Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Outlining Isn't Just for Novels

I can't tell you how often I hear writers lament about the dreaded outline. "It kills creativity," "I just don't want to box myself in," and so many more complaints. Well, I'm here to tell you, outlining is just as important in writing a TV or feature script.
For every script I write, I first beat out the beginning, the end, and turning points/act breaks. Then I fill in the scenes to get to those points. And believe me, this requires lots of creativity.
Coming up with a story, the beginning, end, and a few points along the way is usually how I spring an idea. It's getting past those few points that really make me dig down and get creative.
What can I do to keep the reader (remember, someone is reading our script, not watching a film reel) turning the pages? What hooks, cliffhangers, characters can I present to keep the reader involved?
This is a blueprint for the spine of your story, the DNA if you will. From there it's nature vs. nurture. Things will change as you write, just as life doesn't always go as planned. But believe me when I tell you that this original imprint will go a long way to making your story stronger, and you won't "hit the wall" at midpoint, wondering where the hell your story is going. Or what you were writing about to begin with.
I find that if I hit the wall in my outlining, it's easier to see where things went wrong, and I don't have so many words and pages to go back over to find a fix.
If you write by "the seat of your pants," you'll also get the story written, but I do believe it takes much longer to get there.
As for killing creativity, where do you think the outline came from? You created it. Just because you figured out the road to travel before the trip began, doesn't mean you can't take detours, or visit interesting places along the way.
Tired of the cliche analogies? Sorry, but I'm sincere in my clicheness. hahaha
What do you do that helps you map out your story?


  1. Yes and YES to outlining. Of course it doesn't kill creativity. It gives you the freedom to be creative once you have that skeleton upon which to hang your skin and hair and features. One of my absolute favorite writing moments is when the outline is done and I'm just about to dive into the ACTUAL writing. Yes, the outline is hard work, but then you get to just WRITE, and that's the fun part!

  2. I agree. For me, the actual writing, typing FADE IN, is the reward for finishing the outline.

  3. This is such an interesting topic to me. Sometimes it feels like the outlining part is using our left brain and the writing part is using our right brain. And when both parts work together . . . magic :) Thanks for the post. I'm glad to have discovered your blog. I came over on the recommendation of Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations. So glad I did!

  4. Hi Lynn, thanks for stopping by. I happen to be outlining all day Sunday, and I'm longing to dive into some "real" writing. I'll have to thank Louise for the recommendation.