…and why it’s good for writers by Jacob Harpel.
Writers are often chastised for putting things off, but have you ever thought that diving headfirst into your screenplay might not actually be the best way to get the party started?
Being creative means looking at screenwriting in new and inventive ways. In this article, we are going to do the same thing with procrastination.
Sometimes it’s better to lean into procrastination because it allows you an opportunity to complete tasks that at first glance might not seem important, but in the long run, it will give you more tools to make your first draft the best it can be.
So, without further ado or ahem… procrastination, here’s a list of productive tasks you can perform while procrastinating your screenplay.
Make a list of what you want to accomplish.
You’re staring at a blank page. You have the concept in your mind but aren’t sure where to begin. That’s perfectly okay. Don’t worry if you can’t vomit out your first few scenes. That works for some people, but it might not work for you.
Instead, jot down your goals or what you’d like to accomplish. Break them into small tasks. They may range from planning out your first act to writing down the themes you want your story to convey. Ask yourself what kind of story do you want to tell?
Once you’ve made your list, you’ll have a plethora of smaller goals you can easily cross out once completed. You’ll find yourself in a more positive mindset after accomplishing a task, no matter how small. As writers, we’re so quick to punish ourselves for not writing, but why not do the opposite? Be proud of everything you accomplish. It’s all part of the bigger picture.
Create your world.
That might sound like a big ask. Do you want to start your story, but aren’t quite sure where to begin your outline? Then start small. Spend time creating the details that will build to make up your world and your characters. Write down your characters’ goals, fears, guilty pleasures, and bad habits. You’ll walk into your first draft with a clearer sense of who your characters really are, and this will make your story that much more developed.
You can also create the soundtrack of your movie on Spotify or YouTube. What songs do you think best express your characters and screenplay’s tone? Afterward, you’ll have the perfect playlist to write your script to.
Utilize the Internet to develop structure and avoid predictability.
The internet is an amazing repository of knowledge…when used correctly. Sure, it’s easy to distract yourself with the endless rabbit hole of pimple popping videos, but instead, try to direct your attention to some of the many valuable resources for developing your screenplay.
A site that many professionals will point you towards is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. You’ll find an unbelievable amount of resources, but the one I’d recommend the most is the popular beat sheet. By no means is it a structure that you should limit yourself to, but you’ll find that it’s extremely helpful with brainstorming the narrative arc of your story.
Or maybe you want to know more about genre. Are you looking to write a horror or romcom, but worried about falling into clichés? Another website I’d recommend would be TV Tropes. It may not be as helpful with structure, but you’ll find that it’s an entertaining and helpful database of popular genre tropes. Spend some time exploring and laughing at the recurring tricks that many stories use and think of the ways that your screenplay might defy expectations and come through with a fresh perspective.
And of course, there are our own articles and downloads – Shore Scripts. Not only will you find informative and helpful articles to guide you through the dark uncertainty of writing, but Shore Scripts also has Script Analysis for popular movies like Drive, Network, and the Big Lebowski. Take the time to study the structure of these movies and what makes them work. Find ways to insert that into your own writing.