Why Writing Deadlines Are Good for Writers

How to become a screenwriter

by Olivia Brennan.

The word deadline is something all writers need to start thinking positively about, because no matter whether you’re a beginner screenwriter or a professional, working to a deadline is not only essential, but can be a very positive thing when it comes to your writing.

Firstly, all writers should have a deadline of sorts when it comes to their projects, especially if they have multiple projects on the go at any given time. Having a deadline can encourage focus and maximise effort and productivity in a sometimes-overwhelming schedule, even if you have only fifteen minutes to spare!

Here’s 3 top tips all writers can implement to manage their work schedule more easily, and help you submit your writing project on time!

1) GIVE YOURSELF A TIME LIMIT

Even if you’re not getting paid to write that spec, if you’re serious about screenwriting/writing in general, then you need to be working towards an ‘end date’ or with a time limit in mind.

  • Ways to do this could be as simple as marking on a calendar or in your planner the date which you intend to finish a first draft, or submit to a competition. When that date is achieved, and passed, set a new date for the next draft and continue.
  • Any visual reminder will help so make these dates bold, colourful, something that attracts your eye to the countdown for that important task.
  • Be realistic and break down your writing goals/tasks before you set the deadline/time limit. Small, achievable tasks are the best way to start and once you start checking these off, you’ll feel more inclined to tackle the rest!

2) BE FOCUSED AND PRIORITISE

Whether it’s an article, competition submission or your spec script, you need to prioritise what aspect of your project needs your attention first.  A few things to consider while doing this are; if it’s paid work (such as an article, blog post etc.) then that should come first as you’re reporting to somebody else, if it’s a set deadline for a competition then that should come next (because it’s a set deadline), and finally your own projects (if needs be set a flexible deadline).

Often writers can be so bogged down in what they must do, that the pressure stops them from starting any of it.

Here’s a few tips on how to beat those writing expectations!

  • List your projects from high to low priority and consider the earliest expected/submission date. Anything that is due sooner rather than later should obviously be the first point of focus. Allow enough time after completing these tasks so that if you need feedback or time to rewrite something that your schedule accommodates this within the expected time frame.
  • Take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck. Go for a walk and stretch your legs, often writers say they get some of their best ideas when they’re out doing other things, this is probably because you’re not tunnel focused on the projects that are causing any stress.
  • Make daily goals within your deadline part of the process. For instance, if you are working on a script submission or article, make sure that these goals are broken down every day that you are working on these projects. One day you could commit to outlining the script or factoring in research time. Really think about manageable tasks that help you meet your writing deadline. Without daily tasks, writers can run the risk of coasting through their expected deadline because they got lost along the way among rewrites and editing. Don’t let that happen, make it a streamlined and enjoyable process!

3) THERE’S ALWAYS TIME

You’re too busy, have too much work, not enough time and/or all the above. Sometimes, life just happens and all your expectations can go out the window which not only causes you stress but may mean you miss out on a great writing opportunity. So, the best way to avoid this from happening or at least feeling better prepared to handle unforeseen circumstances is to always make time.

  • Set certain times of the day for certain writing projects or tasks if you like to multi-task. This way you’re not stressed on any one project for too long, remember small steps can lead to covering a vast distance once you’ve finished.
  • Make whatever time you have as dedicated writing time. Even if it’s fifteen minutes a day. Yes, it really is that simple because fifteen minutes of writing time is better than nothing and that would total to just over two hours a week. Which would be just over eight hours a month. It’s something!
  • Start every project earlier than it needs to be. That way if anything unexpected does happen, you have enough time to do what you need to complete your rewrites or drafts in time for the deadline.

What all writers need to remember is that sometimes, we all have one of those days where the words aren’t coming. If you can’t afford to tear yourself away from the laptop due to time constraints then I would suggest a ‘writing burst.’ Set yourself a manageable bite-size task of 300 words towards your article, novel or script before taking a break.

So, don’t get lost on your writing journey; give yourself the best chance to meet any opportunity that comes your way by being prepared!

Olivia Brennan is a 28-year-old screenwriter & blogger. You can find more of her articles covering industry interviews, writing craft & filmmaking tips over at her blog Into The Script, and you can follow Liv on Twitter – @LivSFB