I now have over five, single-spaced pages of world, story, and character notes on my latest idea with no end in sight. This brainstorm of thoughts is beginning to take shape, and soon I will start to mold it–even more purposely–into a comprehensive outline. This process is an essential one, at least for me. Outlines and treatments help me to see all of the elements of my story at the same time. It’s exciting and pleasurable to look at it, see problems and holes, and be able to quickly address them.
I imagine that if my wonderful girlfriend and partner in crime, Liz Bassin, a talented and driven producer, reads this, she’ll get a kick out of my insistence upon the value of outlines. She’d laugh, and she’d be right to laugh, because just a few short years ago–when I was starting out as a writer–I did not see their value. She told me, and I didn’t listen. I thought that the ideas would flow magically through my fingers and coalesce into a brilliant story. I foolishly thought that the story would “tell me what it was” and that an outline would somehow confine me or limit me. I could not have been more wrong. Outlines free me to focus on the story. They allow me to add complexity and subtlety. They help me to make sure that every scene is driving the narrative forward. They make me a better writer. She, as usual, was right.
Because while the resulting stories were brilliant inside my head, they simply did not translate to the page as well as they could have. As a result, I needed to rewrite them far more than I would have otherwise. And I wasted years this way. Well, maybe “wasted” is too strong a word. True, the time that I spent and the lessons that I learned were valuable, but they wound up being far more painful than they needed to be. I guess like most other people, I’m a bit of a stubborn ass.
But, hey! I get it now. I’ve seen the light, and I’m marching toward it. Now, I’m sure there are a dozen other hurdles ahead of me that I can be obstinate about. Kidding!
Anyway, in addition to the pages of notes that I’ve now composed, over the past few days I have also read 2 more feature scripts, taken 6 more Sorkin classes, and rewritten much of the dialogue of the first twelve pages of my television pilot.
Tonight, I again meet with my good friend Cedric Williams, a gifted writer, director, and editor. I plan to discuss my ideas for the future… and to work on making those ideas into reality.