Setting Goals as a Writer
For many, becoming an established screenwriter is a dream job, something you fantasize about at the computer while writing, during Oscar season when nominations are announced, or maybe even at your day job while tuning out your co-worker at the coffee station. That dream can become a reality with some hard work and goal setting.
Like any job, a career in screenwriting won’t be handed to you, but setting writing goals and coming up with a plan for your future will help you get to where you want to be.
Start with writing down your goals. No, seriously. Pick up a pen and paper or open up a Word doc and start listing out your goals as a writer. Perhaps you want to option a feature script? Or maybe you want to get staffed on a TV show? Just want to see your short get made? Learn the difference between a three-act structure and TV’s five-act structure?
All of your goals are achievable, but you have to work towards making them attainable. Look over your goal list. Perhaps it looks like this:
- Finish Sci-Fi feature script
- Get short produced and in festivals
- Get Sci-Fi feature produced
Solid goals. Goal #1 is totally achievable by you without moving out of your comfort zone as a writer. It simply means writing! Next, take a moment to think about what you are doing as a writer that isn’t working for you and keeping you from completing your Sci-Fi script.
Is your day job sucking you dry?
Are family obligations pulling you away from writing?
These are two common reasons we hear at InkTip as to why writers aren’t writing. And they are fair reasons, but they can also turn into excuses.
Everyone has issues with their day job. If something at work is dragging you down, get away from it. Perhaps that means taking a 30 minute coffee break at the coffeehouse of your choice. Use that time to flesh out the rest of your script, or write one scene, or do some character development so your villain isn’t comparable to Darth Vader. There are plenty of books designed to help screenwriters use small amounts of time for large impacts on their writing. Check out Pilar Alessandra’s The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time.
Write out the actions you will take to achieve goal #1. And give yourself a deadline! Writers love deadlines! Without them, we get nothing done.
Goal #2 and #3 are harder to conquer on your own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t map out a path to success.
Let’s look at Goal #2: Get a short produced and in festivals. First, you need to write that short. Maybe write a number of shorts. Second, you need to find interested buyers for your short script. Think about who makes shorts: film students and up-and-coming directors. So, where are you going to find these people?
Make a plan. Contact film schools to see if students need shorts for their thesis projects. Enter contests for shorts to get exposure. Place your logline on valuable services like InkTip’s short script listing, where anyone surfing the web can read your logline and request the script from you. To be produced, you have to get your work out there. (Note: please copyright all your material before marketing it.)
Finally, let’s consider Goal #3: Get Sci-Fi produced. First, you have to finish it. Second, you have to rewrite it. Finishing the first draft is like writing a detailed outline. You’ve got the bones. You’ve got the characters. You even have a beginning and end. But if you haven’t taken a moment to rewrite your first draft, you won’t have an industry ready script. Learn the craft of screenwriting by studying and reading and writing and rewriting.
Once you have the script polished (and copyrighted), you can start marketing it. You want it produced so, unless you plan on raising funds and shooting it yourself, you need to let your baby out into the world. There are many ways you can get your work in front of producers. InkTip’s script listing services allows you to get exposure for your script to vetted producers and reps. InkTip’s Preferred Newsletter gives you the advantage of proactively submitting your query to producers needing scripts immediately.
Entering contests is another avenue, although there is no guarantee your work will be read by producers. Many contests hire other screenwriters—or even film students—to review entries. To find the right contest or festival for your script, check out InkTip’s Contest Directory and Film Festival Directory.
Another step you should take for achieving your goal of being produced is to meet producers. Network! It’s a scary prospect for most writers, but meeting producers and other screenwriters can do more for your career than almost anything. Research meet-and-greets that may be happening in your town or local festivals with networking opportunities.
If you sit down, write out your goals, write down solutions to achieve those goals, and start creating a path towards your career as a screenwriter, you will have more success than the other thousands of writers day dreaming at the water cooler today.
Chris Cookson is a novelist and short story writer specializing in Young Adult fiction. She is the editor of InkTip Magazine and heads up the Writers Department at InkTip, where she helps screenwriters connect with established producers to sell their scripts. Her popular blog Novel2Screen focuses on the art of adaptation and everything to love and hate about it. You can follow her on Twitter at ACCooksonWriter and at Novel2Screen.net