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Ken Levine on TV Script Don’ts

Avoid dream sequences, don’t shop around your script for an old show, keep the budget and logistics in mind and many more tips and observations from The Great Levine. (Sounds like a 70s hypnotist, doesn’t it?) Actually, Ken Levine knows TV as a writer and director. He wrote for MASH, Frasier, Cheers and many others. In this post, he tells you what not to do if you’re trying to break in as a TV writer. Lots of sage advice here (although the advice about the fly made me think of the most critically acclaimed episode of Breaking Bad this season. Well, the fly’s perspective didn’t take up the whole episode.)

Bookmark his blog. There’s always some chewy goodness for scriptwriters and comedy lovers of all heights and glycemic indexes.

Filed under: scriptwriting, Writers, writing tips, , , , ,

How to Get the Time You Need to Write Your Novel

Writers who complete their books often steal time and sometimes buy it. You might have to get up earlier or stay up later (or both) but you’ll find lots of tips here on how to get your first draft written. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you need huge blocks of time to make progress. Sometimes all you can do is little bits, but if you write consistently, the little bits will add up. I have a draft of a novel to edit, but I’ve also started another. Summer is very child-intensive for me, so I have a notebook and every day I make progress on writing the new book with a calligraphic pen. The second draft will be typed, of course, but I’m stealing time here and there to get it done. I can get words on paper at the kids’ swimming lessons. Typing’s preferred, but  getting it done is the higher goal. Find time. Find time to write every day.

Are you losing writing time to petty errands? That may be a sign of procrastination. Resistance can easily be rationalized but it doesn’t serve your goal of getting a draft written (and eventually published.) Outsource where you can. Getting a babysitter for movie night is a good break, but  we also hire a babysitter just so we can get work accomplished without interruptions. I hate to mow the lawn so I hire a teenager to do it for me. For the few bucks it takes to get that done, it’s also saving me valuable writing time. When I hear that mower crank up, it’s also a reminder I should be writing. Buy time.

Maybe you aren’t getting it done because you are not prioritizing. If working out is really important to you, you schedule it, just like a meeting or a dentist appointment. Same with writing. Is it on your calendar? Does your family know writing time is, in fact, Writing Time in big block letters on the family schedule? If you want time, you have to be clear with the people in your life that the time you set aside for writing is sacred. Make time. Value your time. Defend your time.

Surprise tip:

Do not multitask. Doing more than one thing at a time is inefficient.

Find efficiencies. How are your keyboarding skills? Are you a fast typist? Faster is better. Publishers want prolific writers with gestational times more like a rabbit than an elephant. I recommend the Mavis Beacon keyboarding programs to increase your typing speed. If you cannot type quickly, have you tried Dragon or some other dictation strategy?

Don’t ponder. Work from a rough outline so you can plow ahead instead of plod. When we compose, our typing speed typically slows. This is not the way to go. Edit later. Whether you’ve got any kind of plan for what you will write that day or are more of an exploratory writer, punch the keys and don’t stop. The faster you type, the faster your book will be written. Resist the urge to tinker. Messing around with comma placement doesn’t get your first draft done. Save time and write fast. Editing is for later. It is impossible to edit a blank page.Don’t waste time. My general rule is, I don’t watch reruns unless it’s a must-see (bearing in mind that most must-see TV, isn’t.) There are a lot of things I don’t want to do. If they can be avoided, I don’t do them. The biggest time suck is the temptation to surf the net. When you’re writing (at that sacred time you’ve set each day) don’t open your browser and don’t check your email more than twice a day. I type on a little keypad called the Neo. It has 700 hours of life off three AA batteries, it doesn’t heat up like a normal laptop and best of all, it has no internet access. I can take it anywhere and write without even the temptation of internet distraction (read: games and porn.)

A special note about Twitter:

I love Twitter, but as Seth Godin says, “Twitter is never done.” You must be careful how you use it. Here’s how: I post frequently on Twitter. (Plug: you get fresh updates on the latest publishing links on your right of this screen so this blog always has updated content through the day.) However, I never post to Twitter from my desktop. Twitter is for the in-between times. Twitter is for down time. Twitter is productive time when you would otherwise be unproductive. Twitter is for commercials (if you aren’t already saving years of your life by saving your TV shows on PVR and zipping through commercials.)

I use Twitter to:

Follow-me-on-TwitterHelp people find links to useful information.

Say something funny and read something funny. Life is tough. @thesulk makes me feel better about our common destiny as worm food.

Answer questions and connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise.

If it isn’t useful or funny, I’m doing something else.

Please do follow me (@RChazzChute) on Twitter for the latest on the best book publishing information.

BONUS:

Do not consult your thesaurus as you write your first draft. If you’re searching for another word, you’re slowing down.

Compose in sprints.

More on that tomorrow…

Filed under: getting it done, Twitter, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

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