Writing with Discipline

Writing can certainly be a tedious task. It inevitably means hours upon hours of sitting at a keyboard, pounding away at the little lettered boxes at your fingertips and hoping to capture some kind of magic. Most of the time it doesn’t work out and people give up before they even hit their stride. How does one complete so mountainous a task as writing a story?

I never thought I would complete a book, much less a series of them. I have ADHD. I was diagnosed as a child, had a hard time focusing in school, and was on stimulants until my late teens. Trust me, the medication did help with my school work, but not enough for me to focus on writing. I drew pictures, jotted down ideas and notes, and even made models, all of which seemed far less challenging than crafting a novel or a feature script.

Upon entering college and delving deeper into screenwriting, the complexity of stories was finally revealed to me. A story requires a delicate balance in order to succeed. Three act structure is a tried and true method to map out the emotional highs and lows of any narrative in any genre. The graph pictured below shows how the vast majority of stories are put together. Apply this to some of your favorites, and will will be surprised how well things fall into place.

Screenplay Structure For tips

Understanding stories and how they work is one thing. Successfully executing one is another. Eventually though, I grew tired of waiting to see my characters come to life on the big screen, so I decided to give birth to them on the page. Overcoming how easily distractible I am did prove challenging, but there were a few things that helped me get through each one of my projects.

1: MUSIC

Listening to music while writing is actually a good way to get yourself pumped up. Pop a pair of headphones in and turn something on that is appropriate for your story. While writing my adventure novel, I listened to the soundtrack for Indiana Jones on a loop. While writing my latest horror script, I cranked up Morricone’s chilling score for The Thing.

Whatever music you use is ultimately your decision. I would recommend not using lyrical music as the words in a song can distract you from your writing. Instrumental melodies tend to work better.

2: MAKE IT YOUR ONLY ENTERTAINMENT

Writing can be a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. The act of writing itself can be a very entertaining thing to do, but it does require concentration. That’s why I like to put myself in situations where it is the only thing I can do to pass the time. It took me about three months to complete each draft of my novel, much less than I thought it would take. One of the things I did was go to areas where there was no internet access.

With no social media or internet videos to distract me and home a long ways off, sitting and writing became just about the only way to pass the time. When in that situation, the time and the words go flying by. Find yourself a favorite sitting spot, be it outside on the beach or at a coffee shop, and just start working for the next few hours.

3: SET DAILY GOALS

Stephen King claims to try and write ten pages a day while working on new manuscripts. Setting goals such as this can do a lot in boosting your productivity. I for example try to knock out five thousand words a day while working with novel manuscript, and about five to ten pages a day while working with scripts.

Writing is a lot like working out in the gym. If you set your goal to do twenty lifts on a machine, you can’t very well stop at fifteen. Crossing the halfway point of a daily goal is a very liberating experience, and with the end in site, the rest comes much easier.

4: DON’T BE AFRAID TO WRITE CRAP

The dreaded writer’s block brings the progress of any story to a screeching halt. Really though, it’s just the fear of putting something bad on the page, and you really shouldn’t be afraid of that. Writing something that isn’t up to your standards is a good way to get it out of your system. Better yet, the beginnings of a good idea may be inside what you perceive as junk.

Whenever you get stuck, sometimes it is best just to go nuts. You writing a detective story? Drop a pink elephant on them. You may not keep the pink elephant, but you might get a good line of dialogue that could get you re-energized.

These were the things that help me the most when working. I have a second book beginning next month, and I am pretty nervous about it. But with a completed manuscript undergoing its final edit, I’ve seen that writing a book isn’t an impossible dream, and you shouldn’t either. Scripts, books, shorts, all of them are doable. If you have the passion, the drive, and can figure out the right balance of discipline, you can make it something very fun to do.

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4 thoughts on “Writing with Discipline

    • Always happy to help. The three act graph really helped me get organized for the first time, but the process after that is difficult. These things were a big help when starting out on the book.

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