Writing in Sequence or Not?



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  • #16
    Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
    I outline, but my outlines are abstract and non-linear, and I usually over-outline, so I can pick and choose what goes into the script in the order I think best works in the flow of the story.

    Basically, my outlines are like jigsaw puzzles that I assemble as I go and leave out pieces as I see fit, and they will only make sense to me.

    It's probably a crazy way to do it, and would likely drive producers insane, but it works for my writing style.
    I got anxiety just reading this post.


    • #17
      Originally posted by Bono View Post
      I got anxiety just reading this post.
      Haha. I'll give everyone an example so they can see how my mind works.

      I wrote a scene last night to start act two of the thing I'm on.

      Act one ends with two scientists discussing how the female lead is mentally unstable and has an accelerated capacity for learning.

      I have five options for the next beat.

      MC playing chess with her.

      MC makes her watch anime.

      MC goes to an arcade with her with his friends where she falls in love with guitar hero.

      MC introduces her to his grandma.

      MC makes her watch him play video games on TV.

      Because the last scene ended with dialogue about the lead girl's learning capacity, I opt to start the scene with the MC teaching her how to read, revealing that she can now read better than him as a gag, and I impov from there. Flow of the scene ends with lead girl wondering if everyone hates her because she's weird.

      The logical progression of this is that the next scene should be MC introducing her to his friend group to make her feel better, thus the arcade scene is next, and since the video game scene would have worked more as a lead in to the arcade scene, I have now dropped that from my outline.


      • #18
        I want hoping for grandma. This is like choose your own adventure...


        • #19
          Sort of. Yeah. I'll have certain structural things that have to happen on certain pages, like something has to happen 15 pages into act 2 and something else will happen at the mid-point, and certain scenes have to happen before the mid-point and so on, but everything in between is fungible and can be reordered depending on how things will best transition to one another depending on what direction I go to make an individual scene interesting.

          I need to give myself a level of flexibility to allow my scenes to go in a direction that they'd naturally go instead of where I need them to go to make a rigid outline work. But that segues into how I write scenes in general, which is its own elaborate conversation.
          Last edited by Prezzy; 04-08-2021, 06:37 PM.


          • #20
            I write the first draft in order. However, after the first draft I may get an idea for a twist ending (or another idea for the story) that i have to go back and layer in all the set ups and payoffs. I can write those out of order. I can rewrite out of order, but I don't know how you write the first draft out of order. Everything that comes later is directly related to what came before. Unless you're writing a piece where it's non-linear everything stems from what came before.

            Boggles the mind.
            "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
            Hollywood producer


            • #21
              Originally posted by Bono View Post
              So you are not using an outline or any pre planning before you write the spec?

              Of course I am. I know the main beats -- Beginning, End of Act One, Midpoint, End of Act Two, and what the Ending would be.

              So It's not like I'm randomly picking a scene to write that doesn't have somewhere to go -- if it's Scene X it'll have to go before the Midpoint scene. If it's Scene Y, I know it'll go after the end of Act One.

              (I meant to highlight a spelling error to delete and now I deleted a bunch of stuff. The print is so small on the boards now. I probably wasn't saying anything important anyway. Carry on....)
              Last edited by figment; 04-09-2021, 07:20 PM.


              • #22
                I vote for not. I cherry pick and write my strongest (and hopefully fun-est) stuff first, preferably the scene/s that drove me to write this particular story. They might be scattered throughout the narrative - scene, part scene, character description, sometimes just a line of dialog. That done gives me the motivation to draw everything else together. I write slow, I don't have much spare time to dedicate to this but in writing slow I have the story bones in place and can use spare, or boring moments to manipulate the fixed consonants and the fluid (unwritten) ones until I reach the end of my story.

                I heard the starting gun



                • #23
                  Hi, I write in order, though if I hit upon a scene that I can't quite figure out, I'll skip on to the next one and come back later.

                  My outlining method is a bit haphazard. I do outline, but not with any expectation of that outline being the final version. It's more of a brainstorming exercise, and creatively helps me think of interesting ideas, understand the characters a little, think of cool dialogue, ways the story may go, fun scenes, etc.

                  Where I tend to outline more seriously is when I'm stuck. So, for an individual section where I don't know how to move the story forward, I'll start outlining different options and see which works best.


                  • #24
                    I can say out the 700 hours I spent so far on the script I'm working on at least half were outlining/brainstorming sessions. I also go back to the outline if I get really stuck or I just don't like the path the story is on. I find that the story needs to move much, much faster than I can make it move early on. When your gut tells you the pacing is off do not move forward. Start over. To get a good gut for your genre, read scripts in it and see movies. Am I the only one who breaks like every single movie they watch? It's horrible. I'm constantly checking the time of events in the story as compared to its length. It's like biting your nails or smoking, I can't stop.

                    Through the whole process I jumped from the outline to scripting. I've probably got abut 300 scripted pages. All the false starts and cracks at those tentpole scenes where the story takes a turn. I probably have another 15 pages of outline/brainstorming pages that are a mix of very dense narrative that looks like a Joe NYC post where I'm just trying to tell myself the story and try different avenues the other pages are cracks at conventional outlines. My outlines get broken into four parts. I name each section almost like a TV writer would name an episode. Some title telling as to what part whole it plays. I go into each section and just start a simple 1, 2, 3, etc. conventional vertical outline where I try to envision the scenes in the section. What they're about. How they will play out. What's said. I'm on my seventh outline or so I'd say. When I get stuck or bored I started over. Keeping what I liked and trying new things with the scenes I did not. I will outline out of sequence. That I do all the time because I have the great moments first. That's what gets me excited about the script. I have those great turns and I put them on the outline around them and fill in kind of.

                    I can't imagine writing our of sequence because you may get an idea for that second act scene while scripting earlier pages. I have heard of writers doing it though.


                    • #25
                      By the way as I write an outline for a new idea -- I'm realizing something i never thought of before -- that when I write outline most of the time I am writing out of sequence.

                      I see Act One, Act Three in my mind but Act Two is usually the place I don't know what I'm going to write for 30 pages or so... so I just skip over that part when I first bust out the idea.


                      • #26
                        My process has changed over the years of writing. I never used to outline or write in order, and for some scripts I got lucky. For others, my script was disjointed and filled with incongruent moments.

                        Now, I fully outline and write in order. My writing feels more solid using this process. Every scene feels more relevant and everything builds. I do occasionally put placeholders in certain moments. But now I struggle to write a scene between characters without fully knowing what transpired between them in an earlier scene.

                        A lot of times, I find myself dropping in character moments that act as set-ups to be paid off in later scenes. To me, the script feels more like a unified piece when that happens.


                        • #27
                          I'm currently writing an outline for a new idea. It's a struggle. I got parts all over. This is when I write out of sequence. Act One comes easy. Most of Act Three. It's the damn 2nd half of Act Two that is hardest for me to figure out...

                          Maybe because it's a comedy it's more of a struggle 2nd half of act 2 or maybe all writers have this issue? But you have the funny premise -- you see the trailer moments and you got the ending. It's the heart and "what is this movie really about" that sometimes is hardest and more importantly what is driving the Act 2 plot forward. It's easy when it's like a road trip from point A to Z.

                          But a movie like Meet the Parents -- it's that extra 30 pages that is hardest for me to write. I don't even remember what the hell happens in that movie during that time. It's also sometimes the most "boring" parts of the movie to me. If you can find a way to make it interesting -- awesome! But it's often the part of the movie that drags.

                          That's why it's better for me to write crap in an outline and figure it out first before I write the screenplay. It's painful and zero fun. And of course things change along the way. But making your mistakes AHEAD OF TIME saves you time.

                          Sometimes you try to outline an idea and realize you don't have a full movie. You can't break it. And you shouldn't waste your time trying to write it on spec. If you are getting paid, you have to push through. But if you are writing for yourself -- why write an idea that is not coming to you? It shouldn't be easy, but if an idea feels impossible to crack and you've seen weeks or months on it -- maybe go to a different idea and circle back.


                          • #28


                            • #29
                              The thing I'm writing didn't look like it was going to be very fun when I outlined it, and I was expecting it be a down script for me. The idea is kind of wacky because it's centered around the protagonist being paired with highly unusual movie character, so I figured it'd be funnier if I filled the second act with the characters doing a bunch of ho-hum everyday activities as opposed to crazy set pieces, and I had no idea how I'd find a way to make those scenes compelling.

                              I'm pretty sure my instincts have turned out to be right on this one because those boring scenes and the wacky character have turned out to be way more interesting than I expected.

                              But unexpected positive results yields unexpected problems. I'm going to need to rethink the second half of my outline because some interesting things are happening with the wacky character, and I need to rethink her character arc a bit.


                              • #30
                                To write out of sequence you literally need to have cemented in stone what comes before. You need to have your note cards pasted on the wall and have each scene mapped out and understand what is happening and all that needs to be set. Then maybe writing out of sequence may make more sense.