Okay, so now there’s a new, old debate stirring up about whether or not one should outline before setting out to write the next great “masterpiece to trump all masterpieces”. Seems we’re still in search of that Sorcerer’s Stone, that magic bullet which will skyrocket us to the top of the sludge pile. Good luck with that.
Just for the record - though I doubt anyone’s actually keeping score - I do outline. However, my outlines are a hodgepodge guru-workshop-magic-bullet-what-the-heck-is-this-mess thingy. I’ve taken so many classes, courses and workshops; read carloads of books; even eaten one or two tasty gurus hoping to, of course, fully absorb their powers, that I have created a Frankenstein writing process that changes as quickly as this wacky weather we’ve been having lately here on the East Coast. To put it simply, I do what works best for me.
Now, I know what you’re going to ask. “How do you know it’s working, huh? Have you sold anything, secured an agent or had a meeting with the great and powerful Ozes (respectfully, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Lasseter)?” Well, no, but I’ve written quite a few “Fade Outs” and “The Ends”, and let me tell you, that’s half the journey - now, if only the Ozes would return my calls.
Somewhere along the road, I once read, or overheard or might have eavesdropped, something about learning the rules and then throwing them out. When I first heard this, I went completely bonkers trying to follow step by step every rule about screenwriting - and writing in general - that I could get my hands on. Well…, you know what? That’s not completely true. You see, the very first script I wrote, I read a few articles and got my hands on Movie Magic Screenwriter software (product placement - though no royalty checks coming my way) and, voila, history was made - a really crappy script, that I dared query a few producers and agents on (you silly, silly, girl). I then read a few more articles, got my hand on Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible (more product placement, but still no royalty checks) and joined TriggerStreet.com and Zoetrope.com, where I devoured script after script while providing notes to would-be-Aaron Sorkins and Quentin Tarrentinos. Voila, script number two, more ill-fated queries, and should-have-seen-that-coming rejections, but I didn’t stop there. I’m a glutton for punishment. Script number three was born and, to the joy of my loved ones, who were worried strike number three might cause me to go a bit postal, the script was a finalist in a contest where it was given a live reading with real actors, unlike the voices that kept playing in my head long after I put the pen down. It also went on to place in a few more contests, as well as garner one or two requests by producers who - with no big surprise here - went on to make movies written by writers way more skilled at the craft than myself.
And that’s when I turned to a llllllll of the experts. All 7,999,999 and 1/2 - someone in the naked city is still wearing a sock. I was determined to be “the best, of the best, of the best… with honors”. Sure, I improved - my scripts looked more like real scripts. My structure was getting better with every fade out, but the more I relied on experts, the less I listened to myself, and who amongst us doesn’t like listening to themselves? Nine years I’ve spent trudging the world for this magical elixir that will turn my pages into something that will not only make agents, producers and publishers rue the day they said “hell, no” to me, but, once released to the world, will bring about the cure for the incurable, all the answers to the universe and, of course, world peace. While I have yet to get my hands on this elixir, I do, however, know where it resides. Yup, you guessed it, Shonda Rhimes has it. No, that’s not true; it’s locked up somewhere in between my head and heart. But I’m pretty darn close to getting it and learning how to use its powers, thanks to the often times confusing, contradicting, and sometimes condescending aid of my 7,999,999 and 1/2 Jedi Masters - who should really work on getting Yoda to remove his sock because I do believe a disturbing force in my writing is he.