5 Thing You Can Do RIGHT NOW For a Killer Screenwriting Year
If January is known for one thing world-wide it’s resolutions. Resolutions to lose weight. Resolutions to eat better. Resolutions to spend more time with family or quit smoking, or any other vice you might have spent too much time and resources indulging in. And as we all know, most resolutions tend to be a forgotten memory by the time we get into February.
So how do we make sure that the resolve that powers us at the beginning of the year stays strong and builds on itself as the year continues, rather than dissipates completely? Below are 5 things you can put into place now to make 2024 a productive screenwriting year.
- Build a dependable writing routine
Routines are hard to build, but are equally worth fighting for! You know that old saying, structure is freedom? Well, I’m a big believer in that one. Knowing that you have a structure you can depend on provides the freedom to focus on the creative, rather than the anxiety born of not knowing when you might actually get to write, or the frustration that exist when writing time doesn’t make itself available.
Remember: Don’t be overly ambitious when you set out to build your routine. Start conservative, then build on it as you progress and your writing routine becomes habit. Value consistency over quantity. Prioritize writing every day 4- or 5-days a week in order to create consistency over (hopefully? maybe?) finding long 3-hour chunks in which to write because… let’s be honest: those chunks are a hard thing to come by as distractions abound.
And if you haven’t already – or have not in a while – check out Atomic Habits by James Clear! It’s been instrumental for writing habit building for many of my writers.
- Create an avenue for accountability
Here’s an eye-opening fact that I’ve been reminded of again and again in my decade plus as a career coach for emerging and professional screenwriters: Most writers who aim to develop their screenwriting craft and career entirely removed from other writers writing in the same format (i.e. narrative scripted content), who don’t take writing classes and are otherwise entirely removed from the industry, tend to be inconsistent and often quit the pursuit altogether before giving themselves a real chance at it.
Because of this, creating a strong system for accountable, in which the writer is perceived as a writer first, not just a person with a side hobby that no one in their lives really understands, is integral to your ability to deliver a strong screenwriting year. Seek out accountability in writing classes like those offered by Script Anatomy, Pilar Alessandra or Corey Mandell. Work with script consultants, including Pilar, Jen Grisanti and Ruth Atkinson who will help you set delivery deadlines. Find (or create!) your own accountability group, or explore my Monthly Online Career Coaching, which is all about goal setting and accountability, to offset not yet having an expansive screenwriting community.
Which brings us to, naturally…
- Grow your screenwriting community
Accountability, consistency and so much more become significantly easier once you are a part of a growing and thriving screenwriting community, made of writers who are on the same journey as you are, pursuing a screenwriting or TV writing career. If you live in a community outside of Los Angeles where you can’t find screenwriters at the local coffee shop, and if you’ve tired of your family members asking when they’ll see your movie at their local AMC or your show on TV, Community may just be the antidote you need.
Community helps educate and support the writer through their journey and provides partners to celebrate the wins, process frustrations and lament the setbacks with, while keeping writers informed about upcoming events and new opportunities.
There are different efforts you can make throughout the year to bolster and nurture your community: Join an existing, or start your own, writer’s group. Yes, groups are hard to find, but writing classes are often great for finding other writers you’d want to be in a group with. And if you’re already in a group that’s going strong? Consider planning a bring-a-screenwriting-friend night, so that all the writers can meet new writing friends. If you’re in Los Angeles, New York or any other city that has a thriving screenwriting community, attend mixers and events where you can meet other writers. The Austin Film Festival which happens in October of every year is a great event to attend for some intensive in-person network building.
Another way to expand your community is my Screenwriters Support Group which meets online four times a month. Pilar Alessandra and I lead the group through career- and craft-driven sessions that offer everything from workshops and lectures for craft, logline and pitch development as well as real-time script-edit demos, industry panels and special guests including literary managers, screenwriters, readers and experts. To sign up or just learn more about it, click HERE.
- Read more!
We know that outside of writing classes or working one-on-one with a trusted screenwriting consultant (which sounds great but is not within everyone’s budgets) one of the ways that writers consistently improve their craft is through reading current industry screenplays. As you plan your writing routine for the year ahead, make sure to carve out time for regular script reading, preferably of screenplays and pilots developed in recent years, like those that you would find on the annual The Black List which ranks unproduced screenplays written on assignment or on spec, voted on by industry producers and executives.
Not sure how to access the scripts on 2023’s The Black List (that is, the scripts that made the list, rather than those that are hosted on its consumer-facing website counterpart)?. Reach out to me through my contact form and I will gladly share my dropbox with you which houses said scripts.
- Create your submission plan
If your screenplay or pilot has been written and vetted, it does nothing for you and your screenwriting career sitting dormant on your computer. Don’t just wait for opportunity to strike, for doors to open. Instead, make a submission plan for the year ahead, in order to make sure that you’re creating opportunities for yourself and your work.
Whether you’re planning on submitting to screenwriting competitions, labs and fellowships, or making a push for representation, set deadlines, create a schedule and put together a budget (whether it be used on competition submission fees or paying for online pitches) in order to proactively make an effective, comprehensive and actionable plan, which will include the research, preparation and, ultimately, submissions that can stand to move your screenwriting career forward in the year ahead.