Last year I had an epiphany about a spec script that I’ve been writing for a while. I decided to change half of the story’s setting and delve deeper with the main character’s arc. This meant a complete rewrite and restructuring. Which I knew would take a while. So, I applied to a bunch of writer residencies for this year.
I explained in the applications that my goal was to come out of the residency with a draft that was ready to *go* (i.e. be sent to talent, shopped around for funding). I further explained that between the time of applying and the time of the potential residency (a six month period), I would be doing at least two full rewrites, the intention of completing the last rewrite at the residency (as much as scripts are ever really complete).
I went ahead with this plan without knowing if I would be accepted anywhere.
The first rewrite was difficult, to say the least.
I had to basically take the script apart, add a bunch of scenes, and then put it back together – all while keeping it the same length, which meant other scenes had to go. It was a grueling process. I went hunting for scenes from previous drafts, I wrote new scenes, I took out the voice-over narration, I put it back in, I took it out again. For a minute, I actually thought I would turn the screenplay into a television series! It was MESSY.
As the holidays approached, I finally (thankfully) gained some clarity and put together a decent enough draft that I could submit to my writers group for feedback by the time it was my turn in early January.
The writers group loved it and said “it’s ready to go!” Of course, they still had some notes.
After that, I was busy with production for about six weeks, so I couldn’t address their notes right away. This ended up being a good thing because it 1) gave me time away from the script (important), and 2) gave me time to think about their notes.
Also, in mid-January, I learned that I was accepted to one of the residencies! My starting date would be March 30, so I had roughly three months to do the next draft and get another round of notes before leaving.
The ticking clock got louder.
This time, because of all that was going on with this other project, I knew that I would only have a two-week window to address the writers group notes. My goal was to share it with my screenwriting friend in Los Angeles and get her feedback before leaving for residency on the 30th.
I reached out to my friend to confirm that she could do this, because who knows what her own writing schedule was like. If she were working on deadline, there was no way she would be able to read my work and get back to me within a week or two. Luckily, she was available.
So, a few weeks ago, I started in again… slowly at first, tweaking here and there. Then last week I got more into it. I had given myself a deadline of March 15 at the latest, but really wanted to finish by Sunday March 13.
And folks, that’s what I did.
On Sunday evening, I emailed my friend the new draft. Mother Nature helped by dumping a big snowstorm on us over the weekend, which was very conducive to writing (see below pic of our walk in the storm). Will my friend like the script? Will she tell me to throw this out and start again? Who knows. The point is that I accomplished what I set out to do, and I did it on deadline, albeit self-imposed.
All this to say, that I’m proud of myself for planning things ahead of time and taking my writing so seriously. I juggled a lot to prioritize this project and stuck to my self-imposed schedule.
Most of all, I’m proud that I prepared for this residency without knowing if I’d be accepted. I forged ahead as if I would be accepted. And now, I’m exactly where I said I would be.
I’m trying to adopt this “as if” approach more often. Act as if whatever it is you’re going for is going to happen. BELIEVE it will happen. PLAN for it. WORK towards it.
If it doesn’t happen, you’ll be that much further along with whatever it is you’re doing.
And if it does happen, you’ll be 100% ready.