Do you seek serious success in the new year? Do you have a compelling desire to write and/or sell your screenplay or teleplay during the next twelve months?
If so, there are three things you must do, but you must start right now. Don’t read another word until you feel ready to dive in. As you continue reading, jot down comments, ideas, and impressions about what you specifically want to do in the new year.
1. Select a script to sell, and one to write
If you have written one or more screenplays, pick the one that you feel is the most marketable. If you need an outside opinion to clearly determine that, get it. If you have written one script only, decide if now is the time to market it or if you should wait until you have written one or two more. Sometimes after writing three screenplays, you see ways to improve the first.
Now, what do you want to write in the new year? Settle on three ideas. Briefly describe each idea—beginning, middle, and end—in a short paragraph. Evaluate each on three criteria:
• What is its commercial potential and how engaging is the story concept (summarized in a single sentence or phrase)? If you wish, try all three out on fellow writers and even friends. Ask them which movie they would prefer to see. It’s a not a scientific poll, but it could prove helpful.
• Is the core story idea viable as a feature film? Is it a great story with fascinating characters? This is an evaluation of the potential quality of the content, irrespective of its commercial value.
• Which of the three do you have the most passion to write? This may be the determining factor. In fact, it should be the determining factor if this is your first script; you need that passion to carry you through to the end.
You may wish to “weigh” each of the three criteria, depending on how much or how little writing you have already done. After choosing one script to write and (perhaps) one script to sell, it’s time to stoke the fire of your desire.
2. Identify goals and milestones
You will have one or two goals. One goal is to sell a particular script in 2022, assuming you’ve decided to sell one of your completed screenplays. The second goal is to write and polish a script by a particular date in 2022. That’s it—one or two goals to begin the year. This is exciting!
Now, select milestones, which you might see as specific steps to the main goal. For example, in terms of writing your screenplay, when will you complete the rough draft, the first revision, additional revisions, and final polish?
You may not know precisely what deadlines you should choose. Select them anyway. You may have to make adjustments as you push forward. Milestones may change over time. Do not punish yourself for not achieving a particular milestone by a certain date. Dismiss any negative self-talk. The truth is you will accomplish more with an objective than you will without one, even if you don’t make deadlines. Focus on your progress, on how good you feel about your forward movement, and on the writing and selling process. Put aside any perfectionistic tendencies. Perfection is not the goal; excellence is.
Make this fun and flexible. Learn to plow through your fears and overcome obstacles along the way. In fact, hurdling an obstacle may become one of your milestones. I’ve consulted with writers as a mentor and teacher for over 30 years, and I can tell you that, generally, perseverance wins out over talent. And that brings us to the third key.
3. Make weekly commitments
This is the single golden key to success. The first two steps prepare you for this simple but powerful tool. Here it is.
Pick one day a week (Sunday night, Monday before breakfast, or whenever) to create an action plan. It will include the specific actions you are willing to take during the week. Doing this means you are serious.
If one milestone is to complete the first draft, at the beginning of each week, decide what you will do that week towards achieving that milestone. You may commit to a certain amount of time that you will devote during the week towards this quest. It could be Tuesday morning from 10 to 12 and Thursday night from 6 to 10, or 20 total hours during the week. Or you may choose a certain number of pages to write.
The power comes in making specific commitments and then doing your best during the week to achieve your weekly action objectives. You must do this every week! If you go on vacation, maybe the only action for that week is to keep a writer’s notebook handy to jot down any ideas that occur to you.
Your weekly action plan should include your one or two goals plus the associated milestones. Weekly actions might include marketing research, learning activities, the number of pages you’ll write during the week, queries or one-sheets to write or how many you’ll send out, cold calls you’ll make, follow-ups, contests you’ll enter, and so on.
You can create your own weekly action plan worksheet, photocopy the one in your copy of The Screenwriter’s Bible, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a worksheet in Microsoft Word (which can be converted to Pages) that you can type on.
The main thing is to have that weekly meeting with yourself. Good luck in 2022, keep writing, and keep selling!