Monday, January 12, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 54 - Make Every Beat Count

This week was all about finishing my outline. It’s actually one of the tougher times I’ve had writing an outline, since, for the first time I can remember, I consciously tried to make every beat matter. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty obvious – make your scenes important. But it’s easier said than done.

Outlines, at least to me, used to be a means to an end, a rough road map between Point A (the inciting incident) and Point B (the final FADE OUT). Everything in between was a stepping stone along the path, but like many paths, often wound up being fairly flat. Scenes didn’t always build in my outlines, and, for whatever ridiculous reason, I didn’t force myself to make them do that. I was content to incorporate a fairly redundant scene, because I guess I just figured I would iron it out in a later draft. Or, worse, scenes were used as filler between two larger, more important beats, so I didn’t care if they really worked or mattered. It was pretty awful.

This go around, though, I really, really worked at making sure that every beat not only lead to the next, but made a difference in the script. I deleted scenes that were repetitive or – just as bad – offered nothing new. If I knew I had to fill the gap between two important scenes, I made sure to do it with dialogue that, though not necessarily Earth shattering, at least moved things forward. I think my hair turned a bit greyer as I fretted over every single beat, but in the end, I certainly feel it was worth it.

The League is meeting next on Wednesday, which is when I’ll get notes from the rest of the group on my 8 page outline. However, Onyx has already read it and given me some thoughts on it. Most of them are questions he has due to the vagueness of some of the beats as I’ve written them. Since the outline is mostly for my benefit, I didn’t include all the major bits of information for outsider readers as I would if, say, I were sending this to a producer. Nonetheless, Onyx did offer a few interesting things for me to think about, ideas that could strengthen the dreaded Act Two. (Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty pleased with Act Two. It doesn’t drag nearly as much as Act Two tends to in my outlines, and in fact, builds pretty well. The second half of Act Two – in particular, pages 60-70 – tends to be the hardest part of the script to get right, and I’m sure will be the part that most requires re-writes later.) I’m still not 100% sure how Act Three will end, but I’m getting close.

At any rate, this is the most excited I’ve ever been for one of my scripts based off the outline. A big part of that is due to the fact that I feel the outline is pretty tight right now, and that all 87 “beats” I’ve listed (some are more montage type scenes that I included for reference) all seem to belong. What’s more, I’m looking forward to the writing, despite the fact that the story will offer me no surprises as I churn out pages. It’s a great feeling, and one I don’t often get from an outline. Maybe this is what happens when you know your outline works? I guess I’ll find out from The League on Wednesday.