Scheduled Creativity–Betsy Clemons

Once Upon A TimeIn December of 2011 I had six unfinished shorts and no blog articles or features. By 2012 I had finished 8 shorts, 2 features and multiple blog articles within just 4 months. This is how I did it…

I wanted to be a professional writer

When you enter the world of professional writing you will no longer be able to write simply when you’re inspired to. You will have deadlines, page counts and word counts, which means you’ll have to write something good, right now, at a certain length whether you’re inspired to or not. When I decided to become a professional writer, I knew that I had to change and that I needed to learn how to produce creativity at the snap of my fingers. To do this, I had to do something I’d never done before: write on a schedule.

I pushed myself off the cliff

I decide to challenge myself, to put myself through a test to see if I had what it takes. So I decided to write a 125 page spec script in just one month. I figured in order to write 125 pages in 30 days I’d need to write approximately (I’m so not a mathematician) four pages a day. I then gave myself 1 hour (I’m such an optimist) a day in the evening to write it in. Since it was close to the end of the month, I decide to wait until the beginning of the next month to start. In the meantime I did prep. Yeah, doing all the prep before my month of writing started was probably cheating, but since I was making up my own rules I guess it was okay.

My Prep Routine:

1. First I wrote the plot. I have my own special little way of writing plots, as I’m sure all writers do. My method is to write it as if I were telling a story to a little kid. It will have some dialogue between actors, some important descriptions, but mostly it’s a narrative. I keep it short and sweet, about a page long, while trying to convey the feeling and theme of my story. The one for this story was a page and a half long. I kind of got carried away with some of the descriptions.

2. I did decide to do character sheets for this script. I don’t normally write character sheets on paper, but I randomly decided to do so for this project. This ended up being a great help later on since some of my characters were quite complex. I don’t do fancy character arcs or descriptions, they usually look something like this…

CHARACTER NAME:
PRINCIPLE FUNCTION:
SHORT BIO:
GOAL & PLAN TO ACHIEVE GOAL:
BEAT SHEET OF PERSONALITY/BELIEFS/GOAL CHANGES:

3. Futuristic Drama was the genre I had chosen, so I did a little world building. Since I’m an artist I do world building by drawing. I drew pictures of the houses, clothing, weapons and landscapes of the world I was creating. I didn’t do too much of this in prep. I ended up creating the world more as I wrote the actual script.

save-the-cat4. I saved my favourite step for last. The creation of the beat sheet. I adore beat sheets. When I discovered them through reading Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat” book, my writing was greatly improved and my encounters with writer’s block became virtually nil. I believe that it was the use of a beat sheet that helped me become a finisher and not a procrastinator.

This was all the prep I did for my script: basic, simple and quick.

I put my ideas into writing.

The first day of writing was rough. The right words just were not flowing, and I was having difficulty starting. So, I decided to skip the opening and go right to the end of act one. This was the best decision I could have made, as it inspired me to re-write my beat sheet and start the beginning of my story using the middle. This made my story so much more interesting, and it brought the audience right into the action as well as left them with a mystery that made them want more. Once I had my beginning written it got easier, and from there my writing sessions went quite smoothly. Although my first draft had some rough spots and was in great need of a polish, it was an inspired piece of work, and best of all, it was finished.

Take The Challenge!

Want to to become a finisher instead of a procrastinator? Here are some tips (not in order of importance) that I found helpful.

1. Don’t start any new projects until you finish the old ones. I want you to make a self promise that you won’t start any new projects until you’ve finished all your old ones. It’s okay to write down new ideas and put them into a folder for later, but don’t open that Celtx file and start typing dialogue for them until after you’ve finished all your previous scripts.

2. Set goals and deadlines. Don’t be too ambitious at first. I did one hour a day, but you should choose whatever will fit into your schedule, and also what you feel you can handle. Even if you’re just sitting in front of your computer doing nothing, you’re at least sitting there thinking about writing and getting into the habit of setting aside that time for your passion.

3. Keep research down to a minimum. Too often you get online to research and before you know it you’re distracted and reading an article about baby whales when you’re supposed to be writing that detective story. In fact, just try to stay off the internet altogether and check out a book from the library.

4. Multitask if you’re ADHD. Add variety to your writing time by hopping back and forth between projects. For example I was recently working on a sci-fi at the same time as I was working on a Romantic drama. I switched back and forth between the two so that I never got bored working on one thing.

5. Count your pages. If you’re writing screenplays it’s really important to know where you are at in your pages. For me to reach my goal of finishing a feature in a month I had to write about 4 pages a day. Figure out how long you want your script to be and how many pages a day you’ll need to write to complete it by the scheduled deadline.

6. Find YOUR special writing place. I found it really helped to go to a new location to write at everyday, even if it was just moving from my bedroom to the kitchen. Also, It can really help to inspire you if you go to a location that is similar to what you’re writing about. For example when I was working on a script that as set in a forest, I went out into the woods to write.

7. Listen to inspiring music. I’m adding this one because I’ve known several people who were really helped by this. For me it didn’t work so well, but it’s definitely something you might want to try. Although I was not inspired by music I found something quite similar that worked really well instead, which was to watch TV shows while I write. For some reason I do work better with talking in the background. Probably has something to do with the fact that I was raised in a large family.

8. Carry a notebook or recorder with you everywhere. I have notebooks and pens stashed all over the house. Sometimes an idea will suddenly pop into my head, with my handy-dandy notepad I can jot it down, then later during my official writing hour I can type it into the computer or polish it.

9. Beat sheets are your friend. Like I said earlier, beat sheets keep me on track and save me from procrastination more than anything else. They also keep you from falling into plot holes. I use the Blake Snyder beat sheet from “Save The Cat.”

10. Find a friend. Someone who shares your passion or at least appreciates or is interested in what you’re doing. My cousin is my writing buddy. He critiques, encourages, and inspires me when I’m writing. I try to return the favor by helping him when he’s writing. You should always have someone around to give you support.

Snow 048“Once upon a time…” Those were the words Betsy Clemons used to begin her first short story and what sent her on a journey to becoming a writer. Although her primary focus at first was short stories, she quickly became interested in writing plays after joining a theater. This inspired her to peruse other forms of writing, such as novels, blog articles, and screenplays. Today, Betsy writes for people all over the United States, with her main focus and expertise being on screenplays.


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