Weekend Writing Inspiration: Building a Vision for Your Screenwriting Career
January 4, 2019
Goal Setting for Screenwriters, Part II
|“What’s the best way to set goals as a screenwriter?”|
Last week I wrote about mistakes screenwriters commonly make while setting goals. This week, we’re tuning into your vision for your screenwriting career.First thing’s first: When setting goals, make sure to set them in the context of that vision. What do you want to accomplish in your screenwriting career, and how do your goals fit into that? It’s too easy to fall into doing what other people tell you to do or mirroring what you see other screenwriters doing. That will only lead you off course from where you want to be.
Begin with the end in mind
What kind of screenwriting career do you want? Is this something you’re dabbling in on the way to other things? For example, are you writing a feature so you can direct it? Are you aiming to build a name as a screenwriter before turning to novels? Would you like to be hired for paid screenwriting assignments? Are you intending to position yourself as an expert or leader in a particular genre or writing style?
Think about where you ultimately want to be as you set goals and make decisions for the short term. Let’s also acknowledge that careers change and evolve over time; the idea here is to chart the overall course you’re intending to take, and to fine-tune it along the way.
Know your “big why”
While thinking about your vision, contemplate your “big why.” That is, why you want to be a screenwriter. What’s important about it to you? What’s your dream for what you’re hoping to accomplish? Is there something you’re wanting to create in your own life, like income or recognition? Do you have a mission or message?
Your “big why” is your guide; a tool you can use to stay on track with your goals when or if you lose your way. To find it, identify what first comes up for you when you contemplate the question, “why do I want to be a screenwriter?” then dig underneath your answers.
For example, at first you might come up with something like, “I want to see my story ideas on the silver screen.”
Okay, good. What’s underneath that? Why do you want that? Perhaps it’s something like, “I want to create joy and laughter for people.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Still, go deeper than that. Why is that important to you?
Maybe what comes next is, “I want to help people navigate difficult times.” Nice!
Keep digging until you get to the root of your own “big why.”
Know yourself as a writer
Some writers blaze through drafts like wildfire; others set a steady pace. What are your writing strengths and limitations, and where do you want to develop? What kind of writer are you?
Use this information when you’re setting goals; think about ways you want to grow as a person and a writer. Now, factor that into your plans.
Design your writing life, too
TV writing in a writers room in Hollywood is a different ball of wax than writing features in your own cozy writing den. Writing your ideas on spec is different than paid writing assignments with deadlines, or working with collaborators.
What kind of writing life do you want? Think about that, and make sure the goals you set align with it.
Map your trajectory
Even if you’re not 100% sure how to get to where you want to be — and you know there are things outside of your control — you can make a reasonable stab at mapping out the path from where you are now to where you want to go.
Are you on a directing trajectory? You might start by writing a script you can direct and fund through your own means (including crowdfunding). This means your goals will cover writing as well as marketing.
Are you seeking paid writing assignments? You might start with developing solid writing samples, particularly within a specific genre or according to the brand you wish to establish. You could also make contact with managers.
Brainstorm your big writing goals
Once you have a start at a path mapped out, jot down your initial ideas for your big writing goals. Starting with year-long goals is fine, like:
- I want to develop a low-budget feature I can easily fund and direct that aligns with my brand and genre
- I want to write three screenplays in the coming year
- I want to do everything in my power to land a manager by this time next year
Then, focus on your “next-step” writing goals
Now it’s time to consider the short term. As we covered in the last article, one of the biggest mistakes writers tend to make is to set goals for the full year without thinking about what they’re going to do to get there, often leaving themselves scrambling later on.
Plus, it turns out we do better if we frame our goals with short-term time periods, like 30 to 90 days. Those time frames tend to feel real and doable, and are therefore motivating.
Here are some examples:
- If your goal is to write a low-budget script you can direct, your first order of business might be coming up with a batch of high-concept, low-budget ideas to consider and evaluate.
- If your goal is to write three new screenplays, which one will you focus on first? Your “next-step” goal might be to make a list of all your ideas and/or brainstorm new ones. The next step after that will be to pick one of those scripts.
- If your goal is to land a manager, what are the first steps you’ll need to take to help you get there? Is your “next-step” goal to develop writing samples, perhaps? Or to research a list of managers you think might be a good fit for you?
Take your long-term goals and turn them into something you can start with right away.
Your weekend writer’s assignment
Jot down your thoughts about where you’re headed as a screenwriter and the “big why” behind it, then start mapping your path to get there. Once you have a sense of the trajectory and plan, do some initial goal brainstorming for the coming year and your “next-step” goals.
We’ll fine-tune your goals in next week’s article by reviewing SMART goal setting to help you make sure your objectives are actionable and achievable. Stay tuned!
Got questions you want answered?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself as a writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Jenna’s online form and she may choose your question to answer in a future article.
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