Weekend Writing Inspiration: A 7-Step Writing Plan to Finish Your Script by Year-End
November 8, 2019
It’s Nov. 8. The end of the year is within spitting distance. Wouldn’t it be great to finish the year strong with a completed draft of your script?
Today’s article helps you tackle creating a step-by-step plan so you can finish your script and celebrate New Year’s Eve wholeheartedly.
Step 1. Define “finish”
Before you embark on a journey to finish your script by the end of the year, you need to know two things: Firstly, what does “finish” mean? Secondly, what does “the end of the year” mean?
Finish can mean different things to different writers at different stages of their careers and drafts. To one writer, finished might mean submitted to a studio executive. To another, it might mean finishing a lightning draft. You get to pick, but be clear with yourself so you aren’t waffling about whether or not you’re really done when you realize what you meant by finished was “ready to send out for feedback” and not “still needs a few more passes before I can show it to anyone.”
End of the year can mean different things to different writers, too. If you’ve got kids who’ll be out of school for the winter holidays, end of year might realistically mean something more like Dec. 13 or 20, not Dec. 31. And even if you don’t have kids, the holidays tend to eat up more time than we expect, so you may want to pad your schedule with some slush time as you build your plan.
Step 2. Get clear on the number of days you have to write
And speaking of schedules, now’s the time to get clear on how many writing days you have available between now and your personal year-end target date.
I use this days between dates calculator to calculate the number of days I have available. Here I’ve done the initial calculation for you, assuming a Dec. 31 finish date: There are 54 days between today and Dec. 31; 35 of them are working days and 19 are weekend days. There are three federal holidays that fall on weekdays in that time period (Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Once you’ve checked the standard calendar, look at your own schedule to see if you have events scheduled to take into consideration, like holiday parties or travel days that will impact your availability.
Use your calculations to identify exactly how many days you have available to work on your script between today and your finish date. Decide if you’ll write on weekends or holidays, and if you want to pad your schedule around events.
Step 3. Create a task list and trackable goal
Now look at your script; what are the steps you need to complete in order for it to get to the “done” state you’ve decided on? Are there 50 pages left to write? Are you starting from scratch? Do you have plot holes to solve? Are you in the middle of a rewrite?
Figure out what you have left to do and use it to create both a task list and trackable goal.
A task list is a list of all the items you need to complete before your script is done. For example, you might list things like “rework character arc for protagonist, double-check scene headings for continuity, review set-ups and payoffs, etc.” Or you might have a list of scenes you have left to write. It’s up to you and where you are with your script.
A trackable goal means creating a goal you can measure. (More about goals here, here and here). For example, your goal might be to write 25 new scenes. That’s an example of a measurable goal because you can check each scene off on a list and see that it’s completed. Or you might be working with a page count goal, or a task list goal. Either way, you want to be able to see yourself making progress.
If you’re working with a task list, take a stab at estimating the amount of time you think each task will take. Then you can track hours as well as tasks. If you’re working with a page count goal, estimate how many hours you’ll need to hit your target.
Step 4. Reverse engineer your timeline.
Now that you know what you’re working on and approximately how long it will take, do some writing math. Take your trackable goal and divide it by the number of days you have to write through your finish date. Let’s say you have 25 new scenes to write and you’re planning to work every day through the end of the year except the three holidays. Let’s also assume you’ve defined “finished” as rough draft finished, so you’re not going to need to leave extra time for analyzing, revising, editing, proofing, or polishing (those will be your next steps in January).
This means you have 50 days, which gives you two days per scene. How many hours each day can you work? Is that doable for you? A writer who’s able to put in 15 minutes a day has a different timeline than one who can afford to put in four hours a day. Do your math and see how it lays out. Make adjustments where needed.
Step 5. Create a way to track your work
Set up a quick way to track your progress. You can use a spreadsheet, app, notebook, bullet journal, star chart, or other favorite tracking method, but have a method to see how you are proceeding with your plan so you’ll know if you’re on track.
Not only will this help you make adjustments if you need to, you’ll also be able to use the information for planning future scripts. When you know how long a particular type of writing task takes you, you’re better able to gauge it for next time around.
Step 6. Plan your reward
Right now, decide how you’ll reward yourself mightily when you meet your goal. (Some writers like to choose penalties, like sending money to a hated organization — whatever floats your boat).
The big idea is to give yourself extra motivation to finish, so pick something that feels exciting, special and inspiring. It doesn’t have to be something tangible or expensive, and it could even be an experiential reward, like taking yourself for a day at the beach (yes, I live in in California).
Step 7. Dive in
You’ve planned the work, now work the plan. It’s time to dive in. Start with the smallest, most logical task on your list or the next scene in your script so you keep the starting friction to a minimum, and keep going until you get to the end. Track your work as you go, and celebrate each day’s work. You’ve earned it!
Your weekend writer’s assignment
Get out your script and your calendar and make a plan to get this bad boy knocked out by year-end. Tell me about it on Twitter too, so I can cheer you on.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list