But maybe not in that order.
Sometimes I like to read Scott Meyer’s Go Into the Story blog, that is all about screenwriting, and also contains a million (yes, hyperbole) links to other blogs and resources about screenwriting. He adds content more frequently than I can keep up with, so I miss a lot, but I check in occasionally and recently I happened upon this post, where he recommends a formula of reading 1 script a week, watching 2 movies a week, writing 7 pages a week (one a day) and devoting 14 hours a week to story prep. A I think his numbers are pretty good for maintaining a steady practice and learning curve, but faced with hard deadlines, one has to prioritize a little differently. In my own case, I have to devote my highest hour count to pages of screenplays I’m actively writing (and rewriting!) but this article was a nice little wake-up call to the fact that I tend to let my script reading, and even my movie watching, fall to the wayside in my desire to finish pages.
It’s a delicate balance–because to a certain extent, it’s helpful to put on blinders and just keep running. But when I make myself read a script, watch a film–I almost always pick up something useful for one of my projects. Last night, while folding laundry I watched Mississippi Masala, a Mira Nair film with a very young Denzel Washington. As public service announcement, I’ll note that you can watch the entire film on YouTube here. Tonight I started reading Monster’s University, because what better than a Pixar film for reinforcing all the basics–perfect structure, characters with strong wants with obstacles, story beats that hit right where they’re supposed to. Too tired to finish tonight, but something to look forward to when I wake up in the morning.
I was interested that Meyers recommended more time spent on story prep than writing (assuming that most people can write a page in an hour or less). Also, I wondered what he regarded as story prep. From context, it seems like he’s referring to ideation, as opposed to extensive notes and research for a single project, but maybe not–or maybe he’s deliberately loose in his definition. While I haven’t been keeping a notebook of late, I give myself credit for the fact that I’m writing a short story to a prompt every week for the fiction class I’m taking, and I think that has been keeping the creative taps open. I’ve also done drafts of two longer stories that I’m pretty happy with for first drafts.