It feels like we are in Act 1 of an apocalyptic film!
We are being bombarded with classic cinema images of
once bustling cities now deserted
medical staff covered head to toe in protective wear
panic buying and fights breaking out over of all things
and even more disturbingly the military is mobilising!
It really does feel like we are in
‘The Casandra Crossing’
The story lines are eerily familiar.
Was it a bio weapon accidentally released?
Is it a super virus from nature?
World leaders scramble to deal with the problem as media regurgitates the same information 24 hours a day and scientists race to find a cure and bodies are quickly disposed.
In the general population every conversation is about ‘The Virus’.
Fears mount of economic and social collapse.
Is this the end game?
Whilst these classic stories have shaped our perception of viral outbreaks the reality is this is not the end of life as we know it!
Not to down play things, these are scary times of great uncertainty and major impact to all of us.
There will be positives from this disaster and right now you have a great opportunity in front of you.
We are living in an unprecedented era of forced lockdown in our homes.
This means you have time on your hands…a lot of it!
In 2016 I was forced to stay home for a month after a lung operation.
I used the time to write an entire draft of my feature film The Surrogate.
Writing from home can be difficult but mastering the skill will turn you into a productive writer who maximises their time and improves the quality of their writing significantly.
To help you achieve that here are 5 Tips For Writing At Home
1. Allocate A Time And Stick To It
Discipline is the most important part of writing at home. Without it you can’t be productive. How much time do you need to commit and when to write is optimal?
The answer is – it depends on you.
For various reasons we all can commit different amounts of time to writing, but the magic rule is – once you determine when and how long you can write – you need to honour it.
It will feel hard at the start but within a few sessions your body will get into the rhythm and trust me, it will get easier. You will start to see results and even enjoy the process.
Let’s say you have kids and they wake at 7 am. You decide you can commit 1 hour in the morning from 6am-7am before all hell breaks loose so you need to be at your writing desk at 6am.
It doesn’t matter how productive you are initially, what you need to do is stick to writing between 6am-7pm.
If that schedule doesn’t work but you can set aside Sunday 10am to 1pm, then commit to that and protect that allocated time at all costs.
The variable is how long it will take to finish a project, someone who can dedicate 3 hours a day will obviously finish a draft quicker than someone who has 1 hour a day or 3 hours a week. However, through honouring the allocated time you will eventually complete your draft.
2. Dedicate A Space To Writing
We are creatures of habit and the human mind associates certain behaviours with specific locations. Habits are as much physical as they are psychological. They say it takes 2 weeks to create or break a habit and writing is no different.
Don’t write one day sitting on the couch, the next day on the kitchen table and the following day on your verandah. Dedicate a specific location to your writing and every time you write make sure you sit in that space. Quickly your mind will associate the location with writing your Screenplay thus getting you into the zone immediately.
Stephan King sits at the same desk at the same time of the day religiously and he knows a thing or two about story telling and productivity!
3. Get Rid Of Distractions
Once you have established your set time and location for writing you need to avoid distractions of all sorts.
Technology is the main culprit and mobile phones and the internet machine are your enemy in this context. Back in the day writers would take their phone off the hook whilst they wrote. The modern writer has to do one of the simplest, yet for some reason, one of the most difficult human tasks…turn your mobile phone off.
I promise if you turn your phone off for 1 hour your life will not cease to exist as you know it!
The internet is arguably an even greater threat to your discipline so do not ‘quickly log on to check your emails, a news site or your social media’ before you start writing. ‘Just checking’ a few websites in the morning always ends in falling down the rabbit hole and this results in wasted time and feelings of guilt.
As a writing colleague of mine says, he knows’s he’s going to be unproductive when the first thing he does before he writes is check the surfing conditions.
Apart from writing the outline, treatment and the actual Screenplay, I still do most of my writing with pencil, paper or on a white board.
For many of you I know you write everything on your computer so you must not give into the temptation to just quickly look online before you start working. Treat getting on the internet as a reward you can give yourself for finishing your daily writing.
4. Have A Daily Plan
The last task I do at the end of each writing session is plan my next writing session. This is as simple as writing in your diary, on a piece of paper or in your note book what you need to do such as:
Plot 5 scenes
Write the protagonists back story
Brainstorm inciting incidents
Write 1 scene
5. Set Goals
This is connected to having a plan and goals not only give you something to work towards incrementally, they create an urgency for you to deliver results.
It’s important to make sure your goals aren’t too easy to achieve as you won’t push yourself, or too hard as you will become discouraged when you can’t achieve them.
The best goals are ones that are slightly ambitious but realistic.
The way to approach goal setting and achieving them is to set short, medium and long term ones.
Short term goals are usually day to day or week to week and can include writing a character description, analysing a specific Screenplay or redraft a logline.
Medium term goals are significant stages of the writing process such as plot an act, write a treatment and sketch out a subplot.
Long term goals focus on the major screenwriting milestones such as plotting the entire story, finishing the treatment and completing a draft.
What’s important is you must set specific dates and make sure you are achieving those goals on time.
The main goal is to complete a draft of your Screenplay so I set a date for that and then work backwards from there and determine what is a realistic timeframe for achieving all the sub goals.
A final tip. When you are writing the actual Screenplay, print out what you have written at the end of each session so you can see a pile building on your desk as a measure of the work you’re achieving.
If you do that eventually you will have 90-120 pages of a finished script stacked on your desk – which equals a completed Screenplay.