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07/10/2001 - DEADLINES: THE ONLY WAY TO FINISH
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DEADLINES: THE ONLY WAY TO FINISH


My fellow writers,

Well, it's the dawn of a new week, and after spending five months writing on a series out of town, I have to say that regular life is far more difficult than working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. I've had to deal with so many mundane tasks the past few days that I haven't had time for much of anything.

However, I know that's always how it is. So I've pressed forward, sneaking in work time whenever I possible could.

I've always stressed how important it is to do something EVERY day for your career, no matter what gets in the way. My rule of thumb was writing at least an hour a day on my highest-priority project. My career truly started the day that streak started. (I ended up going over a thousand days, through sickness, travel, boredom, broken relationships, ski weekends, and everything else - before breaking the streak on purpose. Since then I have basically continued to write at least that much about 99 out of every 100 days anyway.

But today, I want to stress the second half of the formula for building a writing career. Deadlines. Without them, you can write all you want, but end up never finishing anything. It's a terribly frustrating way to try to build a writing career. Yes, continue to drive forward by writing every day, but have an end-goal in mind - a finished script.

To get to the "big" finish, you'll need lots of smaller deadlines - finishing the treatment, outline, act, rough draft, first draft, scene, etc. People always ask me how long it should take to write various sized scripts. Hell, any one of us can write a script in two days. It'll be an utter piece of crap, probably incomprehensible. But it'll be written. You can also write for two years and come up with a horrifyingly bad script. The time doesn't matter. Repeat: the time doesn't matter.

What matters is that you're giving it an honest effort. Screw that. Give it an impossible effort. Drive at your script like a madman - ahem, mad-person - and push yourself harder than is comfortable. Set deadlines and then, guess what - HIT THEM.

I know, I know, you have obligations, jobs, families, friends, parties, movies to see, television to watch, sports to go to. Well, we all do. But you have to cut some of those things out and find the time to write in them. Remember, I said that you have to write AT LEAST an hour a day. You can't just be watching the clock to tick over to the sixty-minute mark.

Whoa Grady, you say - that was never part of the bargain. And you're right. I didn't mention that you might actually have to sacrifice a few things in order to write as much as you need to. But to those of you who started a streak a few months ago, this won't come as a surprise. Even fitting in an hour, every single day, requires some sacrifices. Now it's just time to step up a little.

Set deadlines. A couple of weeks to outline. A month or two to write a first draft. Another month or two for a second draft. Put the intermediate deadlines in there. If your deadline for a feature-length script is four months, then you'll want a first draft in two months. That means two weeks of outlining, then six weeks left to write it. That means that you'll have about 15-20 pages a week. Or about two-three pages a day.

If that's not feasible, then try a six-month schedule. Two weeks to a month to outline. Three to four months to write the first draft. About a page a day. A month or two to rewrite. If you've been writing an hour a day, then you can do this one. It's just a matter of working from a strong outline to begin with. Work hardest on the outline and you'll have the roadmap that will get you to the end.

Go set deadlines. Then hit them. No matter what.

I'm starting a new project over here, so I'll be in that boat myself.

On a schedule,

Grady

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