Okay so just by writing that title it occurs to me not everyone does an outline. There are a lot of different ways to approach writing and some script writers just don't like or do outlines. And full disclosure, I have written successful scripts without them. But if you have a complex story, are juggling many plot lines, and let's face it, if it's a screenplay, when you skip the outline, you run the risk of writing a 250 page or a 30 page script. Or you quit. Which sucks. It just does -- you had that spark, that good idea, you were all excited, but then you just dove in without thinking. It's like jumping off a diving board into a pool that doesn't have enough water. Head first.
"BUT THE WATER WAS SO BLUE!"
Uh huh. Very smart, Maria, very smart.
Not only do I recommend writing an outline, but then when you're in script, I recommend doing everything you can to adhere to it. I love freedom in writing of course, and new ideas can and do arise as you're in script, but if you've really done your job in constructing a solid blueprint that means you have thought a lot about the different reasons to put this story point in this particular place, etc. You may not remember all the logic that went into your outline when you're in the script but your former self, while writing the outline, wasn't in the glamor-part of writing but was instead doing the heavy lifting; the heavy lifting of thinking.
Scriptwriting is usually the fun "glamor part." The outline is the blue collar job. It's the foundation. The hard stuff. The unromantic, thinky, logic part. It's also the shit that makes the script job run smoothly. Imagine building a building without a blueprint. Super obvi analogy but it works.
In my humble opinion, outlines are essential. It's the time you've dedicated to thinking through story, characters, tone, every possible turn and twist, while also, making sure you're pinpointing what needs to be there at that moment and why, so that the story moves forward and that people who are reading what you've written (and ultimately watching it) stay engaged.
My advice doesn't mean divine inspiration shouldn't be heard when in script. But think before you do. If I decide to put in new material, which of course happens and should and is welcome, it's with real acknowledgement of what happened before the sparkly new idea. How does the sparkly new idea affect my outline? Can I recall the reason the outline was as it was before adding the new element to the script? What are the future ramifications, ultimately meaning, if said new sparkly idea gets in is there a domino effect? Is it not only worth it, does it make it better?
Adhering to the outline means cooler heads prevail. It's your head and it's cool.
I used to teach a class in this stuff and lately I've realized oh my God, what I told those students wasn't just b.s. I'm sticking to my outline like glue and I'm having forward momentum. I want that for you, too.
So a client is a finalist in one of those contests that everyone wants to win - the type of thing that could really catapult a writing career. They have a process where she's asked to rewrite her submission via notes from a mentor. Well, she's working on a rewrite of her submission (which by the way is awesome) as well as another project for a writing class. All the deadlines are fast approaching...
TIME. Time is so annoying.
It sometimes seems close to impossible to get a writing session done. You can have a deadline which for many helps - but really - time is a bitch. If you have any life whatsoever - kids, big job, whatever - it can feel really frikken hard to, simply put, get your work done.
In life there are a lot of problems but even more solutions.
I remember hearing Jojo Moyes talk about how her husband at like 5am or some ungodly hour, would bring her coffee in bed and she'd start her sessions, barely awake. And recently I was reading in his final book to his Struggle series, how Karl Ove Knausgaard also starts ridiculously early before he deals with his kids. These are published people so it's good to pay attention to what works. What works is writing when you can and what also works is writing before you have awareness of the millions of other things you could be doing instead.
Early morning. The sun is not even out yet really. The brain is fresh from sleep the house is quiet the computer awaits...
I see mornings as the ultimate time to write anything. My partner and I can't always write, and when we do, it's on the phone and sharing our documents via Google docs. One other constant is this happens most mornings at 9:30 am and to me that's late!
Oddly, I believe, if you have somewhat of a healthy lifestyle, like you go to bed relatively early, don't screentime yourself into madness before bed, and wake up super early and cut off the wifi before you start your project, you can get your stuff done. Why is that odd? It seems counter to everything people really do lately with their day and their time. But taking care of yourself and being an early to rise type could mean getting your scriptnovelessay done.
End of story -- that's the goal.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.