Diving back in…

I recently completed a draft of a brand new play. While I am prepping to stage a reading of the first act at The Actors Studio, I now have time to get back into the script Closure. You know, the reason I am writing this blog. So now that the play draft is complete, the dishes are done, the floors vacuumed, the junk mail opened, the DVR emptied…

You get the point. It’s a cliche that a writer’s room is immaculate before we sit down to write, as if we’d rather do anything than write. And part of that is true, the act of sitting down and beginning a new draft is not very different from starting a project from scratch. Especially this project. After the table read and feedback months ago, I had a good idea of how I wanted to proceed. Then I sat down for drinks with a trusted writer friend who offered his thoughts on the script. While generally positive, he felt that I didn’t go far enough with one aspect of the plot. He suggested a shocking plot twist, and this suggestion was a eureka moment. The lead character would certainly act in the way he was describing, it was consistent in that regard. I became excited about the story again, and was salivating at the thought of diving back in and taking this script to a whole new level. There was only problem: this twist happens 30 minutes into the script. Which will then change everything after this point.

So it’s almost like writing a brand new script.

And this is why, in the month since this revelatory meeting, I have avoided work on this script. Radically rewriting the second and third act of the script will take a lot of work. Entire scenes and characters may be cut. I will also need to outline the second and third act, and I usually do not enjoy the outlining process. But it’s exciting, and it will make it a better film. It takes hard work at every step, I guess.

So recently I dove back in, and while I was working I did not find it tedious. In fact, when I stepped away from work for dinner I was still thinking about it, and eager to sit back down again. This is a good sign.

So it may take a while. I’m giving myself a deadline of February 17th, a month from now, to finish the next draft, and that includes the outline. So here we go…

Diving

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.