Time management is all about building reliability between yourself and your work. You can’t control what other people think of your writing. What you can control is how consistently you’re doing it.
Creating a stable writing routine helps build a portfolio, but it also makes you a better screenwriter – one who can work on a schedule, who is growing artistically, and who has an actual script to show someone. It’s a skill set that translates well into being paid professionally, where part of staying relevant is that consistency you’ve built.
If you pay attention to a lot of spec sells and upcoming writers, people tend to lose momentum after they break in with one script because they don’t have a follow up. Say you sell something, that gets the ball is rolling. If you let that hype peter out because you don’t have another script to back it up, you’ve successfully let “the heat” wear off. After everyone’s forgotten about you, you’ll have to get the ball rolling all over again.
It was really common to see that kind of struggle first hand when I worked in representation. Agents and managers lose interest in you if you’re not generating work or scripts to sell. It’s stressful on both ends. Remember, when you aren’t making money, they aren’t making money. They’ll either drop you or forget about you. It’s not because they’re evil. It’s because if you’re not doing the work, they’re not going to invest in you. Sometimes both parties do the work and there’s still tough luck, so if you’re betting on this path, be smart about what you can control.
Once you get a rep, You still have to hustle.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate of healthy writing habits. It separates writing from being a hobby to being a vocation. If you aren’t consistently selling scripts or working on a show, then you’re going to have to get a day job – unless you’re independently wealthy or extremely well-connected.
What are you trying to do with your script? Are you trying to make it yourself? Are you trying to sell it? Are you trying to get staffed? That’s going to inform the way you write and how often you write.
If your goal is to submit to TV fellowships, you’ll need one original pilot and one spec of an on-air TV show. If they like your material, they’ll ask for another script six months later during a follow up. That’s three total within one year.
Script Magazine suggests that you write 3-4 TV scripts a year. Key in time management. You’ve got life + writing + revising. What can you do to make writing a part of your routine?
You’re not going to know how long it takes you to write one script until you sit down and do it. The more you do it, the faster you’ll get. Find that out about yourself.
Do not spend four years writing one spec and then drown when asked to write another one quickly. This totally happens to people. Build up the skill of writing quick and clear.
Features are a weird bird. If you have money, congratulations! You are now officially an executive producer. You can go make your film.
If you are one car repair away from poverty, I can relate. The odds are you’re going to try a different path to getting your film made. A popular one is writing for recognition that will lead to the eventual buying and making of your feature film. By recognition, that can be representation or the acknowledgement of your work in a way that attracts producers with money so that you can make your jam.
In order to shove less time through the glory hole, you’re going to want to write faster than one screenplay every 6 years. The general advice I always hear is that you should be writing at least two per year. When I interned in literary management, managers would expect outlines, treatments, and drafts within a reasonable window. You get a couple months in between each. If you don’t write, they won’t say anything; they’ll just stop emailing you back.
Webseries and Making Your Own Magic Without Money
People are filming movies on iPhones now; have at it. Seriously, more people should be making movies, webseries, and TV shows without worrying if they’re “perfect.” You learn a lot through doing. Because equipment isn’t as expensive as it was ten years ago, a wider variety of people can make content. To me that means that I don’t have to watch the same franchise remade over and over and over again.
An example of this that worked was Broad City. Broad City started out with these short, shitty looking webisodes, but they were packed with funny content. People saw what they did, invested in it, and they now have a Comedy Central show.
This takes a ton of self-motivation, organization and time management. BUT you create and control it to some extent. Generating your own work flow means that you can mimic any kind of writing and production schedule you want. Do a webisode a week or do a batch of ten at once. Film your movie over three weeks or shoot it over 12 years. There’s no right or wrong, only doing.
I always choose writing consistently over, say, losing your shit after looking at something for too long and then shelving it. Because with every script that you write, you’ll get better. And sometimes it’s hard to write something when you feel like you’re not ready. You don’t want to butcher this AMAZING idea that’s better than ANYTHING else you’ve ever thought of in your entire life. If it’s that important to you, then by all means think about it for 10 years – that’s seriously fine – BUT write something else in the meantime. Don’t take a 10 year writing break and pretend that you’re going to get back to it.
Time is precious. We don’t get it back, and we’re not really guaranteed it moving forward.