Writing in Sequence or Not?

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  • Writing in Sequence or Not?

    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?

    Outlling and Rewriting I jump around. But when I'm writing the first draft I always go from page 1 to the end...

    I heard John August said he sometimes writes the last ten pages first when the idea is fresh in his mind and before he loses steam... so that got me thinking... should I try that? He also writes whatever scene he feels like and it sounds like he can write pages 35-40 before he writes pages 25-35 and he's fine with that.

    Does anyone write their scripts all out of order like this and find success?
    Last edited by Bono; 04-08-2021, 09:51 AM.

  • #2
    I don't, but I know someone who does. It blows my mind.

    Personally, this method sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to me.

    I don't know how other people write, but for me, my stuff is pretty intricate and every scene is intertwined because they all serve as building blocks for each other by referencing specific dialogue choices as running gags, or working off of information I previously conveyed or didn't convey because I couldn't make it fit in the flow of a scene, and so on.

    Plus, sometimes scenes that are in my outline end up getting cut when I actually write the script for pacing purposes.

    If I wrote later scenes first, I feel like it would result in a much less cohesive product. But maybe this works for some people where their scenes function more independently of one another.
    Last edited by Prezzy; 04-07-2021, 09:51 PM.

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    • #3
      I like to start on page 1 everyday but I don't see a problem jumping ahead if you already have everything outlined and you're going to write those scenes anyway. Maybe you're tired of writing the scenes that have the aura of a certain sub-genre within your main genre, and you want to jump into a diff sub-genre/vibe for a while. Maybe it can invigorate you.

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      • #4
        I have never written out of order per se.... but I guess when I had a writing partner sometimes we would divide up the outline so he got pages 1-10, I'll do 11-20... but that did not work well until we had a good Act One because to me I don't know who the characters are yet, so I have to find them as I write and if I go too far ahead I'm screwed...

        But I can see the advantage of if you nail your Act One... and you are stuck in Act Two hell... that if you have Act Three in your head already -- that you may want to just write it out.

        I know some people (like me) think of Act One as the best part to write, Act Two as the worst and Act Three as the reward for getting this far... but often times I do read people's Act Three and you can tell the writer ran out of steam and just wanted to finish this thing before it kills them.

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        • #5
          I do not write out of order but those tent pole scenes where there is a big story turn/revelation do come to me before the scenes I need to get to that point. I like to separate the story into four pieces and work on one piece at a time and everyday start on page 1 of that section and revise and edit revise and edit. For me, that's how the story becomes richer. Conversations in dialogue totally change. Actions have meaning. It's just such tedious work and you comb over scenes again and again that it's easy to procrastinate.. I should be doing it right now.

          ACT 1 always comes so naturally because it's all set-up. I can write a draft of an ACT 1 in a day or two. ACT 2 is complete torture at times to write for obvious reasons. You're juggling so many things and it is easy to concentrate on one and abandon another. I always read the first draft of my ACT 2 and say where the hell are the scenes that move my hero across his arc? Where are the revelations he witnesses? What are the actions he chooses? Now I have to go back and layer all that in which means everything has to change and I just rather start over from page 1 than patch work a draft together. And while writing I always come up with a great idea for the story that I did not have at the outline stage so I usually start over at page 1 if that happens as well. It's easy to write "Greedy". It's easy to write "Generous". It's damn hard to write Greedy transitioning into Generous. For a transition to happen there needs to be strong reason. There are points to transition in the story - not happening in some unattached b plot either - within the central plot.

          Getting to ACT 3 is like when Andy Dufresne catapults out of that sewer pipe a free man. Funny, I'm in part 4/Act 3 of my current script and I absolutely hate what's coming out of me.

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          • #6
            I do not write out of order but those tent pole scenes where there is a big story turn/revelation do come to me before the scenes I need to get to that point. I like to separate the story into four pieces and work on one piece at a time and everyday start on page 1 of that section and revise and edit revise and edit. For me, that's how the story becomes richer. Conversations in dialogue totally change. Actions have meaning. It's just such tedious work and you comb over scenes again and again that it's easy to procrastinate.. I should be doing it right now.

            ACT 1 always comes so naturally because it's all set-up. I can write a draft of an ACT 1 in a day or two. ACT 2 is complete torture at times to write for obvious reasons. You're juggling so many things and it is easy to concentrate on one and abandon another. I always read the first draft of my ACT 2 and say where the hell are the scenes that move my hero across his arc? Where are the revelations he witnesses? What are the actions he chooses? Now I have to go back and layer all that in which means everything has to change and I just rather start over from page 1 than patch work a draft together. And while writing I always come up with a great idea for the story that I did not have at the outline stage so I usually start over at page 1 if that happens as well. It's easy to write "Greedy". It's easy to write "Generous". It's damn hard to write Greedy transitioning into Generous. For a transition to happen there needs to be strong reason. There are points to transition in the story - not happening in some unattached b plot either - within the central plot.

            Getting to ACT 3 is like when Andy Dufresne catapults out of that sewer pipe a free man. Funny, I'm in part 4/Act 3 of my current script and I absolutely hate what's coming out of me.

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            • #7
              Honestly, writing in order is a great mystery to me. I don't understand how people do it.

              I ONLY write out of sequence.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by figment View Post
                Honestly, writing in order is a great mystery to me. I don't understand how people do it.

                I ONLY write out of sequence.
                Great! We need you to tell us how you do that. This is a new world to me... But maybe this would help when I get stuck. I mean I guess I have jumped ahead in Act 2 sometimes or skipped scenes I couldn't get right, but usually I'll just write the bad version so I have something and know I'll have to fix it later...

                But it is funny that 95% of movies are shot out of sequence for obvious reasons --- but I would guess most specs are written in sequence I would venture.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bono View Post

                  Great! We need you to tell us how you do that.
                  I think you can't fight your own process, though. If you write in order then you just do.

                  If I know what the basic points of the story is -- beginning, end of act one, midpoint, second act turning point, and what the end will be so, and I know who the main characters are -- then I know how they see the world and what the goal is.

                  In thinking about that, individual conversations form. Let them talk inside your brain. The dialogue bubbles up. A blowout verbal fight scene -- that's usually one of the first scenes I write, because I find them fun, and revealing. Conflict drives things. Someone has to say **** they can't take back. And it has to change the atmosphere of the entire room. Who cares if it's actually the midpoint? You write that scene, you immediately know what has to come before that scene and after, so then you write those, and bingo -- you've got three scenes written. Or a whole sequence. But before that sequence, you know X has to happen. So then you write that. If X happens, it has to be set up in Act One, so then you write that Act One scene...

                  You've got a character with a small arc with another side character? Great. Because they don't have to burden of carrying the main plot, they can be mouthy or unique, easier to write. Write that whole arc in four scenes. Slide it around the main plot, which leads to other scenes.

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                  • #10
                    Interesting Figment. So you are not using an outline or any pre planning before you write the spec?

                    And yes I agree, whatever you do (if it works) keep doing it. But for a lot of people, maybe they would benefit from trying it a new way...

                    But there have been times when I had a scene in my head and I think I should just have written it down and not worry about if I'm on page 20 and this scene is on page 80.

                    I'm sure I have done that, I just don't recall doing that. I mostly like to bang out Act One.

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                    • #11
                      I can't imagine writing out of order, because everything builds and calls back what came before. Plus, I often have a scene outlined that will change when I actually execute it - if I wrote a further scene based on what I thought it would be, I'd have to throw the later scene out.

                      Not judging anyone who jumps around, but I just can't imagine it not causing a lot more work than necessary.

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                      • #12
                        When I research, there have been occasions where a factoid triggers an idea for a scene I may or may not use in the script once I start the outline. I'll write notes-to-self describing what I imagined so I don't forget it. But I don't write the entire scenes out of order.

                        I've also come to see the validity of advice I was once given: your first, immediate idea is not always the best idea. I wouldn't first write and stay married to the ending scene for that reason.

                        Then again, to each his/her own.
                        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                        • #13
                          So, I don't write whole scenes, but if I have a general idea of how I want a scene to play out or think of a good joke, I'll jot down the gist of it and maybe a dialogue exchange I have in mind in my notes app.

                          Although, again, sometimes I use what I jot down when I get to writing, others I leave it out because it doesn't fit into the flow of the scene or story the way I thought it would. Hence, why I don't waste my time writing scenes until I get to them.

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                          • #14
                            I outline before writing -- so are you guys and gals doing that? Jeff does I know.

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                            • #15
                              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.

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