Own The Writing Process

Take ownership of your story

Everyone in the world who watches movies and TV, or reads a bestseller, believes that they have an excellent idea for a movie, TV show or novel that is better than the ones they’re watching or reading. Yet having an idea is not enough. You need to inject the essential storytelling elements of story, plot, and characterization into the idea — and you need to do that well.

One of the most important issues that an aspirant writer has to fully master, is disciplining the process of writing the story from inspiration to the final page and eventually production or publication.

The script or screenplay is a master plan for the film. It is never in itself a finished work of art like a novel or a short story. An architect has his plans; a director has a screenplay which is his blueprint for the final film.

Once it has been accepted, a screenplay undergoes many changes, some minor, and some radical. There are always compromises as the film is a collaborative art form. The draft of the novel will be submitted for editing by the publisher.

Although the writing process seems simple and straightforward, most novice writers tend to take a step in the wrong direction by shortcutting, outsmarting or over-complicating the natural, instinctive process of communicating their story and making their voice as a writer heard.

If you shortcut the process and rush straight to the screenplay or novel from the outline, your first draft is not a screenplay or novel; it’s a surrogate treatment.

It is your calling as a writer to write stories, to constantly search for new ideas, and to search for ‘the one idea’ that will change the world.

The process begins with a writer who wants to write a story. You must have an idea  – this is your intention as a writer, there is something you are inspired to write about, a story you need to tell, the magic you need to spin. The Idea is only an idea and nothing more; sometimes the spark of a great idea is only wishful thinking and evaporates the moment an even greater idea sparks up.

Writers cannot write from the heart unless they are willing to open their hearts and search within to find the connection between themselves, their characters, and their subject matter. Dana Marks, Inside Story

The hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. Feed your talent. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Do research. Gather your material any way you can. By doing research, you acquire information, and the information you collect will allow you to operate from the position of choice and responsibility.

Research is important. The key to all research is patience and persistence and keeping an open mind so your expectations about what you would like to find don’t distort the information you find. You must be a sponge, absorbing everything. Whether it be a screenplay, a bar of soap, a new car, the American Dream, or the notion of a romance, everything we do is designed to sell, to convince someone that what we are offering them will make them feel good, help them make a lot of money, or lead to fame and fortune. James Brooks

  • You must be familiar with other stories that relate to or are like the ones you want to write.

Genres are harsh on those who don’t know the history, don’t know the rules. Once you know them, you’ll know where they can be broken. Terry Pratchett (‘A Slip of the Keyboard’)

  • You must explore the Premise, your central idea of what the story is about.
  • Having a Premise is not enough. You don’t have enough information. You’ve got to dramatise it. Define it. Articulate it. Conceptualise your story.
  • What are you trying to say by writing your story? What is your point of view? The theme is the glue that holds your story together and resonates throughout the telling of your story.

Writing is always at its best when it pushes past what we think and begin to tap into what we feel. A theme is a powerful tool that will help move your writing process from trial and error to intention and purpose. The more you learn to work with a theme, the more you will be able to communicate with style, subtlety, and eloquence the full power of your ideas and your creative vision. Dara Marks, Inside Story

  • All memorable and successful stories have one thing in common. They all have characters that have become part of our culture. Character is the essential foundation of the story. It is the heart, soul and nervous system of your story. Before you put a word to paper, you must know who the people in your story are.

To understand the substance of the story and how it performs, you need to view your work from the inside out, from the centre of your character, looking out at the world through your character’s eyes, experiencing the story as if you were the living character yourself. To slip into his subjective and highly imagined point of view, you need to look closely at this creature you intend to inhabit, a character. Robert McKee, Story

  • The structure is the starting point in the process of writing; without structure, you have no story, and without a story, you have no screenplay/novel/stage play / TV series. It is the force that holds everything together; all the action, characters, plot, incidents, episodes, events, and the thematic purpose that make up your story.
  • Structuring the plot of a great story is distilling from all the elements of writing – the premise, concept, characterisation, theme, story, dramatic action, obstacles, etc – a set of story events that builds suspense, utilises surprise and logically makes sense

All art is contained in form. Paint does not just hang in the air; it needs a canvas. Musical notes played merely at random are only a cacophony of sounds. Architects do not dump a pile of wood on the ground and call it a house; they have builders organise the lumber in a manner that gives definition to their creative vision. But do not be disheartened; as the process of writing ceases to be a mystery, you can look past the boundaries it creates and find opportunities for unique self-expression. Dara Marks, Inside Story

  • Once you have made sense of the whole it is important to deconstruct your story and identify your story events (scenes and sequences), the parts that make up the whole, by crafting a Story Outline and a Scene Outline.  
  • Once you are clear about what and who you are writing about, and have a definite story in place, it will be a good idea to write a Top Sheet that you can submit to prospective investors, producers and publishers, who might want to invest in the potential script and even commission the writing if they are hooked on the story.
  • You will start writing the first draft.
  • Before you submit your draft to an agent or production company, you must find out if it works. You can send your script to a reader, and have it evaluated, or call together a reading session.  You can submit a draft of your screenplay/novel to The Writing Studio for story editing.
  • Professional screenwriters learn that true success requires the ability to respond intelligently to criticism and to tolerate sometimes endless rewrites. You will work on several re-writes until the writer reaches Draft X which is as perfect as it possibly can be; this ‘final draft’ will be professionally formatted and preferably evaluated by a professional reading agency.

First, cut out all the wisdom. Then cut out all the adjectives. I’ve cut some of my favourite stuff. I have no compassion when it comes to cutting. No pity. No sympathy. Some of my dearest and most beloved bits of writing have gone out with a very quick slash, slash, slash! Paddy Chayefsky, Network

  • When Draft X is handed over to a studio/publisher or sent out to be sold it is known as a spec draft; if the spec draft is sent out by the writer without the involvement of an agency, it is known as an unsolicited spec draft. If the script is sent via an agent, it carries the guarantee that it has gone through some form of evaluation and script editing.
  • You must then sell your screenplay and yourself. The market is a living, breathing entity that reflects the time and economic conditions of the industry and the country.  You must have a clear understanding of the marketplace.

The Process Of Writing Your Story Is Fully Explored In The Write Journey Course

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