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Thursday, January 8, 2009

StoryLink Article: New Years Goals

Each month, I write an article for the StoryLink Ezine. Here is this month's article:

Question: “What is the best way for a writer to reinvent him/herself when approaching the new year?”

Answer: This is an ideal time to take stock of where you are as a writer and what goals you should set for yourself in the new year. January just happens to coincide with Hollywood slowly ramping up again after several weeks of holiday hibernation. Additionally, most competitions set their deadlines in April, May, and June, and the staffing season for television revs up in the spring as well.

Whether it’s the cusp of a new year or not, you should be doing a few things on an ongoing basis: 1) Educating yourself with classes, workshops, and books. 2) Networking with other writers at events such as the Great American Pitch Fest, the Creative Screenwriting Expo, or consider joining (or forming) a writing group. 3) Making time each day or week to write and continue generating material (this includes ideas, by the way) and 4) Creating and maintaining balance in your life by taking care of yourself. Get enough rest and exercise and read books and newspapers to feed your imagination.

Not only is the new year a great time to renew your goals and determination, it’s also a great time to take stock of your inventory. How many scripts are you working on right now? What state and stage are they in? If at the beginning of 2009 you’ve only written two or four scripts, I’d really focus on generating new material this year. You want to have several scripts in your arsenal before seeking representation. If you feel you do have a pretty great arsenal, you still need to be generating material at the same time as querying reps, entering competitions, networking, etc. You need to treat your writing as a small business – with a multi-faceted approach to incremental success with tangible goals and deadlines.

In terms of reinvention, you might also take a look at what has been working – and not working - in the past. If you’ve been querying with no read requests, it might be time to take stock of where you are on the learning curve. Taking classes online, such as at Writers University, can be a great gift to yourself in 2009. I particularly recommend UCLA Extension Writers' Program courses. They have a wide variety of screenwriting classes to choose from and the winter quarter begins soon.

Another good thing to check in with is which genre have you been writing. Are you certain the genre you're writing is the one for you? I wrote rom coms for a long time without breaking in more than winning a competition, but, when I switched genres to thriller, I got a manager and had that script in development with a major studio. Is it time to consider a genre switch for you? For me it made all the difference.

Set some goals for 2009: Choose at least two or three competitions to enter. This gives you deadlines, which are so important to writers. Set a goal of starting and finishing two full-feature scripts this year. If you write television scripts, write two original and two spec scripts. You can do it. There’s more than enough time. Set aside time to write on a daily basis, if you can. Even one focused hour will yield real progress. Read produced scripts. You can find them online pretty easily and each script takes an hour or so to read. Why not commit to reading two scripts each month for inspiration and motivation? See movies regularly. You can do this with your family and it doesn’t cost much to go to the video store.

Writers don’t reinvent themselves as much as they evolve. It’s a journey. And like any other journey, there are setbacks, roadblocks, and detours. All of us would like to snap our fingers and just arrive at our destination without having to go through the woods, over the bridge, and across the meadow. But that’s not how life works and it sure isn’t how writing works. There’s an old adage that says: The difference between writers who make it in Hollywood and those who don’t is that those who make it never give up.

To sum up:

Take inventory of your writing arsenal
Consider taking some classes
Consider switching genres
Network with other writers and industry professionals
Read produced scripts
Reset your goals for 2009
Stick to the deadlines you set for yourself
And write. Every day!

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