Many screenwriters feel they have to create a unique “voice” to separate their work from the other two million scripts that are on the market at any given time. Unfortunately, in doing so the writing gets in the way of the story and distracts the reader. Remember, the reader is reading your script in hopes of finding a good story that they can market. In the course of these writing tips I’m going to show you how to develop a style that makes you look like a pro and gives your story a scintillating read.
A TIME-HONORED TIP FOR CREATING A TON OF PRODUCT QUICKLY
This is a time-honored suggestion that, if adopted by you, will afford you the result of a great deal of product. The nut of this suggestion is as follows: set aside time every day to write. Make it like office hours, like going to work, punching a time clock, an obligation to yourself and your work.
Before John Grisham was a famous novelist, he was an attorney. He would get up every morning at 5 am and write for one hour before he went to the office. He wrote two novels like this before he sold one. The rest is history. Daniel Day Lewis locks himself in a room for six hours every day without phone, internet, or any outer distraction to work creatively. Paul Simon works 4 hours a day on songs. He has a specific approach to songwriting that works for him. Until his accident, Stephen King used to write every day from the time he got up until he had written 2000 words – EVERY day! The Coen Brothers put in 8 hours a day. When they hit a writing block while creating MILLER’S CROSSING, they detoured for 3 weeks to write BARTON FINK, a story about a writer with writer’s block. Then they went back to MILLER’S CROSSING. The point is, they kept writing. I know many screenwriters who write 5 pages a day no matter what. Just think, if you spend one week thinking and outlining your story, then write 5 pages a day for 22 days, you’ll create one script a month!
Since I’ve been doing this, I find myself producing much more product. I set aside the hours of noon to 6 pm every day to write. I’ve got many areas to work in. I read and analyze scripts, write scripts on assignment, and write spec scripts. I’m never at a loss for things to work on. The key is to avoid distractions and procrastinations. I know my weaknesses, and the effort is to ignore the temptations and get on with the work. Once I’m on the job, things flow for me. The effort is to show up and put my butt in the chair.
Noon to six pm is an inviolable time of writing for me. The only time I break this rule is when I have an important appointment that cannot be made outside this time frame. I start at noon because it gives me the time in the morning to exercise, meditate, eat breakfast, and answer important email. Interesting that, like working out, there’s inertia to overcome, but once I get started the time passes so quickly and enjoyably, that often I continue way past six pm. I take necessity breaks, but my mind stays in writing mode the entire time. This routine becomes easier and easier the more I keep this date with myself. Like any other habit, it has become something that I look forward to.
A corollary to this habit of working at the same time daily is to carry a small tape recorder around with you (I understand some phones are also recorders. I’ll have to join the 21 st century soon.). In this way you can record any ideas that come to you in your hours out of the office, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night. I had a dream last night where the damp floor was breathing and bellowing under my feet like it was alive. I have no idea how I would use that, but it is definitely an idea that I have recorded just in case.
So, that’s the writing tip. Set aside the same time every day. Then WRITE! You can always rewrite.