Writing Goals: 2013 [Part 1] — Looking Back

December 17th, 2012 by

I thought I would reprise something I did this time last year at GITS with the hope it would benefit as many of you as possible in taking concrete steps forward next year with your writing aspirations. It’s a very simple thing, really — setting goals — but for many, if not most people, it is an invaluable part of their creative process. You can go here to read some background on why setting goals is important and how to be S.M.A.R.T. about it.

You may be someone who likes to set goals. Or someone who hates it. Maybe you’ve never really tried to formalize the process.

Whatever your inclinations or prior experience has been, I encourage you to try it for 2013. Three big reasons why:

#1: With all its distractions, life has a way of dissipating our positive energy. We may have some general sense of what we’d like to accomplish, but the mere fact we live with the gigantic time-suck that is the Internet, that alone has a way of squandering countless hours of time when we could be writing. One of the best ways I know to deal with this natural tendency toward dissolution of focus is to take a definitive stand: Declare your intentions, and stay fixed on those goals every day.

#2: I don’t know Script Girl, I’ve never met Script Girl, but her tagline offers one of the most fundamental truths about the screenwriting business there is: “You can’t sell it, if you don’t write it.” You have to finish that script. In fact, to maximize your chances at success, let me amend that last statement: You have to finish those scripts. As in plural. The more scripts you write, the more you understand the craft, the better you get as a writer, and the more you prepare yourself for a possible career as a screenwriter. Plus you have more content to show to agents and managers. And each of those scripts represents a story you can sell potentially. But if you don’t write them… cue Script Girl.

#3: There’s an anecdote I believe in William Goldman’s memoir “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” still perhaps the best book about screenwriting even twenty plus years after its publication. As I recall the story, Goldman was friends with a top NBA basketball player, a man renowned for the amount of time he spent practicing. Even after he had become a successful professional athlete, he was the kind of guy who would be shooting jump shots in a lonely gym after midnight. Goldman asked him, “Why do you practice so much.” The player’s answer: “Because when I’m not practicing, someone else is.” The screenwriting version: If you’re not writing, someone else is. Screenwriting is an incredibly competitive field. To give yourself an edge over the competition, you simply have to spend time — a lot of it! — writing.

Three reasons for you to be serious about setting writing goals for 2013. I’m sure you could provide even more.

With that as a frame, here is what I’m thinking about this Writing Goals series: I will share my own year-end process with you. Not only that, at some point I will make a public declaration what my writing goals are for 2013. I’m hoping at least some of you will have the courage to do likewise.

Again just to be clear, all I’m trying to do is to motivate you to be productive next year, the same spirit as the Go On Your Own Quest initiative.

Thus each day this week (Monday-Friday) and as well as next week, I will be posting something about setting goals as well as tips and inspirational observations to achieve them, sharing my own process, and inviting any of you to join in.

Today: Looking Backward

An important first step in setting writing goals is to look back at what you accomplished in the last twelve months. If you’ve achieved a lot, great. By reviewing your accomplishments, you can use that as a springboard to propel you into the New Year. You can also assess what you’ve done to provide a logical transition from these projects this year to the ones you choose to write in the upcoming year.

On the other hand, if you look back at this year and realize you did not get nearly enough done on the writing front, that should serve as motivation as well. You don’t want to let another year slip by without making significant progress, correct? All the more reason to try establishing some simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals for 2013.

When I look back at this year in terms of my own writing, I did a ton in two areas: Writing about writing, and working with writers.

I wrote and uploaded over 2,000 posts on GITS including series such as How To Read A Screenplay, Keys To The Craft: Think Concept, Watch Movies, Read Scripts, Write Pages, Live Life, and The Theology Of Screenwriting.

I initiated several key projects including The Definitive Spec Script Sales List (1991-2012) and the phenomenon which became The Quest and Go On Your Own Quest.

Per The Quest, I took on 8 writers — for free — leading them through 8 weeks of Core [screenwriting theory], 6 weeks of Prep and 10 weeks of Pages. Almost all of them are just now finishing up their first drafts and I will be reading those scripts over the holiday break to see about possible next steps with each project.

That serves as a segue into my teaching. At Screenwriting Master Class, I worked with hundreds of writers in everything from 1-week Core and Craft courses, Prep, Pages I: The First Draft, and Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshop, and private one-on-one mentor programs including The Quest. I also paid off a promise — one free Core or Craft class to anyone who submitted a logline for The Quest initiative — to 400 writers [I will continue to fulfill my pledge to any of the other 1000+ Quest entrants next years].

At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, I continued to teach screenwriting through the Writing for Screen and Stage program with several of my students successfully launching careers in Hollywood.

In addition there were the dozens of emails from writers I answered each day, several writing consultancies, and progress on a couple of screenwriting eBooks I’m targeting to get out in 2013.

And there’s this: I continued to generate story concepts on a regular basis, as I have for the last 25 years. I think I came up with a top flight high-concept comedy. What’s more, after focusing for several years on writing indie drama-comedies, I’m ready to write a full-on commercial comedy. More on that later.

How about you? Why not take the time to look back at your year in writing? I invite you to head to Comments and share with us what you accomplished in 2012. How many scripts did you write? How many story concepts did you generate? How many short stories or poems did you write? Maybe you signed with an agent or manager. Maybe you sold a script. Maybe you started your very first script. Anything you accomplished is worth celebrating, so I encourage you to share that with us so we can celebrate together.

The next step in this process of setting writing goals for 2013: Assessing where you are as a writer. Sit down with yourself and take a critical, honest look at where you are, what you’ve done, and where you want to be. Zero in on finding those areas about which you feel really passionate. That’s where we’ll start when we pick up the process tomorrow.

Bottom line: Set some specific, achievable goals for 2013.

Tomorrow: Part 2 — Assessing Where You Are.

12 thoughts on “Writing Goals: 2013 [Part 1] — Looking Back

  1. Debbie Moon says:

    Well, we Brits hate to boast, but I’ve had an excellent year! The first season of my children’s TV series, Wolfblood, was made and transmitted. Then we were commissioned for season two, which will film in February. So that’s all been brilliant.

    Also made some progress with a couple of feature scripts, including the one I’m working on with GOYOQ, which I hope will both be finished and ready to go early next year…

    1. Scott says:

      Debbie, I think I’ve congratulated you before re Wolfblood, but if not, let me do so now. And if so, let’s make it twice as nice. Congrats! Also press on re GOYOQ project. Still 2 more weeks until the end!

  2. I’ve been really beating myself up about the progress I’ve made in the last year but looking back, I guess I didn’t do too bad.

    I moved to LA. A feat itself.

    I finished a short film I wrote and directed, which has been accepted into three festivals so far. Not bad for a 30-minute short.

    And I finished my first *polished* feature length script. I uploaded it to the Black List website and it’s now ranked on the TOP LIST for thrillers and action scripts!

    My goals for 2013 are to polish my second script and complete two more (which I’ve started already). But mostly, I want to get paid to write. 2013 I get my first writing assignment!

  3. Lily Smith says:

    Thanks for these Scott.

    I don’t think I did too well in 2012. I don’t want to use excuses (be they or be they not valid) but, life happened.

    What I want to do in 2013 is finish and shop around my two best scripts. Although it seems small, I’ve never really shown my scripts to anyone outside of my immediate filmmaking circle (the times I have shown them, it’s been pretty horrific).

    So that’s my goal. Anything else beyond that is audacity.

    1. Shaula Evans says:

      Lily, I hear you on life happening.

      If you would like to expand your immediate film circle, please consider dropping by the GOYOQ Forums, which rapidly outgrew it’s original mandate to support GOYOQ participants and is turning into a lovely, supportive community of GITS readers helping each other with their writing. We’d love to have your company.

      PS I hope 2013 is a much better year for you that lives up to and exceeds your goals. Let’s hear it for audacity.

  4. Dean Scott says:

    Good year for me. Started a masters in script writing were i feel I’ve learnt so much already. Even had a lecture from Debbie, HELLO :)
    Started a feature script that i’m fairly happy with at the moment. Also been developing an idea for a radio play that i’ll start writing within the next few days.

    Goals for next year are to finish off my film and radio scripts, and then get started on developing a tv idea i’ve got. Oh and write another radio script for my masters final project. Fun year ahead!

  5. rjlackie says:

    I can’t believe it’s been a year since last December! The past twelve months FEW by! It feels like only a month or two ago I was responding to last year’s post! I was ‘Bob Lackie’ there, here I’ve signed in via my Twitter handle rjlackie.

    My comment from 2011’s Part One:

    “I wrote 575 script pages this year, including 2 hour-long pilots, a half-hour pilot, an “Archer” spec script, and a ton of webseries experimentation. I earned a unique internship with a reliable Canadian production company that has me under the mentorship of a seasoned producer, which I’ll start in the spring. I wrote a short film for a student producer that got filmed, and got me my first IMDB credit. I wrote 177 blog posts at two blogs. And I’m about 4 months away from getting my BA in Television and Radio.

    It’s been a good year. Looking forward to 2012.

    (Now I just have to figure out what my goals should be for 2012… Maybe my first screenplay.)”

    2011 was a huge year for me. I wrote the two scripts in my portfolio I’ve since never gotten a bad review from, wrote literally hundreds of script pages, earned a great internship, and pushed forward at school. I was also paid for my screenwriting work for the first time, for a series of PSAs for an acquaintance’s new nonprofit.

    A year later, I’ve completed my BA, though I’m not technically graduated YET due to some remaining fees, and applying for my MFA in Screenwriting for Fall 2013. Through school, I got to do a 2-week course in Los Angeles at UCLA in August that was really exciting, where I learned so much, and got to see for myself the place I’ll someday live. Plus, at a pitch workshop there I got to pitch directly to Bobby Moresco (Oscar-winning co-writer of Crash), and he complimented my pilot idea, which was really cool. I wrote 78 blog posts at The Diversionist, some of them being my now-favourites.

    Last year I had my first short film produced. This year I had two more (both currently in post-production), plus some PSAs I wrote on assignment. Last year I was starting to see some success; this year, not only has my level of success increased astronomically, having gotten a major Toronto company to sign a shopping deal on a script with intent to move forward (though it’s too early in the process to go into more detail publicly, sadly), but I’ve also gotten the chance to tangle with failure and learn how to extricate myself from a project I’m not happy on, twice.

    I finished my fourth-year big project script, a full season of a dramatic webseries, in February. In April, it won the Best Upper Year Script award in my university program, competing against scripts from 2nd, 3rd and 4th years, and was shown at Ryerson’s student showcase in the summer. This was a huge validation for me. In November that same script won me a $200 writing scholarship, making me a two-time consecutive winner of that particular award.

    I’ve learned the art of networking, having gotten a handful of my scripts into the right hands in Toronto and made some amazing connections. People in the industry, at least here in Toronto, are ALWAYS friendly and willing to help earnest, hard-working young’uns, and I love that. I attended the Toronto Screenwriting Festival in April and even exchanged words with Justified showrunner Graham Yost, impressing him when I was the ONLY person in the keynote audience who’d actually watched Justified season two, and asked a great question to boot! (And yes, I was there for Lee Ahronsohn’s controversial comments about ‘peak vagina’, and yeah, there were some context issues with the reporting about that story…)

    I wrote my first feature-length screenplay! It was an odd situation, where I wrote it on spec on someone’s request to get experience with the format, was rushed through the outline and first draft stages, then the project fell through and I found myself actually growing to love the script I’d long considered an albatross dragging down my entire summer. Now I’m rewriting it ahead of submitting it to a grant through my school sometime next year, hoping to get it made. (Yes, I know, making your first feature script is a no-no, but the feedback I’ve gotten on it, plus my experience in order scripted formats over the years, makes me want to at least take my shot if I can get the funding together.)

    In April/May, I launched a project very close to my heart that’s actually a bit akin to The Quest: The Writersroom, pulling together a group of writing students and emulating a TV writing staff structure on an original idea. It’s a chance for amateurs to develop skills they normally can’t until they first get into an actual writers room – taking notes from a showrunner, building character arcs, writing an episode in the middle of the season. I shepherded an actual writers room with them over the summer, and we’re looking to get a full season of 13 scripts ready to show people by summer 2013! A long road with LOTS of bumps (I’d intended for the project to wrap up by February 2013, originally), but a huge, huge source of pride for me, getting a chance to champion and lead other writers. So proud of the work this group has done. (More details here, for the intrigued: http://knowwhatyouwrite.com/?cat=11 )

    I also had a great year for stretching my skills. In 2011 I tried comedy and animated comedy specs for the first time, so in 2012 I pushed my personal envelope again, writing my first feature and co-writing my university program’s awards ceremony. I also wrote 2 pilots, plenty of webisode practice, did the internship I mentioned last year (a ton of fun, though the show I was speccing died before it hit production), and just generally had a blast. I didn’t write NEARLY as much as I did last year, but I’ve spent the year quietly pushing forward on projects while really blossoming when it came to my other professional skills, which is, I think, exactly what I needed.

    A long response, but… it’s been an amazing year. And 2013 seems even more exciting. I can’t wait to dig in.

  6. Shaula Evans says:

    Despite 2012 being a difficult year by a number of measures, I managed to invest more time in writing (and studying writing) and was able to write more than I have in a long time. I’m happy with the quality and quantity of my output and I feel like in the past year I have significantly moved forward in my writing.

    It’s wonderful to read responses from people in this thread who have had such great years–and also those who have persevered despite difficulties, too.

  7. 2012 – Mallory lost her first tooth, Zach and Zoe went to pre-school, Jane earned her black belt in taekwondo, my wife began her teaching career, my Tigers choked it in the world series, the van needed new tires and…

    Oh yeah, screenwriting, sorry! “Life happened” here too! Stay-at-home daddying to Abby, Jane, Mallory, Zach, and Zoe tends to push itself to the forefront.

    To be honest, I fell flat on my face, screenwriting-wise. Mostly because much (hell, ALL) of my creative energies went towards pushing a short film that I wrote and directed to bloody completion. It was a brutal process but I’m mighty proud of the final product…a few things I’d probably do differently but damn it, the fact that the thing EXISTS at all is miraculous enough.

    Give it a spin when you have a minute…er, well, 20 minutes to be more precise. It’s the result of watching way too many Hitchcock movies and Twilight Zone reruns…


    I was able to snag a local work-for-hire scribbling gig on one of those ‘found footage’ horror flicks all the hip young youngsters like to take in so I’m pounding that out right now. It’s fun but a bit grueling.

    So, in all, I’m pleased with my ’12 but I’m doubly pleased that in ’13 I intend to redouble my efforts on this stack of writing projects, all definable as ‘high concept’ (thanks to The Quest logline contest for that…very eye opening, that process!), which lay before me.

  8. I have to mark my 2012 as an incomplete. To clarify, I wrote my first feature length screenplay as my film undergraduate thesis in 2009. After graduation I took a regular job, which conquered the majority of my time and energy. My writing ceased for almost 2 years.

    It wasn’t until this year that I was able to wake myself up and get back into writing. I outlined and wrote about 40 pages of a horror screenplay, and outlined a story for GOYOQ. However, due to severe bouts of procrastination and laziness, these projects went unfinished.

    2012 marked my return to writing, but I was not able to complete my screenplays and goals. I eventually stopped working on them altogether. I hope 2013 leads to me completing my incomplete projects but to start and finish new ones.

    1. Shaula Evans says:

      If you’d like some moral support, you’re welcome to join us in the GOYOQ forum, David. I find that being around other people who are writing regularly and working on similar goals has been really invigorating for me, and other people have commented on the momentum it has given them, too.

  9. SabinaGiado says:

    It was a difficult year but I achieved a fair amount professionally.

    My screenwriting accomplishments (drumroll please):

    1. Hands – a 7-minute socially aware short.
    2. Sakina – for a competition. A 12-minute short on emotional abuse.
    3. Nesting for Jessica – a 2-minute short for 50 Kisses.
    4. Mr. Wonderful – a feature-length screenplay.
    5. Hundreds of loglines (didn’t count)
    a. 63 passable loglines
    i. 25 good ones
    1. 11 very good ones

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