A great question was raised at a recent session of the London Writers’ Meetup from an experienced performance poet, but a new screenwriter, which was basically this:
How many pages of screenplay should I write every day?
We had such a great discussion about it, I thought it would be worth sharing some of the points with you here.
How much we can write depends on a lot of things, such as:
- How much time you have
- Whether you have a deadline – deadlines are great for focusing the mind.
- How experienced you are – if you’re a newbie, it’s likely to take you longer.
- If you’re a perfectionist – you might obsessively rewrite page 1!
- Whether you’ve developed a daily writing routine.
- What else is going on in your life. Any sort of emotional upheaval will likely affect your writing output.
- How complex the idea is; some ideas just flow out of us, others need to be dragged, neither one is better, it’s just the nature of creativity.
All these things will affect how many pages you write each day. There’s no point telling yourself – I should be writing 5 pages every day, because you’re setting yourself up to fail, if your circumstances don’t allow this.
We’re all different
It’s also worth remembering that we’re all different. For example, some people find that if they write for 2 hours, that is their limit, and beyond that, they just can’t write any more no matter how long they sit there.
However, others might find that as soon as they go beyond 3 hours, they become really absorbed with their work and the words really flow. And that’s when they’re at their most productive. It’s good to get to know yourself and figure out what works best for you. Then you can make sure you work to your strengths.
So, let’s dig into this a bit deeper…
How much time do you have?
If you have a full-time day job, how much time (and energy) can you spare each day? Perhaps an hour? You could write 1-2 pages (500-1000 words) in an hour, if you know where your story is going and you’re in a groove.
If you have kids as well as a full time day job, perhaps you can only squeeze in 10 minutes. However, you could still write ½ page (250 words) if you really focus for those 10 minutes.
If you work part time, or don’t have a job at the moment, how much time (and energy) can you spare per day? Perhaps 2 or 3 hours? In which case, you might be able to write 2-4 pages (1000-2000 words).
How long you can sit and write, depends in large part on whether or not you’ve managed to develop a writing habit. It’s a lot easier to sit down and write if you have, and a lot more torturous if you haven’t. (Here is a round-up of tips to help you sit down and write).
If you’re worried that you’re not writing as much as you’d like to and you want to increase your daily page count, here are a few things to try…
Get a deadline
This could be from a course, a workshop group, a competition, or even a commission! Deadlines help you write more.
Treat it like a job
If you had a writing boss, how would you behave? Whether you’re writing for 10 minutes a day or 5 hours a day, imagine this were your job, and create a daily schedule. Then be consistent. Visualise your boss – hear their voice in your ear.
Get some accountability
If you’re struggling to treat your writing like a job, accountability can really help. When I started out, I would take classes and that really helped me to start and finish pieces of work. During the courses, I’d make friends with other writers, we’d then give each other feedback on subsequent drafts. That way, I didn’t just stop writing once the course ended.
You can also get accountability from Meetup groups that get together (in person or virtually) to write together. Or if you keep coming up against a stumbling block, you could hire a Writing Coach, like me – I love helping writers to reach their goals 🙂
Create a daily routine
Not everyone likes routine – but it can really help if you’re trying to increase your daily page count. So, try to write every day at the same time, for example, after breakfast, and be consistent for at least a month. Even just 10 minutes a day will make you feel more like ‘a writer’. And every daily writing session adds up. As the adage goes, we over-estimate what we can do in a year, and under-estimate what we can do in a day.
Find a helpful writing book
I found the book ‘How to Write a Movie in 21 Days’ really helped me increase my daily word count when I was starting out.
Struggling to write any words? Make it easy
When I say easy, I mean 10 minutes a day. Even 5 minutes a day is a good start. But… do this every day, even set a timer. Being consistent helps you develop a mindset of someone who turns up every day to write. That mindset will help you continue. And it’s easier to be consistent, when we start small.
If we start off with the goal to write for 2 hours every day and must get 5 pages written, it can be daunting, and that can make us panic and fail at the first hurdle. The more we succeed, the more we believe we’re capable of succeeding. So give yourself the opportunity to succeed, and build up your writing muscle from there.
Make distractions inconvenient
Unplug the TV, turn off the router, leave your phone in another room, remove tempting apps from the home screen of your phone, install an internet blocker app to your computer, such as Freedom or LeechBlock, turn off notifications.
My own annoying habit is to obsessively check my emails, so I’ve removed my email apps onto the 3rd page of my phone, and I’ve also created a daily schedule for checking emails. I’m aiming for no more than 4 times a day! (It’s not easy!)
I hope that helps. Do get in touch and let me know how many pages you write each day!
The next London Writers’ Meetup is happening on Tuesday 13th July at 7.30pm (on zoom) – come along if you’re free. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other writers, share writing resources, ask a question, be held accountable or just chat about your work. It’s friendly, informal and open to writers of all disciplines and any level of experience.
If there’s something in your writing that you’re struggling with, get in touch as I might be able to respond to your question in a future post. You can also just say hi – or give me some feedback or share a tip – I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks so much for reading! If you’re new to my blog, I’m Katy Segrove – animation writer, children’s author, writing coach and mum to cheeky 2-year old Otto.
If you found this post interesting, Sign up and get an email each week. I share tips on all aspects of writing, productivity, habits and different ways of marketing yourself and your writing. You’ll also get a free 7-day writing course.