Tag Archives: process

On Those Stupid Outline Thingies

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.

Outlines Suck, But Are Awesome

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.

Hrmm.

A Thought On Method

As a writer for any medium, you often get asked (or are made to ask yourself), “What’s your method?” Some people respond with a very complex list of how they get into the mood to write and then how they go about building their magnum opus while others go at great lengths to explain how they just do things in bursts. I tend to fall into that latter category. My writing inspiration seems to come and go, usually without much warning. I could be sitting in the classroom arguing the semantics of storytelling when this “need” will rise to the surface and eat away at me until I scribble something down. Or, I could be sitting at the local Starbucks drinking a Grande White Mocha when this happens, oftentimes in mid-sip. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a pen nearby. If not, I resort to my laptop.

There was a period of time where I tried to maintain a more organized writing method, what some might call a regimen if you will. I put this into practice during the summer, since I chose not to take any classes, and went to a coffee shop to spend a few hours a day writing. I would ask for a real “froofy” drink and then sit down and write until the battery died. I was able to get a decent amount of work done in around two to three hours (I need a new battery for the ole macbook pro). After about a week or so of this, though, I stopped and went back to my more sporadic method of writing every couple of days or whenever I felt like it.

And then I had a conversation with the Chair of the Film and Video Department at Columbia College. I (alongside a producer from our Practicum class) had pitched a story I was working on and he gave some excellent advice on how to go about fixing the then incomplete story. Later on, we bumped into each other in the hall and talked about the process of writing. I explained my exasperation at the process and he chuckled. He told me that it was a day to day process, and that in this business you need to continually write. It’s a competitive business and if you aren’t writing, you won’t make it. That hit home with me, and I decided to work on my method some. Now, I try to write something every day, whether it be my scripts, Twitter, Friendfeed, this site, or for Generation Tech. But I don’t force myself, either. If I don’t have anything, I don’t write anything.

That’s pretty much my method, explained in a bunch of barely strung together paragraphs. Hopefully the insight was helpful, and gave you something to take away. So, I turn the question to you. “What’s your method?”

Thanks goes out to Kent Nichols for making me think. :)