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Dear Friends,

For the last few weeks, I've been going over some techniques and tricks for staying productive over the long term. Some of my columns, including a couple of installments of tips on productivity, disappeared off of the website because of a glitch, but they'll be back on soon.

To review briefly, the techniques I've covered thus far include (1) multitasking (working on two projects at once so you don't lose momentum, (2) stopping the workday in the middle of a scene so that you can pick up more quickly and easily the next day, (3) working in short blocks of time, (4) taking breaks in which you do something productive, e.g., clean or exercise, and, perhaps most importantly, (5) writing every single day, no matter what, for at least an hour a day on your highest priority project.

This week, I'd like to add another technique that sounds much simpler than it is: you must make and reach deadlines. The trouble is, when you're not working for money or on assignment, it's far too easy to slide those deadlines around.

I've learned not to just have one big deadline to "finish." Instead, it's much easier for me to set little deadlines - first for the story, then the outline, then maybe the first ten pages, the first act, etc. Breaking the script down into smaller blocks makes it much more manageable, and makes it far less likely that I'm going to be overwhelmed by my goal. In fact, in the past, when I used to set down just one big deadline, I almost always found myself disappointed because I had to move the deadline around.

Set the big deadline down. If you want guidelines for a tough-minded deadline, here it is: give yourself a day for every page of the first draft. Now, of course, this still gives you a lot of wiggle room, especially if you don't hold your first draft to a high standard. But it is absolutely essential that you do hold that first draft to the highest possible standards. Still, if you fall too far behind the one-page-per-day standard, you may be hurting yourself by slowing down your momentum and letting your inner critic dictate the pace too much.

A feature spec script takes 4-6 months - really tough months - to write. And that's after you have a detailed outline showing you exactly where you need to go. If you can get it done faster, great. Some movies have been written in a couple of days. Others have taken many, many years. The key is to meet those smaller (daily and weekly) deadlines time and again. As the days pass, the pages will pile up, and you'll find yourself meeting those deadlines.

Good luck.




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