5.1 GB left of 8.7 GB. I’ve been sitting at my computer for a little bit now, staring at the progress bar in the hopes that it will magically move faster and faster in the ensuing moments. Since I’ve been doing this for a bit now (like I just said), it’s probably safe to assume that it’s going to take even longer to finish. So while the download is doing it’s thing and pissing me off, I figured I would jot down some thoughts in a stream of conscious manner to break the monotony of my latest string of “well-organized” posts.
In short, I want to talk about outlines.
I hate outlines. I hate writing outlines and I hate thinking about them. I come from a method of writing that involves turning on the writing program of choice and just vomiting as many words out as I can, hoping to touch upon a compelling narrative or two in the process. I like saving that organization thing for the second draft, where I have to put thought into stuff like theme or why making the side character a cat instead of a man is hilarious. No, really. It’s funny as hell.
But lately I’ve started to change how I see the writing process. Call it a writer’s puberty, if you will. Suddenly, I find that I can’t write anything unless it’s got a preset structure going in. Something that would have simply been a sit-and-write before has now become an exercise in meticulous planning. The change happened with the last script I wrote (which I have YET to revise). I decided to do things different from my usual method and write out an outline to focus my writing and get things done in a shorter period of time.
Well, it worked. In fact, it worked so great that I got it in my brain that outlining was a good thing. Now I can’t write any kind of story without drafting up a roadmap of all the things that need to happen in the story. The problem here is that I’m still the person from before who needs to jump right in and start hammering on the keyboard like there’s no tomorrow. I still need that freedom to take the story anywhere and develop the characters as I go along.
4.5 GB left.
God, I really hate outlines. I should probably finish the one I’ve started for my horror film.
They teach you in film school that outlining your films is an important step in the screenwriting process. Oftentimes, students ignore this lesson and just wing it, letting the characters do what they “were meant to do.” This was the method I applied to writing my very first feature for Screenwriting II. I wasn’t going to let planning and plot construction ruin MY masterpiece. My characters were going to take me on a journey and it would be this grand adventure through amazing-land.
Well, I was an idiot.
You have no idea how easy it is to sit down and start writing your story when you have the basic groundwork set out in front of you. Protagonist goes here, here and here in act one. Fill in the blanks. BAM! I’ve always known that outlining is a good idea, but I’ve never really put it into practice until lately. I can already see the results as the story is more organized now in my head and I’ve got a firmer grasp on the plot than I did a few short days ago.
Also, I’ve got an end to my story. None of my scripts prior to this have had endings and it’s made finishing them something of a challenge. It’s unbelievably difficult to plot out a journey you don’t know the end to. The possibilities become TOO endless and the “what-ifs” start wasting valuable time, time you could be spending on the actual script itself.
Maybe some people out there in this cruel world can sit down and write a feature without ever outlining a single thing, but I know I’m not one of those people. Having as much planned out as possible before I sit down to write is an absolute must.
A problem I come across when screenwriting is the logistics of the plot. I have no problems placing two characters in a room and making them say cool things, but when it comes down to where things eventually end up, it becomes a different matter entirely. I’ve tried to help myself out a bit by doing the whole “outline” thing, but it always leaves me feeling like I haven’t made any progress whatsoever in my writing. Case in point, I’ve decided to take a step back and write out a step outline for a script I’m writing. I spent a few hours the other day writing what amounted to about 20 lines of outline.
How is THAT progress??
On the flip side of that, however, I now have a better idea of where I want my story to go.