There’s been a good discussion on the Shooting People Screenwriters mailing list recently about how long writers, especially writers with day jobs, actually spend writing per day. As with most things that rely heavily on self-discipline, the only answer can be ‘whatever works best for you’.
In the past I’ve aimed to try and do an hour every weekday but I’ve only ever managed this in short bursts, maybe a month or so each time. At the end of 2010 I began writing a new feature script and set myself the task of doing an hour every single day. This worked marvellously and in a little over 2 months I had the first draft of a script, which is the fastest I’ve ever written anything without the pressure of a deadline.
So my aim for 2011 is to do an hour every single day, including weekends and holidays – 365 hours. Obviously it’s not feasible to actually write every single day so if an hour is missed my time goes into debit and I make up the hour elsewhere. I’ve just done my hour for today and I’m only an hour down so far this month, meaning in January I’ve already done 21 hours of writing.
I find it quite neat that each week I get 7 hours of writing done, or roughly 1 working day of actually being a writer. Having to set the hour aside each day and actually doing it proves to be very rewarding, leaving me satisfied that I’ve accomplished something that day and less guilty using the rest of my spare time to my own debauched ends. And an hour definitely focuses the mind, pushing it to get things down on paper before the time has vanished.
In the past I’ve kidded myself that not doing anything during the week is fine and I can make up for it during those endless weekends that are always just round the corner but disappear in a flash. A haphazard approach also meant there was never any consistency, with time wasted catching up with what I’d done last time and trying to get back in the groove. A proper schedule means the script is fresh in the mind and you can easily plan what to do with the hour the next day and the day after that.
The hour itself I class as mainly writing actual drafts but I also include writing scene outlines, character bios, treatments etc in that time, anything that contributes directly to the screenplay. So reading about the craft of screenwriting or doing this blog do not count! I have included general research for a script in the hour but have found that meandering around Wikipedia in the name of work usually leads me drifting off to other, less work related, things – curse you internet! So anything that involves being online may have to be done at other times.
Finally, I am slowly redesigning the site. I know it looks a bit boring, would you believe my day job is as a web designer?! But hey, my screenwriting hour has to take priority over all other distractions to justify this blog in the first place!