Writing Diligence: Making Time To Write And Sticking To A Plan

By Susan Kouguell · May 27, 2014

Let’s face it — life can get in the way of writing.  But when life isn’t getting in the way, sometimes writers are the ones getting in their own way. 

Whether it’s fear of success or fear of failure — or not knowing where to start, continue, or end a screenplay — or feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed — it can all be rather daunting. 

There is no magic answer to making time and sticking to a writing plan, but the following are suggestions to step out of your own way and back onto the screenwriting page.


1. Be nice to yourself. If you don’t achieve your specific writing goals — that’s fine, just keep writing. Don’t use this as an excuse that you have failed and therefore stop writing.

2. Find an environment that’s conducive to your writing. Maybe you work best in complete silence or listening to music, or sitting at a café eavesdropping on conversations. Perhaps visual prompts might help you stay on track; tack up inspiring photos and postcards on your corkboard.

3. Rid your distractions. Clear off your desk or at least organize the piles.  

4. Unplug. This means turn off your phone and all social media during your writing time.

5. Write down your goals. For example: “I want to write one scene per week.”

6. Make sure you set attainable goals.  If you think that you can write an entire act in one hour, most likely this is not an attainable goal. 

7. Organize your schedule in a way that is reasonable for you to succeed. Take into account your most creative, focused and productive times of the day. 

8. Immerse yourself in the genre you’re writing in by reading published scripts and watching movies.

9. Always remember why this screenplay is important to you and what makes you passionate about the material.

10. Thinking about your characters and your story is part of the writing process; this isn’t wasting time.

My final words of advice: Don’t be too tough on yourself. Enjoy and embrace the writing process. 

Susan Kouguell, award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, is the author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out!.   She is a contributor to many publications, including Indiewire/SydneysBuzz, a monthly Ask the Screenplay Doctor column in, Screenwriter’s Utopia.  Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and presents international seminars. As chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990, Kouguell works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, executives and studios worldwide.  Her six short films are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and archives, and were included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial.  Kouguell worked with director Louis Malle on his film And the Pursuit of Happiness, was a story analyst and story editor for many studios, wrote voice-over narrations for (Harvey Weinstein) Miramax and over a dozen feature assignments for independent companies. su-city;  su-city blog