Writing in Sequence or Not?

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  • Centos
    replied
    Originally posted by Bono View Post
    Do you write your screenplays from A to Z.... page 1 to page 110.... keep building.... or do you sometimes write the first ten pages... the last ten pages.... whatever scene you feel like writing today and just jump around?
    My "jumping around" is done before I start writing (while I'm working out the script in my head). I usually start by "seeing" a scene somewhere in the middle, then I try to figure out how my character got there and then come up with an ending and beginning that works (usually I try to figure out the ending first). When I start actually writing it's from start to finish because things change. Sometimes the character can no longer do what I wanted him or her to do at the beginning because they've morphed and taken control. In that case whatever I would have written for the ending would be totally irrelevant. (Probably just a sign of poor structure skills.)

    That said, I've always been attracted to applications like Scrivener, where everything is compartmentalized into little chunks and you write to an outline, using it as the story's backbone. But when I try it, it doesn't seem to work out at all. It seems too "mechanical" or too much "paint by number" and too "blah." (Probably subconsciously attracted to these applications because I know I need better structure but I don't have the discipline to apply them.)

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  • Bono
    replied
    I wrote a lot of the scenes out of sequence. I found it refreshing.

    Now I did write Act One first, but I just had fun writing scenes for the rest of the spec (Act II and III) in any order that I felt like that day instead of forcing myself to write the next scene that I wasn't excited to write that day.

    I finished the vomit draft. Working on rewrite now. Got good notes from a few writers -- some on this board. Thank you.

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  • Bono
    replied
    Working on new spec... just finished Act One... about 30 pages... but I was excited to write a scene that happens on page 60 vs page 30 and just said, let me write it now. It's in my head. And it may be the best scene I've ever written! But it's really good.

    I did have a 7 page outline of the entire movie, so I think without knowing the major beats I would not be able to do that.

    It's fun. Give it a shot.

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  • Southern_land
    replied
    Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
    To write out of sequence you literally need to have cemented in stone what comes before. .
    I'd say the opposite. The whole 'joy' of writing out of sequence is to keep your brain exploring new possibilities in a creative sense. As I drag portions of the idea together small things come together, it might be as small as a physical idiosyncrasy that humanizes a character right up to a lump of backstory. I don't find the actual sitting in a chair in front of my keyboard that creative, at that stage your the builder doing the dumb grunt work, no longer the architect designing the grad structure. I stay as the architect for as long as possible.

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  • Cyfress
    replied
    arduous: involving or requiring strenuous effort; difficult and tiring.

    Good Writing is arduous , isn't it? As far as expensive, not sure what you mean. Poor use of time trying to cement in stone the beats to your story? If that's not the end goal of your process then what is?

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  • muckraker
    replied
    I would also think that taking the time to "literally" cement in stone the preceding scenes would be arduous, expensive, and a poor use of one's time.

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  • Satriales
    replied
    Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
    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.
    need

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  • Cyfress
    replied
    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.

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  • Prezzy
    replied
    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.

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  • Satriales
    replied

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  • Bono
    replied
    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.



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  • Why One
    replied
    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.

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  • Bono
    replied
    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.

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  • Cyfress
    replied
    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.

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  • Anagram
    replied
    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.

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