Sue the Screenwriter on how to keep up a writing schedule when the sun is calling your name

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SUZANNE KELMAN, May 17, 2013

So it’s that time again already. The lilacs are blooming, hummers are at the feeders, and as the new bunny emerges and the sun is starting to shine. Who wants to stay inside and write?

I was out to have a glass of wine with friends this week and one of them asked me a question I get asked a lot: “What is your writing schedule?”

So I thought as the weather continues to warm and try its best to lure us away from our typewriters, computers and writing desks, I would share the rules of writing that keep me on track. This is not so you can spend the days indoors, but so you can get your writing organized and done and enjoy the glorious weather guilt free.

For a couple of years now I have followed a writing practice created by producer/screenwriter Scott Myers. He calls it 1,2,7,14. You can read the full version of here.

What is so great about this way of working is that it is simple, and once you get the swing of it, you will see how it works easily in your life, especially on a sunny day!

This is a format created for screenwriters, but I bet it could easily be adapted for a novel writer, too.  So this is how it works; you just have to remember these four important numbers.

1,2,7,14.

“1” Read 1 screenplay per week. (Or a book if you’re a novelist.) Pick out your favorite movies. Try scripts in different genres to experience different tones and atmospheres. But every week, read at least one full-length movie screenplay. There are several great sites online to get scripts. My favorite is the Internet Movie Script Database because it provides full scripts, with all the action lines included and not just a transcript.

“2” Watch 2 movies per week. (Novelist could watch a classic) Go to the Clyde (or your local movie theater) and watch one movie for sheer entertainment value. Rub shoulders with a real crowd to remind you of your target audience. Then watch one movie at home to study it. Note its major plot points. As I am writing a thriller at the moment, I am studying Hitchcock, the master of suspense.

“7” Write 7 pages per week. (This works for writers, too.) That’s one page per day. It may take you 10 minutes, it may take you an hour, but however long it takes, you knock out a page per day so that every week, you produce 7 script pages.

“14” Work 14 hours per week prepping a story. (Also great for writers to get into the habit of doing it.) While you are writing one story, you are prepping another. Research. Brainstorming. Character development. Plotting. Writing one project, prepping another. Two hours per day so that every week, you devote 14 hours to prep.

Remember these simple numbers: 1,2,7,14.

Those are simple, clear goals. Daily goals, weekly goals.

If you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

  • You will have read 52 screenplays.
  • You will have watched 104 movies
  • You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

So, why not enjoy the nice weather guilt free? Get up early and write that first page; download a screenplay to read in the sun in the afternoon; prep your story once the sun goes down; then save your home movie watching for the weekend and make it an outdoor cinema event in your own back yard.

Have a lovely summer!

Suzanne Kelman is a multi-award winning screenwriter. Two of her screenplays have been optioned and are in development, while another is in pre-production and due to begin filming in Europe this year.  Kelman will run a week-long screenwriting class during the summer at her home studio in Bayview, the dates of which will be announced on the magazine. If interested, email suzkelman@gmail.com.

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