21 New Year’s Screenwriting Resolutions (and How to Keep Them) – Part I

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by Fin Wheeler

With the New Year come vows to write more and better. Here are a few pointers on how to keep your screenwriting resolutions.

1. Write more often

Every screenwriter could spend more time writing. Award-winning screenwriters tell of how they’d get up three hours early each morning just so they had time to write.

Start small and regular, gradually increasing the duration of your writing sessions. Writing screenplays is quite technical and difficult. It can help to only write in prose for the first month or two while you carve out your writing routine.

2. Write better

No one writes a perfect first draft. It’s tempting just to register it and get it out there, but the secret to writing better is rewriting.

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3. Write a new spec each year

You’ve heard others boast they write a new spec each month. Why can’t it be you?

There are hundreds of thousands of new screenplays registered each year. The world is lousy with badly written screenplays that producers have no interest in reading. Woody Allen could tap out one spec a month, but he chooses to write one screenplay a year. Quality is what producers are looking for, not quantity.

4. Stop abandoning each script halfway

Often this happens when you’re trying to write an idea to impress someone else, an idea you have no genuine personal interest in. As professional writers, we always have to write what’s required. That’s why our (unpaid) specs need to feed our soul. They keep our passion for writing alive.

The other reason you get stuck is that you probably didn’t spend enough time outlining. Be sure about the plot points. Don’t be afraid to do several drafts in the outline stage. The stronger your structure, the faster and easier it is to write the complete script.

5. Network more

We live in an excessively market-savvy era. Screenwriters are all expected to do our own PR. With networking, as with most things, quality is more important than quantity. Don’t take up too much of someone’s time, don’t ever be a nuisance, and be strategic in your research and approaches.

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6. Procrastinate less

Every screenwriter is going to procrastinate. Writing a feature screenplay is a huge, complex, complicated, daunting, time-consuming task, of course we’re going to want to put that off. The trick is to be constructive in your time-wastage. I read. It doesn’t get the words on the page, but it does give me a deeper general knowledge, a stronger sense of why I write and my place within the cultural landscape.

7. Work on your craft

Part of maturing as a writer is acknowledging and accepting your weaknesses. You need to work on the elements you’re not great at. Producers want to hire well-rounded screenwriters.

8. Get a qualification

A degree is not a guarantee. The vast majority of people who graduate with a screenwriting degree are never employed as one. The WGA only has a few thousand members, and half of those were unemployed last year.

Film school and/or a creative writing degree can be a worthwhile experience for many, and studio execs tend to have paid a lot for their own education, so they respect a screenwriter who has made a similar investment. But a blind assumption that it’ll lead to any employment will only cause you frustration and disappointment.

A more general (Liberal Arts) degree gives a better value-for-money knowledge base, and introduces you to all manner of interesting subjects to write about. Plus, statistically, interning as a writer’s assistant is far more likely to lead to paid writing opportunities than attending film/creative writing school.

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9. Read more

More than half of all movies released last year were adaptations. It makes sense for an aspiring screenwriter to be well-read. Mix in best-sellers from the fiction and non-fiction lists, a few mid-list novels, as well as some classics.

10. Find that one perfect screenwriting manual you can use as a bible

There isn’t one, but there’s always a useful point or two to be learned. Each producer often has a favorite manual or two, so it helps to be familiar with all the top-sellers.

Check in next week for the next 11 resolutions. And Merry Christmas!

~

Fin Wheeler is a member of the Australian Writers’ Guild and has a feature in development.

5 thoughts on “21 New Year’s Screenwriting Resolutions (and How to Keep Them) – Part I

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  1. Thank you for this list. I already have my 2016 writing projects mapped out. It was very encouraging to see that I’ve already been doing a lot of this. Biggest tackle is to quit being an info junkie, trust that I already know the basics and be OK with putting out a work that’s imperfect.

    Worst case, I’ll be like George Lucas and digitally edit all of my films after they’ve been produced. Lol. <3 star wars.

  2. Biggest issue for me is that halfway through developing a plot/script I suddenly get another brilliant idea and have to document the idea before I lose it… but of course I then lose the impetus on the first. Points 4 and 5 above are great – just need to learn how to stop sidetracking.

  3. Thanks for your excellent motivational tips on writing, Fin. It’s a great way to start the New Year. I especially like #9 about reading a lot. I try to read fiction, non-fiction and screenplays and books on screenwriting as much as possible. I agree that the more we read in general, the more we broaden our thinking and knowledge, and our writing can become better because of this. Happy New Year 2016! Keep up the great work on the articles, and keep on writing! 🙂

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