I Wrote a Thing

I wrote previously about just jumping into the writing process if you’re feeling stymied by much of the popular advice regarding screenwriting (namely: don’t even start writing unless you have a very detailed outline to work from).

Well, I managed to follow my own advice and very recently finished my own ~120-page feature script. Here’s what helped me get it done:

– I wrote it with the help of a couple friends who were there to keep me on task and provide guidance and feedback. I think this is pretty key. Writing is pretty lonely otherwise.

– Each week, I would write 5 pages, due by end of day Wednesday. We’d discuss the pages on Friday, and then the cycle would begin all over again. Having it be a regular schedule, but not a strenuous one, was useful. It ensured I never hit burnout and that regularly I would go into the next week eager to write down what was still kicking around from the week before.

– I specifically made it a point to never review prior sections. I did absolutely no editing as I wrote and this was a crucial part of the process. If I had stopped to correct errors, I never would have finished. Now, what is finished is a piece of garbage, but it is finished. And now I can get to work crafting a second draft.

That was basically it. Have support, write regularly and don’t look back until you are done. You’ve probably seen that advice all over. There is a reason why.

What now? Well, now I’ll be making an outline.

Now that I have finished writing a script, I can see why everyone says to write an outline first. I found myself lost in the weeds quite a bit while writing this script and an outline would have stopped that before it even started.

I set out to make a Hollywood script. Not that I necessarily intended to ever try and market this script (I mean, among many other reasons, it’s my first script, which means it was always destined for the file cabinet), but I didn’t intend to write anything but a by-the-numbers Hollywood script. And now I can’t watch a by-the-numbers Hollywood film (Bad Boys, The Rock, ummmm… really anything Michael Bay has touched is what is coming to mind [which is not a dig on Michael Bay, even if you want it to be]) without going “Dammit. I don’t have that part in there.”

I’m missing strong B-plots. I don’t get into the personal lives of the heroes. I have no “Save the Cat” moment. I don’t have call-backs. There’s no real thematic goal. I don’t think I’ve made enough room for large action set-pieces. I lack catchphrases! Oh, and the plot doesn’t really make, as they say in the biz, “any sense at all”.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot that needs to be done.

To help with my outline, I plan to look at my script and break each major scene or plot element into a notecard. Sort those notecards by act and then decide what needs to stay and what needs to go. I’m going to steal heavily from Blake Snyder, whose Save the Cat was just as gimmicky as I expected but also broke things down in a way that really gelled with me, and a bit from Edgar Wright. Specifically, this. (Yes, yes, I know this is just Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but something about seeing how it actually gets applied made more sense to me than reading that entire damn book.)

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