How I Wrote Two Scripts and One Novel in 3 Months
For the majority of my writing life, I had been the writer who does a lot of talking, but not a lot of writing.
However, one day during my junior year of college, my boyfriend said to me, “For someone who wants to be writer, you don’t write very much.”
Now, to many people that might seem harsh. But that is exactly why I’m dating my boyfriend – he pushes me to be who I want to be. And he was right.
Around this time, I signed up for my first feature writing course. I signed up for the course so that I’d have someone giving me deadlines and essentially “force” me to write a script, but my boyfriend’s words were ringing in my ear.
So, I did what anyone else would do, and I decided to write my first novel EVER at the time.
After I began this process, my entire approach to writing changed and I officially adapted the mantra, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”
Because after writing a novel and script in one semester, I realized that the trick to writing was writing, but also that the trick was just carving out the time. And that the busier I was, the easier this seemed to be.
Flash forward a year later, and I’m getting ready to graduate.
I was enrolled in a television writing class as well as a thesis screenwriting class. I did this with the hopes of ending my senior year with something to really show for myself. It was my informal showcase and I wanted to build my writing portfolio as best as I could before I entered the “real world.”
But something was missing. I was in two screenwriting classes, but I knew that wasn’t enough. So, thinking back to the year before when I had written a script and a novel over the course of an entire semester, I figured “Hey, it wouldn’t be that hard to write a novel too, right?”
I knew I’d done this before, but in a “lite” mode where I was writing one page a day for my screenplay while writing a novella at the same time. Perhaps if I hadn’t done a simpler version of this beforehand, I wouldn’t have taken on this crazy pursuit at all.
But I knew I could do it, and I knew it would be a huge milestone in my writing life if I achieved it.
So, I set out to write a television pilot, a feature screenplay, and a novel in the span of three months all while I was still in school and working a part-time job.
However, on top of the enormity of this task, both of my screenplays required extensive research.
My feature film was about the Black Power Movement, which I had taken a course on earlier on in my college career, but needed to refresh myself on, and my television show was about the Mexican drug cartel, which required learning the history, politics, and system of an entire country.
But somehow, in the span of three months, I wrote all three of these stories – and actually wrote the feature film twice – and I did so without losing my mind.
I knew it didn’t need to be perfect. I just needed to get the stories out there so I could shape them into what they needed to be.
The Benefits of Writing Two Scripts and a Novel
Many people will caution you from writing multiple stories at the same time. And while to some extent I agree with that sentiment, I personally think it applies to the editing phase more than the drafting phase, at least for people like me who don’t plan much ahead before they write.
Additionally, I have found that writing two stories at the same time has been beneficial to me so long as the two stories are in different mediums.
The first reason I have found it beneficial to write a screenplay and a novel at the same time is that it forces me to think about both mediums in new ways. When I’m writing my novel, my mindset is still slightly tied to the visuals of screenwriting, and when I write a script, I naturally avoid the formulaic mindset most screenwriting book eschew and instead focus on internal narratives.
The more I write a screenplay and a novel at the same time, the more the two mediums bounce off each other and enhance one another. Yet they are separate enough in their form that I find it impossible to mix things up, making switching between the two very easy.
Additionally, writing two screenplays and a novel in the span of three months forced me to write a ton and made me practice a lot.
As a new writer – or even a more developed one – you still need to practice, and often in discovering your writing voice quantity is more important than quality. You just need to get a lot of experience to get to work. As a result, writing this much content over three months really forced me to get that writing and storytelling experience and to acquire it fairly quickly.
Finally, juggling this many projects made me think of storytelling on the regular. I was thinking about it constantly without trying, which in turn led me to having more ideas and new solutions that I wasn’t sure I would
How I Wrote Two Scripts and One Novel in 3 Months
I should emphasize again that I was in my final semester of college at this time, taking five classes, half of which required me to read epic poetry or to read other people’s screenplays, adding up to nearly 200+ pages of reading every week in addition to essays and math homework and juggling a part-time job.
So, when people tell me they are busy, I have a lot of trouble believing they can’t make time for writing, likely because I was juggling so many other things myself when I decided to take on this crazy challenge.
Like I said, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”
And here’s how that busy person wrote two scripts and a novel in three months.
1 | I Created a Daily Writing Schedule
Before I began any of these three separate projects, I knew I needed to create a daily writing schedule that would create a sense of progress without actually inhibiting my lifestyle.
I already knew from experience that writing about 1,000 words of my novel everyday would be an easy thing to check off my list and that if worked at daily, would yield a 90,000 word novel by the end of the three months.
After figuring out my daily writing schedule for my novel – which I knew would require more time than my screenplays – I figured out how much I’d need to write everyday for each script without overwhelming myself, yet still giving myself time to devote myself to my stories.
So, I created a schedule to finish the first draft of my feature film in about a month’s time, writing three pages per day. I knew that would enable me to finish the feature in time for my pilot.
Then, for my pilot, I created a weird schedule where on one day I wrote five pages, but the other days I wrote three pages. This was because with how school was playing out, in order to meet my daily goals, I had to do more work on Sunday than during the week when I had a lot of reading to do.
In this way, I was able to seamlessly juggle writing three different projects over the span of three months. For the most part I was never writing more than one script and the novel. However, due to some end-of-year deadlines, at one point I actually had to write a second draft of my feature while I was still writing my novel and my television pilot. So, to do this, I once again approached it as a daily goal, making 10 pages per day my goal.
Here's a clear breakdown of the three months and the daily writing schedules:
- Month 1: I wrote 1,000 words per day of my novel and 3 pages per day of my feature-length screenplay.
- Month 2: I wrapped up my screenplay about midway through and gave myself two weeks away from it. Meanwhile, I continued to write 1,000 words per day of my novel.
- Month 3: I continued to write 1,000 words per day of my novel and finished it by the end of the month. I began my television pilot after months of brainstorming and wrote five pages on Sunday, then three pages a day, Monday through Wednesday, as I had a lot of coursework later in the week I needed to prepare for. About midway through this, I rewrote my entire feature film as well, writing 10 pages per day for ten days straight. By the end of the month I had completed all three projects and had written over 500-pages of stories.
2 | I Set Deadlines and Stuck to Them
Because the screenplays I was writing were for a class, I had to work with deadlines whether I wanted to or not.
However, for my novel, there wasn’t anyone telling me I needed to finish the story by a certain date.
So, in order for me to actually stick with this challenge, I took my daily writing goals and mapped out when I would need to finish them by, giving myself a few days after each goal incase something happened where I couldn’t write one of those days.
Then, I made myself stick to them.
Now, that is likely easier said than done, but given that two of these writing projects required that I finish them on time – or fail the class – I felt motivated enough to finish those.
However one thing that really helped me stay on task and stick to my goals and deadlines was creating S.M.A.R.T. goals – goals that are tangible and achievable – instead of relying on the vague and general goals I used to make before I was a dedicated storyteller.
3| I Created a Writer’s Ritual and Used it Before Every Session
Without a doubt, my writer’s ritual was the anchor of this entire challenge. Without it, I would have deeply struggled to stay focused and motivated when so many other distractions were calling my name.
Often as a writer I would feel pulled to do everything but write – I had a ton of things on my to-do list after all. But as soon as I turned on my music and lit my incense – shutting the door and putting my headphones in – I was able to concentrate deeply and write what I needed to in a short amount of time.
I knew that if I didn’t use this ritual, I wouldn’t be able to focus like I was capable of, and would therefore write more slowly, something I really couldn’t afford to do given all the other things in my life I was balancing.
4 | I Made Writing a Priority Over Everything Else
In order to write as much as I did this final semester of my college career, I knew I needed to make writing a priority over everything else. This meant also making writing a priority over class work, friends, family, and so forth.
That might seem bad, but I knew that given how much coursework I was taking at the time, this would be the ultimate test of my commitment to writing. I knew that later in life I would be busy, but never would it be so hard to write as it was my final semester of college when I was juggling tons of other serious life decisions and extra school work.
So, even though I am a total night owl, I made writing the first thing I did every morning.
This was because I knew that if I waited any longer or did it after my homework or after work, I’d never get around to writing and it’d be put on the backburner.
As a result, when I did my writing early, I was actually able to say “yes” to plans more often than I had imagined and could enjoy my evenings without stressing over my novel or my screenplays.
In this way, writing was my first priority, yet in making it my first priority, I was actually able to give my full attention to the other areas of my life and prioritize those better than if I’d just waited to write later in the day.
And while hustling out this many stories in the span of three months isn’t how I write every time – nor do I ever edit this many projects at once – I have found that completing the challenge alone made me more confident that I can write anything.
And there’s nothing more powerful than that confidence as a writer.