The Hustle: Starting and Finishing the Script In Your “Free Time”
We have a special guest writer this edition, Alex Hanson! Alex is a grad of NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she studied Film and Media with an Emphasis in STEAM. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she works in animation production and spends her free time writing scripts and sending memes to her friends. Starting and completing a script can be so difficult. Who has the time to sit and write? How do you even pick what to write about? For this edition of the Hustle, Alex Hanson helps us out with her best tips for writing in your free time. Keep up to date with her via Instagram, Twitter, and her website.
- The Light Leaks
Hey, it’s Alex here!
Writing a script in your free time can be an amazing, fulfilling, and incredibly difficult task. “Free time,” however, seems to be more of a fantasy than anything else for us young creatives these days. We have day jobs and freelance projects and all kinds of time commitments— but if you want to write a script, you can totally make it happen! There are tons of resources out there to help you schedule time to write and learn how to structure a script, but these tips aim to help you work through the more abstract parts of writing on your own time. Staying focused, motivated, and inspired enough to write and rewrite are all key parts of the process. Check out the below tips, then get to writing!
Decide on a Format
You have a script idea. Awesome! Before you dive in, it’s best to decide on what kind of script you’d like to make. Is it a short film? Web series? For television scripts, is it a pilot or a spec (an original episode of an existing show)? A feature film? A one-act play? Consider whether you want to produce the script in the future, and what you’d have fun writing. If you decide on a format in the beginning, it will make structuring your story and executing it much easier down the line.
Find Your Time and Place
Whatever your schedule is, it’s important to find your time and place for writing. Whether that’s a loud coffee shop every Saturday afternoon or quiet late nights in your home, you should have a regular time and space that you’ve decided is for writing. During my senior year of college in NYC, I had no class or work on Tuesdays. I would pack a lunch and head to the Rose Room in the New York Public Library to spend their entire operating hours writing.
When I started working full time in LA, I tried writing in the evenings (unsuccessfully— for me, it’s much easier to just go to sleep than to write) and tested out local libraries on weekends. I eventually found it’s easiest for me to write in my apartment between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning on weekdays. Find what works for you and stick with it— the more your body and brain associate that place with creative time, the easier it will be to get into that mindset on command.
As a writer, you’ve probably been told to get notes on your work from people you trust who will give honest feedback. The best person to get notes from will have a similar passion for writing and story that you do. They’ll believe in you as a writer and have your personal growth as a priority. This person might be a friend, or someone you met in a class, school club, or online! The Light Leaks has a private Facebook group for the TLL community to meet and connect— this kind of space is perfect for finding creative and ambitious minds to collaborate with. If you have friends writing scripts, consider starting a writers’ group for consistent feedback. Give the group a page count goal for every month (my group aims for 15 pages a month), share your work, and get together to give notes and talk about your process.
Embrace The Rewrite
You’ve got a complete draft saved on your desktop, right next to a document full of notes from your trusted peers. It may feel daunting to address those notes when, in theory, you could just declare that script finished. The sooner you can embrace the rewriting stage, though, the stronger you’ll be as a writer. I like to collect the notes I receive as well as my personal reflections and make a bullet point list of things to do in the next draft. Then I make a new script document and copy in pieces I’ll keep from my old draft while rewriting the new parts. Find what process works for you and know that afterward, you’ll be so much closer to the best possible version of your script.
Rewrite as many times as you need until you feel you’ve got a kickass script. You’ll be so glad you did.
There will almost certainly be times in the process where the script feels like it’s going horribly or that it’s impossible to finish. This feeling can be amplified on creative projects you’ve decided to make time for on your own rather than through an assignment. When you feel alone in a vast desert of creative wasteland, talk to trusted friends or write down why you were excited to start this script at the beginning. Get back to that moment of fiery inspiration! Take breaks and be forgiving with yourself too, though. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your script is put it down for a couple of weeks. Read scripts in your medium and genre to keep the creative juices flowing. In your moments of low self confidence, remind yourself that future you is going to be so very proud of current you. You’re doing amazing sweetie!
Release Your Story
You’ve written and rewritten; your blood, sweat, and tears are all in one Courier font PDF. (Celtx is a great, free platform to write your script.) Now what? You’ve got options! If you’ve written a short or a web series, get out and make it! With longer projects like pilots or features, there are writing contests for every format and genre. If you’ve got a show spec that you don’t plan on pitching to the show or is for a series that is no longer in production, post the script online and share it with the fan community for that show. With any project, you could also host a table read with friends reading each role. Have one person read the action lines or stage directions, invite a small audience, and turn it into a performance! Now get out there, write the thing, share it, and do it all again!
The Hustle is The Light Leaks’s newest resource tailored to YOU! Ask us questions, if we can’t answer from our own experience, we’ll find someone who’s able to. From creative block to actionable career steps, hit us up with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org with “the Hustle” as the subject line. We got you.