Skipping scenes

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Skipping scenes

    I've always been the kind of writer that just plows through it. If a scene is particularly tough I just do the best I can and muscle my way through it, even if it may take a few days to bang out a page and a half.

    I know a lot of writers will often just skip over these problem areas and come back to them later. On my latest project I decided to give this a try. Every time I got to a scene I was having a big problem with, I'd simply write the slug and then a few action lines explaining the basics of what's supposed to happen in the scene. Then I'd move on to the next.

    Great! This worked like gangbusters! I blasted through my first draft. Nothing left to do now but go back and write those scenes I skipped over. Easy, right?

    Hell no! This royally sucks! Instead of powering through these scenes every so often as they came up, now I'm stuck with all of them together. The fun parts are in the rearview; the breezy scenes that wrote themselves. Now I've got all the heavy lifting clumped together. The ten or so hardest scenes staring me in the face, flipping me the bird. Just the thought of opening the FD file fills me abject horror.

    This was a terrible mistake and I will never do it again. How do you scene skippers deal with this?

  • #2
    Re: Skipping scenes

    Interesting question and a decision we all deal with.

    For me, difficult scenes tend to be a) those requiring a lot of research or b) those involving points where the character makes a major step in his arc (e.g., at the midpoint where he has an epiphany and is at the point of no return). I used to just power through those scenes, but like you indicate, I often found myself spending a lot of time on them due to their nature, which kinda decreased my motivation.

    So, for my last two scripts, I've pursued the strategy of skipping scenes (which is possible because I have a detailed outline that allows me to know the information I'll need for every scene). This has resulted in me getting more of the script done faster.

    It's also left me with several of the difficult scenes to work on, but I'm able to motivate myself to finish them in two ways:

    1) Because I've finished most of the script at this point, I rationalize to myself that when I finish the difficult scenes, the first draft will be over. Which means I will be closer to the rewriting stage. I love the rewriting stage; it's my favorite part of the whole process, since that's where the masterpiece truly begins to take shape. So thinking about that helps to motivate me to do the final push of getting those stressful scenes done.

    2) I read scenes I've completed that I really like/enjoy that come right before/after the difficult, unwritten ones. The positive feeling I get from reading those helps provide motivation to start on the difficult ones.

    Having to deal with this problem has made me realize that a lot of times you have to find a silver lining in a difficult writing task at hand in order to motivate yourself to push through it. Sometimes you just have to use psychology to trick yourself into thinking that something dreadful will be more fun (which, come to think of it, is a useful strategy in a lot of real world jobs). Of course, when I become a working writer with deadlines, I think I'll use the pressure of meeting those deadlines as an additional motivator to finish the tough scenes.
    "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Skipping scenes

      I do that.

      But I section my writing in sequences. My per day goal is from this point to this point.

      I plow through the sequence-- sometimes scenes I'm uncertain about, I will use a slug and brief description and move on (like you)-- but before I move on to the next sequence (set my next goal), I force myself to go back and beef up the scene(s) I skimmed over.

      This way I'm not faced with a ton of unwritten scenes to go back over at the end.

      Then I re write the whole thing.

      *I use Final Draft's highlighter a lot as a marker. That way I can scroll pages and see where the scenes are that I need to elaborate more on. I also assign highlighter colors to different characters-- so by quick glance I know who is in the scene. It makes it easier to manage.
      Last edited by bjamin; 07-12-2014, 08:46 AM. Reason: *

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Skipping scenes

        I don't do it.

        I don't like to write a scene between two characters unless I've written the previous scenes between them. There's too much to the rhythm of their dialog, the ability to do subtle callbacks, and the sense of the organic growth of a relationship that gets lost (for me) if I write the second scene first.

        Not saying that's the "right" way to do it for anybody but me, but to me, the costs are very real.

        Furthermore, often those "really hard" scenes are hard because there's a lot of discovery left to do in them. That discovery will necessarily leave footprints in the following scenes. In a way, if I was going to skip scenes, the ones I could skip would be the easy one to write. I already know what's going to be in those!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Skipping scenes

          Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
          Furthermore, often those "really hard" scenes are hard because there's a lot of discovery left to do in them. That discovery will necessarily leave footprints in the following scenes.
          Agreed. And yet the irony (for me) is: 20 or 30 or 40 pages later, after working and working to craft that "really hard" scene... I may discover that those footprints actually lead nowhere. IOW, that scene may not be needed at all. Or, what made it tough to write was that it wasn't really clear to me where it should be headed (even though I do outline), and only later I realize where it should head; so if I'd waited, it wouldn't have been (as) hard.

          Yes, some scenes are just hard to write. But if I went back and looked (though I won't, because it'd be too painful), I have a hunch that a substantial percentage of scenes that I've ultimately cut are the ones that were the hardest to write. So I'm planning to do more place-holding, and then go back and write those tough ones.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Skipping scenes

            Oh... I thought this was thread was going to be about scenes with little girls skipping...


            Bill
            Free Script Tips:
            http://www.scriptsecrets.net

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Skipping scenes

              Originally posted by wcmartell View Post
              Oh... I thought this was thread was going to be about scenes with little girls skipping...


              Bill
              "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Skipping scenes

                Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                I don't do it.
                I'm in the same boat. If anything, I plow through it and the scene that should only be a page or two ends up being 3 or 4 pages 'cause I try to write my way into the next scene. Which I don't mind 'cause I don't mind cutting. It also can be somewhat helpful as maybe two characters start talking or whatever and it leads to something I didn't think of originally.

                I don't see it as a time-waster 'cause I waste my time anyway.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Skipping scenes

                  This has always been an interesting question for me. I have rarely, if ever, written a script in chronological order. More often than not, I find those scenes that interested me most to be the ones that I began with. They are often hard scenes, sometimes they are the easy ones, almost always they tell me a great deal about the type of script I'll be writing and the type of characters I'll be writing about. Specificity of characters, of course, is key - but I discover tone and rhythm. I need to see some part of the story from down the road to understand all that goes around it.

                  Bear in mind, I have a strong sense (if not a fully mapped out one before I begin) of where the script will be going, and more often than not, I know where it all opens. I can't say my way will work for everyone, but it has worked well for me. I heard an interview with Sam Shepard many years ago when he said he begins his scripts (play in this case) with an image in his head. I don't go quite that far into abstraction, but I find that stories take shape in moments, and those moments don't need to be reckoned with in order during the writing process. A good outline allows more freedom when determining which scene to write. I follow a beat outline where I reduce scenes to a sentence or sentence fragment. I want to allow for discoveries to be made as I work, but I also think it is critical to stay on track. I let dialogue go long, let characters babble even. I make detailed stage directions, so as to create the right tone. Then I rewrite. A lot. I rewrite as I begin work on new scenes. I rewrite those scenes while looking back on the finished ones. I edit like crazy. I inundate my writing time completely within the story. I listen to the music that I think the characters would listen to, and I listen to music that I imagine would best work as soundtrack. In a clinch, I'll beat through a scene just to see it on paper, but more often than not, those are the scenes I toss out. I worry least about bridges between scenes, as I think the audience is far more sophisticated about story than ever before. I've heard it said that they are often several steps ahead. It's my job to surprise them, move them, change the road (so to speak).

                  I have wrestled with the "writing chronologically" question for years. (And, to not write chronologically when you are writing on a hired gig is frowned upon so I mostly save this tact for specs). I've heard the other arguments, the stricter rules, and for me they have not worked. If one is disciplined with their time, takes the necessary hours each day to write, it is my belief that writing scenes chronologically is simply a preference about one's comfort.

                  Hit the scenes that are most alive in your head first. Hit them hard. Go from there. Carry a notebook. Jot down all those great lines that come to you while doing other things. Write those scenes immediately. Not for everyone, but there's my two cents. Forgive my didacticism and sounds of surety.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Skipping scenes

                    Originally posted by FredoSharp View Post
                    Hit the scenes that are most alive in your head first. Hit them hard. Go from there. Carry a notebook. Jot down all those great lines that come to you while doing other things. Write those scenes immediately. Not for everyone, but there's my two cents. Forgive my didacticism and sounds of surety.
                    Bingo!

                    I write because I enjoy it. I've never tried to sell anything. So I realize if you're writing professionally this probably doesn't apply or doesn't apply as much.

                    But damn, some people act like they're writing is chiseling words into stone, so they'd better dang-well get it right the first time. There's nothing sadder than seeing somebody trying to polish the same turd for years, instead of writing something else. If nobody likes it -- move on. Words are cheap, you use 'em throw 'em away, reuse 'em and in general have some fun with 'em.

                    You'll never see me write: "Oh, the misery! The writing was so hard, it was my blood, my sweat and my tears -- years of my life, in pain and agony to create THAT! My opus!"

                    Gag me with a spoon. I like the characters. I like them to interact with each other. I like them to have their own personalities. So I cast them then I put them together. Then I start writing the story. Typically, around page 40 or so their personalities really take off and when that happens, I rewrite the first 40 pages. Simple enough. There's often times when real, living, fictional characters will take you places you weren't planning to go and, with me, it's almost always a better place than I had in mind.

                    This is advice for spec scripts. So this message only applies to 8 or 9 out of every 10 people here, right? And, as always, it's whatever works for you.

                    Unlike that famous saying, I enjoy writing, not just "having written".
                    "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Skipping scenes

                      I have rarely tried the "skipping"-method, and this is because it tends to get me out of the flow of the story.

                      Most screenplays have timelines in chronological order (or at least almost chronological), so as soon as your order of writing differs from that, you are getting out of that "story flow"-headspace. Which is not good, as indulgence in story and frame is everything!

                      It's less of a problem if you know your story in-and-out, know the favorite dish of your supporting characters and have been planning the tale for years. But most of the time, this isn't the case, and so keeping your headspace within the chronological flow of the story is best.

                      If do the "skipping"-thing, then look out for methods which keep your head in the story: Write the harder parts immediately after you are done, stay alone, stay concentrated on the story, get your head free of everyday stuff - the usual methods, all of this helps!
                      sigpic

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Skipping scenes

                        Don't write the scenes. Figure out what vital information they were supposed to convey, and work it in somewhere else.
                        "Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.-
                        ― Ray Bradbury

                        Comment

                        Working...
                        X