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TravisPickle 12-05-2011 04:40 PM

Your Modus Operandi
Hey cigars and cigarettes,

I was thinking about my workflow, and my productivity in general.

This came about because a younger friend of mine wants to start writing "seriously" and asked me what my routine was.

My first answer was "why would you want to get into writing". But when I realized he was serious, so I thought about it.

I spend a long time thinking about ideas. I send e-mails to friends with log lines, mention an idea in passing, send them an article.

Once I have filtered these to 2-3 ideas, I set out to write pretty lengthy treatments for at least two of them. I say I set out because, inevitably, one takes control (usually the first) and that's the one I end up writing.

The screenplay itself comes pretty quickly. Maybe 5-6 weeks.

And then there's re-writing.

However, when I am not writing I have long bouts of nothingness. Days where I basically just... don't write. I'll read, walk around, see movies, go to shows, talk to friends. Basically live the bohemian lifestyle ;-) but in terms of producing pages? Nada.

I guess my M.O. is "on or off". I absolutely cannot relate to people who wake up and write 5-6 pages no matter what. Pages that (I presume) often just exist by themselves, and are not part of a bigger project.

I'm trying to better myself. And be more productive. But in a way my commitment to a project is like dating- you don't want to overdo it at the beginning while you're still figuring out if you like the person. Then you see more of him/her. And once you've realized that there's chemistry and that you like each other, you spend a ton of time together.

Just my thoughts :)

Would love to hear from you about this.

Madbandit 12-05-2011 05:04 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
When I start writing, I read something for inspiration. A novel, perhaps. Two to three chapters, I go through.

Then, I go to a spiral notebook and write four to five pages. A scene or two.

Next, I type the scene, making it a race. The first draft, which is in longhand script, must finish the race before the typed version.

Finally, a polish (some editing and rewriting) of the typed version.

That's it.

TravisPickle 12-05-2011 05:20 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
Wow... longhand! That's pretty epic.

Do you find that longhand works best for some genres as opposed to others?

Madbandit 12-05-2011 05:33 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi

Originally Posted by TravisPickle (Post 776756)
Wow... longhand! That's pretty epic.

Do you find that longhand works best for some genres as opposed to others?

I'm been writing longhand (getting to be a lost art, I fear) since grade school, and I haven't gave it up because it helped me deal with my physical discoordination. Plus, it doesn't matter what genre I write.

Bellabell 12-05-2011 08:28 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
My system is similar to T.P. except my treatments are not lengthy. Since I'm a visual person, I always diagram a synthesis too. I think someone posted a great example of one on here a few years back. It is great to use as a bird's eye view of your story and spot holes before you start.

Writing the screenplay easily takes 3-4 months as I work it around the job that pays the bills.

Dr. Gonzo 12-05-2011 09:20 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
For an idea to really get me excited enough to write about it it has to do two things for me:
A) Constantly keep entering into my brain when coming up with ideas.
B) Be fun and original enough for me to want to write, or at least I feel I can add something to that sort of story that someone has not.

I won't just go off writing the first few things I think would make great movies, it's really gotta stick. I think you have to love it if you spend so much time with it.

With the thing I'm working on now I decided to start completely different, for this one I didn't write up a treatment. I drew up a diagram of the beginning the mid point and the ending. I approached this one like Spielberg, Lucas and Kasdan approached the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" story conferences. I made a list of all the things I would love to see in this kind of movie... set pieces, characters, situations. Once I had a pretty descent list a spent a few days piecing it all together in a way that would serve the original story I wanted to tell. Then I began writing.

This is not my usual method but it has been refreshing. A little scary too without the treatment, just a rough outline, but it's been freeing too.

In the beginning I was writing everyday, In the middle I started getting a few jobs so it had to be put on hold, but once the jobs were over I did find it a little more difficult to get back into, in fact it took me weeks to get back into. I'm towards the end now and I have been writing just about everyday squeezing out at least five pages, well mostly.

But between projects I really do get lazy. Something has to really strike a chord for me to want to commit it to paper. I hope to be done with this one before years end.

So that's how I'm working. Lately :|

Patrick Sweeney 12-05-2011 10:02 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
Once I settle on an idea, I write a longhand list of brainstorming ideas - scenes, characters, setpieces, whatever. Everything I'd like to see if I went to see this movie.

Then I work on structure, normally starting with the opening, midpoint, and ending. Often the All is Lost beat as well, not traditionally one of the big ones but a key one for me. Once those are locked in, I break my ideas down into acts, and then into sequences within those acts. I'm also working on the characters at this point, coming up with names, skills, personalities, and so forth.

I normally start a "flotsam" file of partial scenes, bits of dialogue, etc., that start coming to me while outlining.

I keep trying to force myself to outline down to the scene level in the hopes that it will make writing the first draft easier, but I never seem to make it -- I always end up digging into the writing once I get a sequence outline I'm happy with.

I normally write sequentially. On my next first draft, I'd like to try something John August does - he writes the first 40 pages out of sequence but focusing on the beginning, middle, and end. I especially like the idea of writing the ending early, because by the time I reach that point in my first draft I'm normally so worn out and sick of the project it gets short shrift because I just want the damn thing to be over. So then I have to go and pretty much totally rewrite it in the next draft. I'll have to see if I can break out of my sequential habit, though.

And then it's on to rewrites, normally 1-2 fairly sizable ones, followed by any number of touch-ups & polish passes.

Mark Somers 12-06-2011 01:25 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
First, I use the "incremental escalation method" in combination with the "mythological thrust" to calculate the metric of the grand ladder-structure.

Taormina 12-06-2011 03:14 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
Absolutely can't do to save my life:
1. Write a treatment
2. Use index cards
3. use a beat sheet
4. make an outline

Besides that, I just write away and try to hammer away at it until it's done. Sometimes, the previous days work is shitcanned, mostly, it's not. On a bad day I can't even crack of a page. On a good day, I have done up to 20 pages when an idea really takes hold and I must get it out of my head.

Normally, I am quite happy with five pages. :bounce:

SkyPolynomial 12-06-2011 03:28 PM

Re: Your Modus Operandi
I'm not a pro writer or anything, but here is my MO:

I come up with an idea, I do an outline. Not a whole bunch -- think wiki style plot synopsis. I make sure to have major points worked out -- End of Act 1, Midpoint, End of Act 2, Climax, End.

Then I go for it. I can get the first draft done in 1.5-2 months.

But now, let me tell you where a lot of my time goes...

Scrapping ideas. I have this disease where I come up with and idea, outline it, maybe write a few pages, and then...scrap. I'll argue myself into doing it, having fallen out of love with the idea.

I try to tell myself that if the love stays then it was meant to be written. I dunno what it is. I'm too young in my writing quest to say. Hopefully years from now I'll understand what it is. But it does waste a lot of time. And it is very frustrating.

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