After the snow melts, a wasp wakes from hibernation
and all it concerns itself with for the next three weeks is the building of a
nest for its offspring. It doesn’t take smoke breaks, struggle with self-doubt or
let outside influences get in the way of accomplishing its goal. It simply works
until it no longer needs to.
Imagine for a moment that same work ethic applied to you
and your creative endeavor…
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t sleep, or eat or go
hiking in the park every now and then to finish your project. We aren’t insects
(at least not all of us) and are in need of a healthy and balanced lifestyle in
order to sustain sanity. What I am saying though is that when you choose to set-aside
scheduled time in your daily agenda to build the idea that has been buzzing
around in your head for some time, you’ll find remarkable results blooming from
the endeavor. It’s simply an applied use of time management.
The English poet, John Heywood once
said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying brinks every hour.”
Realistically, this work ethic can be applied to any project, but since I am a
screenwriter, the development of a screenplay will strictly be discussed here. As
well, for simplicity’s sake, when I reference the word “screenplay,” I mean for
it to be understood as a feature length screenplay which consists of +95 pages.
That being said, don’t let that deter you from applying this use of time
management to other projects such as short screenplays or other projects you’re
passionate about which may have nothing to do with the topic of writing.
Here’s how I develop one screenplay
in 180 days.
Roughly, 180 days can be divided
into a six-month period where each month is assigned particular units of
screenplay development. You can find all the units in correspondence to their
month showcased in the chart I built below, but the logic here is simple; on
month no.1 you frame up an idea and by month no.6, you have a well-developed
Let’s say you have an idea for a
story and would like to develop it into a screenplay. Most people feel they
need to jump by the seat of their pants and start writing, but I would
personally advise against that tactic as it predominately results to an
eventual burnout. However, if that’s your process, by all means jump, but when
you do burnout, reference the chart. I recommend you go about the development of
your project with a sense of timely organization and free creativity which
allows the process of development to work its magic.
In my experience, the first three
months are done in analog where everything developed is placed with pen and
paper and the remaining months should be done digitality where software is used
to transcribe what was developed.
For example, January is your month
no.1. During this phase, you will only focus on the primal units of screenplay development
which helps fine tune, frame and pitch the vision of your idea. Month no.2 is a
deeper drive of research – The old adage of originality goes, “There’s nothing
new under the sun,” meaning, anything and everything, at this point in history can
and will be connected, influenced or be a product of rebellion from something
which already exists, so don’t carry the burden of trying to be different.
Month no.3 is when the story starts taking tangible shape through a mapping of
story markers, month no. 4 is when dirt finds it way under your fingernails in
the pushing out of a bad draft, month no.5 is dedicated to giving yourself a
break all the while obtaining and applying constructive notes and finally month
no.6, towards the end of June, you should at this point have a fine-tooth combed
draft ready to be given to a festival or paying producer.
The ideology of this work ethic is
again to help with time management. We are all busy and running around while
juggling three things, but if you have an idea for a story which you would like
to get down on paper, I believe this is the best way to go about it. Like
everything else (important) in your life, a screenplay is a huge task and
deserves respect. That being said, the chart below is not law. It’s a personal
tool I’ve designed which helps me find time to work in my crazy life. Therefore,
I invite you to move units around, take them off, put more on… ultimately build
your own chart which works for you and your creative process.
Additionally, if you don’t know a term listed below like “Beats,” or “Hemingway Draft,” take it upon yourself to not only understand its definition, but become an expert on what makes it a unit of screenplay development – and don’t worry if your homework gets in the way of your time to create. You’ve got plenty of it.