Stephanie Palmer, from Good In A Room discusses ways to improve the efficiency of your writing.
The speed at which you write has little to do with how quickly you type. Speed has a lot to do with how well you organize your creative process.
Writing slowly (or getting so blocked you can’t write at all) happens when you are trying to be creative and critical at the same time.
As writing teacher Natalie Goldberg has said:
Most of the time when we write, we mix up the editor and creator. Imagine your writing hand as the creator and the other hand as the editor. Now bring your two hands together and lock your fingers. This is what happens when we write.
Let’s divide the creative process into “right-brain” (creative) and “left-brain” (critical) phases.
- Right-brain: brainstorming, outlining, drafting.
- Left-brain: researching, testing, editing.
The creative process is an alternating hybrid between left and right brain.
COME UP WITH THE IDEA
Are you ready to capture new ideas as you think of them? Which ones are viable? Which can you write the fastest?
BRAINSTORM RELATED IDEAS
When lightning strikes, it’s because there’s a storm (and potential for more lightning). After you get an idea, take a moment to see what else is happening in your mind. There are probably a few more spinoff ideas.
DRAFT A SHORT PITCH
Encapsulate your idea in a sentence or two. This is the first tangible expression of your idea. It is still “in development” and therefore liable to undergo many incarnations before it is fully formed.
RESEARCH YOUR IDEA
You have to know the creative landscape as well as the marketplace. What similar projects are out there? Who are the potential buyers/producers.
DRAFT A REVISED SHORT PITCH
Now that you’ve done your homework (research), revise your pitch.
TEST YOUR REVISED PITCH
Test your pitch (including your title) on a feedback group that you choose. They should be close colleagues whose opinions you trust. Your material is not yet ready to be shopped around in the market place.
START OUTLINING YOUR STORY
Your outline at this stage doesn’t need to be for the script, it needs to be for the project. In other words, keep track of all of the ideas, notes, research, etc., in one organized file. This makes it easy for your ideas to be combined, and for you to find ideas when you need them.
EDIT YOUR OUTLINE
After a period of incubation, come back to your outline with fresh eyes. Now it’s time to start converting your outline into more of a blueprint for the project.
OUTLINE YOUR STORY
A beat sheet is a good place to start as it lays down the three act structure, character, plot and theme.
EDIT YOUR OUTLINE
Take another incubation period before coming back to your outline and revising.
DRAFT A 3 PAGE TREATMENT OF THE PROJECT
Convert your outline to a treatment. Use this opportunity to identify story problems.
TEST THE TREATMENT ON A NEW FEEDBACK GROUP
Your outline isn’t so testable, but your treatment is something that can be shown to a feedback group.
NOTE: Repeat steps 11 and 12 until you are confident in your treatment. Also, every time you test your pitch, it should be with a new feedback group (if possible). This way, you’re getting fresh perspectives.
DRAFT YOUR SCRIPT
Now is time to start writing. Lots of people skip to this step because it’s fun, and then often must endure the heartbreak of finding out that something is deeply flawed in their core concept.
EDIT YOUR FIRST DRAFT
Once your draft is done and you’ve let it rest, it’s time to come back to it with a critical perspective.
TEST YOUR FIRST DRAFT
This is not the draft you send to gatekeepers or decision-makers. This is the draft you give to your spouse, mom, and smartest friends.
SUBMIT YOUR DRAFT FOR PROFESSIONAL FEEDBACK
This is a key step. Your family, friends, even members of your writer’s group, are disincentivized to give you negative feedback. They don’t want to hurt your feelings or damage their relationship with you. What you really need is direct, unvarnished, professional feedback. Rewrite your draft until you’re getting positive coverage from professional readers.
HANG ON TIGHT
Congratulations! You have a “first draft” script that’s ready to take to market. Have a strategy in place. Identify likely buyers for your project. Develop your Answerbank with answers to the trick questions you’ll probably be asked in meetings
The beginning of the process is more “right-brained,” (creative) and the final stages of the process are more “left-brained” (logical). This may be why it’s so much easier for creative people to start working on something new, rather than finishing and selling what they are working on now.
A key component in having the stamina to finish your project is how well you incubate along the way. In addition to alternating your creative/critical thought processes, I recommend taking an incubation period between each step if possible. Even if it’s only for an hour or a day. It may seem counterintuitive, but using a creative process with more steps, and building in more frequent rest periods, will actually help you write faster.
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