Paula Landry, MBA, is a writer/producer and consultant helping writers create strategies for INSPIRation, MOTIVATion & ACTivation to excel, improve storytelling, fusing business & creativity. Landry teaches film business classes at NYU, SVA, Wagner College and MCNY. She’s co-authored This Business of FILM; and Sell Your Screenplay; and is the author of Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film. Connect via LinkedIn, @paulalandry on Twitter, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook #filmdreamers #mediaentrepreneurs #aflickchick
Can you apply a gym routine to writing? Of course you can, and it's a great way to shape up your writing. It’s May, and I’ve re-started the Summer shape up that I was supposed to have started on the first of April, March, February… but the point is – I’m late but at least I’m on it!
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Stop persecuting me, scale with your accusing, digital eyes!
Here are some ideas about how to improve your screenplays by applying workout concepts to your writing.
Goal: Leaner writing by adding muscle
Once the workout regimen begins, there are specific actions to build muscle. More muscle will automatically improve your health, burn fat, and increase energy. To make sure I don’t forget my shape up plan, I’m applying this concept to other aspects of my life, like writing – namely, looking at a way to make my writing leaner, healthier and more energetic. So with that in mind, I’m opening a virtual gym for writing. Join any time, it’s free and doesn’t smell like sweaty socks, so that’s a bonus!
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Is it time for a snack yet? Sorry. And stop thinking about carbs – they no longer exist for us.
Add muscle to your writing in 3 ways
We can add muscle to our writing, just like in real life, by:
- Increasing the amount of weight
- Increasing the reps
- Getting a trainer
Adding muscle by weight lifting is a matter of increasing pounds, and more reps. That’s it, it’s not rocket science. Having said that, increasing the amount of weight we lift, whether through repetition or additional pounds, can be HARD! Getting a trainer is just adding encouragement, direction, and accountability, which comes in handy no matter which way you slice it.
Produce more writing
We need to be able to produce more and make it better. In writing – the equivalent of adding more weight is pushing yourself to produce more – more treatments, more script ideas, more plot twists, more original story lines and unique characters. Not everything you’ll produce will be high quality, much will be super stinky (speaking from personal experience) but there will be gems to create new stories in there.
Borrowing this from James Altucher – create 20 new ideas every day with idea sex – combining 2 disparate and maybe outlandishly different ideas, no matter how weird. This will help your conceptual muscles get bigger, and you’ll lose some of your self consciousness, (and judgi-ness) becoming more free in your writing and thinking.
I’m NOT talking about sheer quantity of words and more pages on any random old thing – that’s the road to carpal tunnel, feeling scattered. Producing more is setting a challenge to discover new projects you might want to write.
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The process is commitment free, like writing 3 synopses in a week based on movies you’d like to see with Grandma, or creating 2 loglines of a vampire-themed romantic-comedy starring Kermit The Frog.
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This exercise is particularly suited for those who want to work in TV, you need to churn it out (if you read the Shonda Rhimes book THE YEAR OF YES where she talks about the pressure to ‘lay the track’ of story that the train of production would steam through on.
This exercise is also for those of the non-finishing variety looking to complete some work… you know who you are. Starters, just not finishers. Writing faster means getting to the end faster. Yes, you’ll need to rewrite – but that would be the case, no matter what.
Produce better writing
Adding definition to those muscles (hello Michael Phelps) means facing your writing with an impassive and ruthless eye – cutting the darlings, becoming allergic to tropes – so pick one thing a week and just do it. Right after your high protein breakfast.
Cutting the darlings: You know them well, those scenes in which your writing is SOOOO clever and funny. You spent so much time on that scene you hate to lose it? Ditch it. Often we write, rewrite and fawn over scenes that don’t forward the story, they distract from it.
Trope-intolerance. Mindy Kaling – actress, comedian and creator of The Mindy Project, writes in her hilarious book Why Not Me? about certain tropes get reused over and again. Those she's making fun of lately include:
"The Staunch Oval Office Dame," "The Abandoned Spinster Club," and "Neurotic Sensitive Guy Is Also Super-Unhappy, "Hot Serial Killer Who's Kind Of Literary," which stars a "melancholy English actor" and is "everyone's mom's favorite show."
Increase the Reps by Writing More Often
Increasing the number of repetitions in writing is writing more often. I know, you have a schedule, but isn’t your commute an opportunity to rewrite a scene in your head? Or that endless elevator ride in work – use it to pitch ideas to your trapped audience to sharpen the drama in your story idea.
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Make a game of it, by increasing the number of instances in your daily schedule to write, even if those are short. It’s BETTER if they are short, in fact experts say that we can only concentrate for 20 minutes or so, anyway.
Get a Trainer
"Trainers" come in various forms, apps and accountability buddies in the form of other writers, a writing group, books, courses, webinars, or hiring a consultant. They all can work for you, but you have to try it and commit. Part of the commitment process means making room for them – allocating money, time, and the energy to do the required work.
In conclusion, now is the perfect time for you to hit the writing gym, shake up your routine and challenge yourself! If you’re looking for a pal to track your workouts with, let me know and I can help match you up with a buddy to keep the momentum going.
Good luck with the workouts & thanks for reading!
Rock your writing,
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