You do it and the next morning you hang your head in shame. Your gut is filled with soul-crushing guilt. Next come the voices. Those darn voices that methodically rip apart your skills as a writer.
You just binge watched a bunch of episodes or movies last night.
It’s all right. Just let go of the guilt. Believe it or not, you can take your all night streaming session and use it to make you into a better writer.
There is a really odd stigma that to be a writer you must only read books. But this isn’t true.
Storytellers learn from stories—plain and simple.
Here are some practical ways you can use your Netflix sessions to turn you into a better writer:
1. Analyze story structure.
Where is the conflict introduced, what is it? How is the conflict resolved? Wanna know more about story structure? Get this free ebook from Donald Miller or pick up the amazing book called Do The Work by Steven Pressfield.
2. Look closely at structure.
This means looking at each episode, each season and the overall series. If it is a movie, look at how the scenes go together. Then compare this to your writing. Does your writing (in your book or even your blog) actually flow together or are you all over the place? This is not to say you don’t have some creative freedom, but you must be sure your writing covers specific themes and has good flow throughout. Or you won’t have an audience.
3. Get better with dialogue.
You know good dialogue when you hear it. Bad dialogue is a lot like a Nickelback tune–it makes your ears hit the brakes. But yet writing good dialogue is often one of the biggest struggles for beginning writers. When you hear a great speech or an interesting conversation, take some notes. What was said? Why was it believable? How did it make you feel?
4. Improve character development.
When characters don’t face enough conflict, the audience is bored. A character must be continually growing and moving in a specific direction. Take a look at Walter White at the beginning of Breaking Bad and then compare it to Walter White at the end of the series. What choices led this character to be where he/she is now?
5. Get ideas for characters in your stories.
When you need a working housewife on the verge of a breakdown, you could base your character on Skyler White. If you need a male protagonist who is extremely unsatisfied with the status quo, a character that is a spin-off of Tyler Durden could be a good fit.
6. Keep research entertaining.
Watching documentaries or interviews is better than browsing through a bunch of tabs or sorting through a big stack of books, right?
7. Stay relevant and connected with the audience.
Almost every long-term show or movie franchise has a “jump the shark” moment. This is the moment where the believability of the story goes out the window. How did this happen? What lead to it? How can it be avoided? Does this happen at some point in your book or on your blog?
8. Create a new ending.
If the main character dies, ask what happens if the protagonist is alive? What happens if Tony Montana lives? Change things up completely and write it out. If you don’t want to change the ending, change the beginning or middle. Have fun with it. You can find a more in-depth spin on this approach here.
9. Fix the plot holes.
Take a movie with plot holes and fix it. This will allow you to flex new creative muscles you never knew existed. For a challenge, try applying this to the movie Dark Knight Rises. If you can fix the canyons in that movie, you can likely fix anything.
10. Implement the stories into your own blog.
Stories connect us like nothing else. Use a story from a movie or show to illustrate a point you are making on your own site. Don’t use a horror movie example to illustrate something about fear, that’s just lazy. Dig deeper than that. Find a way to thread together stories that on the surface do not seem related and it will be interesting for the reader.
11. Figure out why specifically you’re crying.
It’s okay. No shame in bawling like a baby when you watch Bambi or why you are smiling like a kid when Rocky triumphantly runs up the stairs. Figure out why you feel any emotions at all; why you’re nervous, excited or bored.
12. Dig deeper with your favorite characters.
What drives your favorite characters? Why do you connect with them? Are there common threads with these characters? There is a common thread there. And many times your favorite characters have a lot in common with what you write about. Even if you write non-fiction, your writing is likely heavily influenced by the characters in your favorite movies and shows.
13. Fuel yourself with good ideas.
For anyone who is a visual learner, watching film is as important as reading (if not more so). All writing starts with an idea. When you combine several together, then what you create will be even more original.
14. Do something no one else is doing.
Stay engaged while you watch and keep thinking as much as possible. Ask lots of questions. Approximately 99% of viewers completely unplug their brain while watching. Take notes and analyze what you watch. Whether you want to write a screenplay, book or a blog post, you have to think like a writer.
You’re a writer all the time, not just when you put words on the page. (<-Click to Tweet)
15. Build better hooks.
Your goal as a writer is to keep eyeballs on your content and leave the audience wanting more. Reverse engineer the shows that keep you wanting more. Then apply it to your writing.
16. Find new readers.
Talking with other fans of a movie or show can easily lead to new relationships. Go to fan forums and other places online where you can interact with others who love the same content you do.
17. Be more entertaining.
As a writer, you must be entertaining. Your writing is competing for attention. Figure out what it is that the shows are doing that entertains you and takes you to another world. What it is you enjoy the most about a great show or movie.
18. Watch the show or movie, then read the book.
Do you agree or disagree with how the story is told on paper? What would you change? How would you improve it? Write that down.
19. Keep your readers engaged
When you’re bored with a movie or show, figure out why that is the case. Too formulaic? Not enough conflict, etc. Maybe it is not realistic or it feels like there is no point to it. All of these challenges can be applied to your own content. Ask for help from your writing partner or editor if you struggle with this. If you are not sure how to find one, contact me. I promise to point you in the right direction.
20. Get more web traffic.
Use movie references and titles in headlines to grab attention. Try this with some of the upcoming blockbuster summer movies and watch your traffic surge.
21. Cleanse your palette.
Watch one show quick and fast. You’re wasting valuable mental energy when you watch 20 shows at once–whether you realize it or not.
22. Light a fire under your butt.
Maybe you need to quit your blog. If your blog is stale, watching a great movie or TV show can help get the creative juices flowing.
23. Recharge your batteries.
24. Get in touch with your ideal reader.
Ask your readers what their favorite shows/movies are. Then watch to connect more. Mention those shows and movies on your blog to engage in conversation about them. Not sure who your ideal reader is? This video is very helpful.
25. Sometimes procrastination is good.
If you keep watching instead of writing, maybe you’re not writing about the right topic. In those situations, your heart is telling you something that your head hasn’t quite figured out yet. Here is more info about the benefits of procrastination.
26. Get better with marketing.
Ads, teasers and trailers are great ways to help you improve your skills with marketing. Telling stories in very limited amount of time is a very important skill. What ads keep your attention? Which do you totally tune out?
27. Open your mind.
This is a great way to learn more about opposing viewpoints, how people think, different characters and topics. Keeping your mind open ensures you can keep your content fresh.
28. All work and no play make you a dull writer.
Reward yourself with some screen time after writing. Make your favorite show or movie the dangling carrot in front of you.
29. You’re still learning from writing.
Writers are the ones who make shows and movies, so you can always pick up the screenplays or books if you’d like. Most of these writers are online too, so with a simple Google search you can likely find interviews and more.
30. Form an opinion.
Use your viewing time to figure out what you like and dislike. Readers ignore writers without opinions. Form an opinion and then let it be known to the world.
So Here’s Your Plan…
You have to be intentional with your viewing to actually make this work. Plan ahead and have a ¨Netflix night.¨ Develop good habits. Don’t just play it by ear or go with your emotions. If you keep watching Netflix instead of writing altogether, reassess and figure out what the problem is. Maybe you’re afraid. Fear is often the elephant in the room. Perhaps you are avoiding the hard work and honestly, you are just being lazy. by The best way to deal with this is to write first.
Repeat with me: Writing first, Netflix later.
Don’t hesitate–just write. Know that most of it will be very rough in the early stages. This is completely normal. Good things take time; more time than you think they will. Happy writing (and watching).
Want some hands-on attention to improve your writing? I offer a service that will make you a better writer TODAY. Just fire me an email and let’s chat. Talk to you soon!