Your Modus Operandi

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  • 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.

  • #2
    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.
    "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

    "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Your Modus Operandi

      Wow... longhand! That's pretty epic.

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

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Your Modus Operandi

        Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
        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.
        "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

        "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

        Comment


        • #5
          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.
          Never mistake motion for action. ~Ernest Hemingway

          Comment


          • #6
            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
            INT. DR. GONZO'S HOTEL ROOM - NIGHT

            A glass of BOURBON in one hand and a COMPUTER MOUSE in the other,
            Dr. Gonzo contemplates getting off the message board and back to his script.

            Comment


            • #7
              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.
              Patrick Sweeney

              Comment


              • #8
                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.


                Hey! You might do it in your house, but in this house we don't lick our butts. -- Mother Teresa

                Comment


                • #9
                  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.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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.
                    -chris

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Your Modus Operandi

                      When I come up with a feature idea I think about it and basically assemble the entire film in my head. This can take weeks or sometimes months.

                      Once I'm convinced there is a movie there and all the main elements are in place, I start writing the screenplay, initially a few hours each weekend and then more frequently as I get into it.

                      I don't do any written notes, beatsheets or treatments and I'm not a 'write-something-every-day' kind of guy.
                      TimeStorm & Blurred Vision Book info & blog: https://stormingtime.com//

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Your Modus Operandi



                        Originally posted by Mark Somers View Post
                        First, I use the "incremental escalation method" in combination with the "mythological thrust" to calculate the metric of the grand ladder-structure.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Your Modus Operandi

                          Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
                          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.
                          I'm writing a novel at the moment, so I have to do that 'every day' thing, or I wouldn't get anywhere, so it's early mornings, when it's still dark, and I write even if the ideas aren't flowing, sometimes I'll have a few days of writing which does nothing more than move me towards something better, so it will come out in edit, but it keeps up the discipline, so it's a bit like the gym, it keeps you toned.

                          WIth scripts, pretty much what hscope, say -- hello hscope btw, hope you're well -- and plan it in my head, and then write at least 25 pages up quickly, if that seems to be working, finish the script as soon as possible whilst the idea is fresh, and that usually means putting other writing on hold, or using the weekends, and doing longer sessions, but ....

                          None of the above is set in stone, life intrudes, so I've been where you are, the movies, books, and doing other things, but.... if you want to be productive, there's no way around getting those pesky words down, a need to write helps I think, and if you write a lot, it begins to feel 'odd' when you don't write, that becomes like the addiction I get from running, when you don't run, you get guilt and think, 'slacker' and it's a bit like that with writing for me, if I write the guilt and slacker aspect recedes, and so writing becomes a way of getting rid of those uncomfortable feelings.

                          Stephen King in his popular book says write a lot and read a lot, I think that more or less says it all.

                          Last edited by The Road Warrior; 12-07-2011, 08:17 AM. Reason: little typo, just a little one, honestly
                          Forthcoming: The Annual, "I JUST GOT DUMPED" Valentine's Short Screenplay Writing Competition. Keep an eye on Writing Exercises.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Your Modus Operandi

                            I have an idea, or some ideas, and move them around in my mind some time, create some artwork fitting into them (covers and illustrations) which make me dive deeper into the characters and see if I have the right link to them.

                            When the idea has formed an outline and laid out plotpoints, I start to make basic research for the background, see if this can be done at all.

                            Then, I just start writing. I tried index cards once and it does not work for me. However, I make character sheets with my people's background.

                            I tend to rewrite several scenes before the whole thing is done, and then start to rewrite more, until I feel everything falls into the place where it should be. It's a constant process.

                            As for the writing business in general, I'm always onto something, thinking about stories/scenes or writing them - on paper or keyboard, depends on the situation I'm in at that moment. Mostly, I have several simultaneous writing projects, not all commercial, some just for fun and practice. When it happens I have nothing to write at all... I get the black hole, if you know what I mean. Thanks God, this happens not very often.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Your Modus Operandi

                              As time has gone by I've created more and more detailed outlines. Then I revise the outline until I've made the best possible decision about every scene.

                              Then I write - usually on the weekends. I put on my proper playlist - general writing music, action scenes or romantic scenes - and lock myself in my office until I've written as much as I feel like I can write. I try to go for 5 pages. Any time I feel like quitting, I push myself to write one more page, and often I end up writing two or three more.

                              Then I take notes on all the changes I want to make, then I revise. Then I get notes. Then I do a major rewrite. Then I get more notes. Then I rewrite again. Then I put it down for a week. Then I rewrite again. Then I send it out. Then I think about it and probably rewrite some stuff again because as you know, nothing is ever finished.
                              Chicks Who Script podcast

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