritten book extracts, poems, fears, joy and frustrations spanning around 7 years- man, I think I am not half that methodical after all these years. It made me a bit sad to know how miserable I was those days.

Nostalgia plays strange illusions. Human memory has the ability to strip off all the unpleasantness from our past and embellish it in a beauty that really never existed. While reading your diaries I realised that probably I am much more self assured and socially confidant and happy now than you, my 18 year old self.

I am glad that you are writing those diaries. They gave me some perspective. And I am sorry to inform you that I stopped regular diary writing in around 2006 just before starting my post graduation. Interestingly I started a blog in 2007. But it never comes close to those diaries. Because the honesty when you write something for just yourself cannot be surpassed by anything else. I think that the biggest challenge as a writer is, how much you are willing to reveal about yourself as a person. Honesty is king. A reader can palpate the courage of the writer in his words.

I am glad that you are holding on to writing despite all the rejection slips, peer pressure and your own insecurities about the rationality of what you are doing. Probably writing is the only thing that you are doing right. But that will do. Everyone needs something to hold on to, in the storm of chance events that is coming his way. A narrative that will color every random event in life with a meaning.

You seem to be asking me, would I have done anything differently then if I had known what would happen 15 years from now? Probably not. I don’t think so. Like my post graduate career choice. Like not giving up on the dream of being a writer. Of course I would have written more. Would have knocked on all those doors much more furiously. And I would have reached out to my friends more. Would not have allowed them to drift away in the currents of life. I realise their emotional worth much more now. And I would have allowed myself to make more mistakes.

You want to know whether you would be successful after 15 years? Would you regret your actions and decisions? I just want to tell you- Don’t worry about the future. It is not going to do you any good. Because no matter what, your success depends on your definition of success. So it doesn’t matter. 15 years down the line, you may look with disdain at the greed or shallowness of many of your peers which is only surpassed by their contempt for your choices. So everything depends on the perspective. And you are making enough money to live decently. And you still love your day job.

And I saved the biggest news for you till the end. Despite all your indecisions and flip flops and jitteriness about ‘what you want,’ and ‘what you are going to do,’ ‘Regretting foolish fantasies,’ I am proud about you. You know why? You are the among the rare few among your peers (I can count them in my fingers), who would take some bold choices in future. You ignored what others did when it mattered. It was tougher for you because you took a detour while others were just following a long procession. I never expected that much courage from you. Would those choices pay off? Or would you regret them? I can tell you only this much. I am still standing here. And I am not banging my head on the wall. In fact the only regrets I am having right now is that I didn’t follow through those decisions with enough conviction later on. And I am having this nagging feeling that another 15 years from now, if I am going to regret anything, that is going to be that lack of conviction rather than those bold choices.

So don’t worry. Just continue what you are trying to do. Only thing is- be a little more happy and relaxed. Don’t read too much into everything. Do what you like and enjoy what you do. Love life. Rest of it is just useless interpretation.

With lots of empathy,

Your senior self.

Photo by Funny Fish

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 script writing strategies for 2012: first update

First of all, I was supposed to do an update every month as per the initial resolutions. But this is coming after 2-3 months. Because after some time I felt that too many updates may make less sense as there is more data to go through.

Total number of days- 96

Number of days where I completed 2.5 hrs of writing- 42

number of days where I didn’t write anything- 35

Number of days where I wrote for more than 3 hrs- 4

Number of networking mails/calls/sms supposed to be sent- 25

Number of networking mails/calls/sms sent- 15

Number of targets set- 10

Number of targets completed within stipulated time- 4

The alarming number among these is the number of days where I didn’t write anything. Well, there has been some unexpected developments at work and home because of which those days happened. But if I had really put my mind into it, I could have written at least one hour on those days.

Networking may appear to have fallen short of the target, but actually there was some initial procrastination and ‘finding my way to do it’ involved. Now things are on track. Target setting is doing fine. Believe me, I was even worse than this. Now I have a 40% success rate.

The new idea I have come up with for the last 3 months is learning the art of narration of a story. I should sit in front of the mirror and practice. May be I should videotape my own narrations (which  then would be safeguarded in the strongest lockers known to mankind for avoiding unwanted embarrassments). Let us see.

Photo by Lawrence Whittemore

Deadlines and scriptwriting

Putting up deadlines and following them religiously has been one of my resolutions for this year. Yeah, I have heard all the usual suspects of an argument against deadlines in writing. ‘In art, you are compromising on the quality of your work by not making it as best as it can be,’ ‘Good art is about committing yourself to something regardless of the cost of time and opportunities’ etc. But in my experience, I am compromising on the quality of my writing when I am not conscientious about the time that I am putting into various aspects of writing.

Because otherwise I would spend three months or more into outlining when I should have finished it in a month and then another couple of months into the treatment. Then finally when I come into the first draft, I would realise that there were inherent issues in the execution of the script which would make most of the work in the previous phases invalid and useless. Often mere fatigue and irritation will force me to push many issues under the carpet.

It has been my experience that to really come up with a good script, one need to go with the intensive and extensive work hand in hand. At least for me, however hard you scrutinize and work on the first round of outlining/ treatment/ drafting, there will be crucial issues that you are only going to detect in your second or third draft. So there is some truth in the saying that ‘vomit out your first draft as fast as possible.’ If some one decides to spend two month each on outlining, treatment and drafting, I would suggest that rather than doing it in blocks, one should spend one month each on each of these stages and then go back to drawing board in the next three months. That way, I feel that your script is going to be 100% better.

Photo by justmakeit

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

My scriptwriting balance sheet for 2011

I intended to write at least 2.5 hours per day  in the last one year. If I don’t reach that target, I will not access the internet for that particular day other than to check my mail. I am glad I didn’t succumb to the urge to peek into the net even once in the last one year without reaching the target.

So how much did I write?

Well, I will simplify the math here. If I just calculate the hours based on days I have reached my target and also the days I overshot my target, it would be around 370 odd hours. That is slightly more than 1 hour per day.

Wait, not done yet.

There are at least 72 days where I have worked but didn’t reach the target of 2.5  hours. Most of these days, I usually would have crossed 1.5 hour mark. There are many days where I fell short of the target by half hour. Still to keep it at the lower side, if calculated at the rate of 1 hour each of these days, it would be a total of 442 hours of writing in the last one year.  That would be around 1.2 hours of writing per day.

I am proud of this even though when rounded into average figures, it is very conservative even for some one with a day job. The reason is that, there were times where writing ground to a halt for weeks due to some academic assignment. At the personal side also, this was one of the toughest periods for finding the atmosphere to write (which is going to change in a couple of weeks). Also there are two 2 week vacation periods in there where I took a sabbatical from writing. And I am going to go easy on my rules in the last week of december even though I will continue writing.

Now what is the output? Did I complete the tasks that I had set out to do in this year?

All I can say is that I almost got an equivalent work done. Almost means around 80%. Why equivalent? Due to a variety of reasons, mostly the projects I planned to do in 2011 were not the ones that I ended up working on. Also a (co-writing) project concept was abandoned midway into the 1st draft because it was not going any where. Hopefully, we will approach it from a different angle later on. Anyway I covered more ground with my collaborative projects than my personal ones for obvious reasons.

I am happy with my writing in 2011 except for one single thing. It is all over the place. I need to concentrate on specific projects with the objective of finishing them rather than developing a number of ideas in parallel. I need 2-3 finished products in my platter rather than 10 half finished ones.

Photo by Dalo_Pix2