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Outlines

I hate outlines. They are wonderfully useful, and an important part of the creative process, but the method itself is very uncreative. I come from an improvisational background, and I love writing a script and discovering things through the characters. Spending two weeks or a month meticulously planning that world is sometimes like a bland torture.

Blackboard

Outlines are instrumental in developing a script, whether it’s for TV, film or theater. It’s widely acknowledged that the more detailed your outline, the better your script will be. Certainly, the more detailed your outline the easier your script will be to write. If you have a thorough outline it’s impossible to have writer’s block. You always know what the scene is about and you know what comes next.

When I started my writing career I rarely outlined anything…on paper. Ideas would formulate in my head and then a brain stew would simmer, sometimes for days, sometimes for months. Once ideas started to boil over, I’d start to write. There are exceptions: my play It is Done was inspired by a dream. Within 12 hours of waking up from that dream, I had written the first third of the play, roughly 27 pages. It helped that I knew exactly how the play was going to end. To make an analogy, I knew where the slalom poles were on the mountain; I just needed to get from pole to pole.

This script has no outline. However, it’s not a free for all; I’ve though about characters, the story, some twist moments, and some very specific images. The idea first came to me seven or eight months ago. I did not write anything down in advance, when I felt I was ready I just opened my screenwriting software and started writing. So far I’m 25 pages in. I’ve hit a few points I wanted to hit, and I’ve made some wonderful discoveries along the way.

Experience tells me that without an outline, revising the script will be harder. If I get frustrated during the revision process, remind me that I brought it on myself.

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