That's one of the main problems aspiring screenwriters face when it comes to writing on spec. There's no finish line that they have to work towards, or aim at. No one's standing over them making sure that they get the work done. And that is a major problem, if you want to call yourself a screenwriter. Realistically, if you want to call yourself an aspiring screenwriter, then you really need to do the legwork, and come up with the goods. This means, you need to be producing screenplays on a regular basis, and not settling for the first thing that you manage to finish writing.
This is not a sprint, this is a marathon.
Making yourself accountable.
As an aspiring screenwriter, you need to make yourself accountable. One way to do this, is to tell people that you're an aspiring screenwriter. You may get back some silly responses, but once you've told them, you'd better make sure that you're writing something. Otherwise, it's all for naught, when they ask you what you're currently working on, and you tell them that you're not working on anything.
Another way of making yourself accountable, is by giving yourself a more concrete deadline to have those projects completed by. And one of the best ways of doing this, is by choosing a reputable screenwriting competition.
There are several to choose from, and they all have various entry dates.
This will give you a concrete goal, or a number of concrete goals to achieve. Depending on the number of projects you are working on. And the time-frame you've given yourself.
You have to make sure that these goals are attainable. That they are realistic. This will come down to a number of factors.
- What your responsibilities are away from writing? Family, work, social?
- The amount of time you have to complete these goals by?
- When are the deadlines? How far away are they?
- Are you giving yourself plenty of time to complete them?
When it comes to my own writing, what I tend to do, is give myself twelve months to complete a number of projects. If you're writing features, realistically, you should probably be aiming for four projects in a year. Certainly, no more than five. Otherwise, you won't have enough time to get any notes back on your work. Quality should always trump quantity. Unless you're planning on working on these projects at a later date. There's no point consistently churning out crap. It's far better to focus on fewer projects, and make sure that you give yourself the best opportunity to make them the best they can be.
As an example.
Twelve months from now, this screenwriting competition allows the first entries.
Figure out what projects you'll be working on through the course of the year. This will vary depending on what you write. The number of features you write in a year will be different to the number of sitcoms, and 1 hour pilots you can write. But the same principle applies. Better to focus on fewer projects, and make them the best they can be. Especially if you're planning on sending them out to be read. What's the point of sending out a crap draft to anyone?
This year, I'm working on four projects. Possibly five. But I'll be happy with four. Even three. These are all rewrites, from previous vomit drafts that I coughed up in the last two years. Far too many vomit drafts. They weren't very good!
I'm using the competition entry date as the deadline. That's the goal. To have these projects all rewritten by then. This workload is quite achievable in this time-frame. As long as the planet doesn't suffer from an alien invasion between now and then. Which is unlikely, but you never know!
- Set yourself goals.
- Make sure these goals are realistic.
- Give yourself realistic deadlines to complete these goals by. 3 months. 6 months. 12 months.
- Make sure you have time to get feedback and notes on these projects. And give yourself plenty of time to implement these notes into the rewrites. If needed. It's always a good idea to get notes, and make revisions. Writing is rewriting!
- Work to these deadlines!