Based on an expedient first-draft process, including emphasis on developing tools like the Unity Page, the 3-6-3, the Horizontal and brainstorming of setpieces, Writers Boot Camp estimates that a feature-length script can be readable by industry standards within six months, working at a part-time pace of ten hours per week.*
The ratio of tools work versus writing during the first-draft stage would be 80% tools and 20% writing. Once the tools have been established, then the subsequent rewriting stages would flip that ratio to 20% tools, primarily updating and brainstorming for particular issues, and 80% emphasis on writing pages. Of course, the rewriting stages are the primary portion of a Six-Month Full Development process, even with earnest tools development and preparation.
For television writers, the key to reducing this timeline is how quickly you master a working knowledge of the existing series you’re writing. While you may find the space to accomplish a rewrite a half-hour or hour-long script within the same period of time it may take to write a first-draft of a feature script, the campaign to study and intuit the conceits of a series can often take as long as the process of defining the original conceits of a feature. Unfortunately, learning the skill of breaking down the parameters and inner workings of existing movies and shows is not an overnight process.
Here’s how the timeline breaks down, factoring in a first-draft deadline, an evaluation and breathing period, and the stages of the rewriting process (see the graph next page):
Four to six weeks for your first-draft process, two weeks to expand your draft and synthesize notes, four weeks for each Component Level Rewrite (three initial passes are commonly needed for a feature) and four weeks for various Craft Level Rewrites (Highlighting Exercises). Since there are actually 26 weeks in a half a year, this 24-week schedule accommodates the occasional need for additional breaks between drafts.
This means that you can fully develop two feature scripts, or three to four television scripts, annually. Or, as you become more familiar with the process (not just Writers Boot Camp’s tools but the inherent nature of writing scripts) you may use the time to test more ideas in their early phases by writing quick mini-drafts.
Due to the need to boost your working knowledge of the particular television series that you’re writing, or to do required topical research on a feature subject, certain stages may take longer. And none of this accounts for the obstacles that you let get in the way, or that you create for yourself. Of course, if you’re able to put in more than ten hours a week, you can be even more prolific. The work tends to fill the available time, so it’s important to create specific deadlines and stages of closure if you do suddenly have thirty hours a week to write. It’s also crucial to attribute the work and specific tasks to scheduled sessions on your calendar.
Six-Month Full Development Timeline
Here’s how the Full Development timeline breaks down, factoring in your current deadline and the various stages of the rewriting process following this course: Eight weeks to complete the first draft, four weeks per Component Level Rewrite and an average of one week per Craft Level Rewrite.
The timeline of these development stages adds up accordingly:
First Draft = 8 weeks
Component Level Rewrites = 12 weeks (3 Component Rewrite Objectives)
Craft Level Rewrites = 4 weeks (Individual Highlighting Exercises)
That translates to approximately 24 weeks, or roughly 6 months. This is based on writing part-time, ten hours weekly. That's a minimum of 240 hours to fully develop your script and make it ready to submit to "friends in the business."*
* For 1/2-hour & 1-hour television, the timeline can be reduced to 3 to 4 months, that is, after the tools have been learned.
Writers Boot Camp uses the term "conceit" to describe a specific approach to the content of your movie, television show or web series that distinguishes it from others, especially in the case of material or subject matter that may be similar. More advanced than a component or story decision, a conceit addresses and describes the audience experience of your story. It's a writing tool and also a tool for collaboration with the team of developers and filmmakers.
A conceit is an approach to a story component, or combination of components, rather than the component itself. In its broadest expression, it's a phrase or notion that points to a unique layer of material in the project. In more practical terms, a conceit is a statement, a single-sentence description of that unique approach that includes words and phrases to express the combination of components and ingredients that form the DNA of the project. A conceit statement is in effect a title of a list of setpieces that illustrates the script's entertainment concept, which in turn represents the primary layer of material that will ultimately attract an audience.
One of the evolving ideas here is a departure from the old view of writing. Screenwriting is challenging because, of course, we're in a visual medium. We have to show rather than tell. And in making the jump from the ideas that are in your head or in your heart and trying to get that on the page, it's crucial that you realize that you have to translate those ideas to a form that other people--readers, gatekeepers (the assistants to whom the executives delegate your scripts), the crew who are going to have to interpret (and hopefully not interpret too much) and eventually produce that material--can understand.
Screenwriting is a very conceptual process. The mentality of I'm-a-hard-working-person-and-can-write-120-pages doesn't quite work, because all content is derivative. Every story has been done before, at least in some way and to some degree. Even BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, an admirably original project, is based on the paradigm of switching bodies. There's just no such thing as a story that's totally unique. So, the approach that you take has to mitigate that problem. And in screenwriting that approach proves itself on the page through entertaining moments. Since the story moves through moments of interaction between people, your characters will ideally come across as people and not just props with feet. Hopefully, they're human beings at a significant stage of their lives, and that stage of life--that experience, that adventure--is going to change them forever.
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Misbehavior is a term used to get close to the essence of what makes movie and TV characters accessible. A descendant and enhancement of the industry term character arc--character change over the course of a story--misbehavior is a tool for activating characters and connecting action to the ground wire of thematic resonance.
We refer to Misbehavior applied to the Main Character, who represents the spine of the story, as Building Block Misbehavior because it operates as the cornerstone from which all thematic material is sourced. While a very unique, proprietary Writers Boot Camp invention and term, misbehavior will not only activate your characters but also help you fully develop them in relation to the context of the story.