Q.: I'm about to get started on a new spec script (Rescue Me) and would like to challenge myself to write faster. What's an ambitious but realistic deadline to set? I'm watching episodes but haven't done a beatsheet yet.
Assuming you're writing on a full time basis, a reasonable pace could be:
a. a week to come up with the story lines. What happens in each story line, in each act? What are the act outs? [In a previous draft of this post I said that Rescue me is a full hour without act outs; it's on FX, so it does.]
b. a week to beat the story out
c. two weeks to write the first draft
d. tinker till satisfied you can't do better.
On staff you might spend a day breaking down the script's story lines. But you'd have a story department to work on it with you, and you'd be breaking down a whole slew of story lines at the same time. On your own, it will take longer, and you'll also have to try out many story lines but only pick one, while in the room you can try out many story lines and pick several.
On staff you might have only two or three days to beat the story out the first time, but then you'd get notes and you'd end up spending a week on it one way or another.
On a broadcast hour show you might spend a week writing a first draft script. But Rescue Me
is more intricate and more outrageous than most broadcast hours.
The key is to remember that while you should write as well as you can, keep your forward momentum and try to get 5-10 pages a day once you're writing pages. On staff that will be more like 10-15 pages a day. But on staff you know the show and you have other writers to help you solve problems you're bumping on.