This is the writing process from beginning to end that is dealt with in detail in our The Write Voice and The Write Journey Workshops.
Writing a story and understanding the process of writing a story
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 play from the outline, your first draft is not a screenplay or play; it's a surrogate treatment.
Let's take a closer look at the course of action you will follow to write the first draft of your story, from inspiration to screened film, produced stageplay or televised television series.
This is the writing process from beginning to end that is dealt with in detail in our The ABC of Writing A Screenplay and The Drama of Writng a Play workshops. Read more about these workshops
1. Find an idea
The process of creation, fostered by inspiration and fueled by passion, begins with the writer who wants to write. You have an IDEA - this is your intention as a writer, there is something you want to write about, a story you need to tell, 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. The SOMETHING you want to write about starts with a PREMISE. PREMISE = ARGUMENT.
2. Explore your genre
You have to be familiar with other films that relate to, or are similar to, the screenplay you want to write. Each genre imposes certain conventions on the screenplay. The choice of genre sharply determines and limits what's possible within a story.
3. Do research
Feed your talent. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Do research. Gather your material any way you can. The hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. The only way to write, is write. All the time. Write it down. When ideas, description, dialogue, or character information comes to mind, write it down, immediately. By doing research, you acquire information. You must take time and effort to acquire knowledge. The information you collect will allow you to operate from the position of choice and responsibility.
4. Dramatise the idea
Having a PREMISE is not enough. You don't have enough information. You've got to dramatise it. What is your story about? Define it. Articulate it. If you don't know, who does? You will define the premise or concept; your concept will either be a LOW CONCEPT (a character driven narrative), or HIGH CONCEPT (an event driven narrative).
5. Develop the story
Once the PREMISE and CONCEPT are clearly defined and researched, you have to develop the idea into a story. When you start exploring your story (the what that happens), you will start looking at the theme (the why the what happens), the characters (the who the what is about), and the action or plot (how the what happens). The WHAT, WHERE and WHO are onvious indicators to proceed with the beginning phases of building your story deed by deed, encounter by encounter and exploit by exploit. While a good story is definitely the basis of your script, it is not enough. You need life in your script.
6. Explore your theme
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. Theme leaves the reader and audience with an understanding of why the problem and the actions of the characters are relevant. Theme empowers the writer to make a conscious connection with what the story wants to communicate and opens up the story's inner value system (INTERNAL CONTENT). THEME = MOTIF.
7. Explore your characters
All memorable and successful stories have one thing in common. They all have memorable characters that have become part of our culture. Character is the essential foundation of story. It is the heart, soul and nervous system of your story. Before you put a word to paper, you must know character. The actions of the characters escalate around the conflict and shape the STRUCTURE.
8. Find the write plot to construct your story
The plot is how the what happens. It is the parts that make up the whole (story). It is the writer's choice of events and their design in time. The plot reveals what the problem is and where the action takes place. It is the EXTERNAL CONTEXT. The characters need to solve the problem in a story that constantly motions forward, each action caused by a preceding action and in turn causing yet another action to follow. The arrangement of this action is the plot of the story. Plot empowers the writer to make order out of chaos. It is the intellectual side of action. As Aristotle said" "Plot is not the imitation of life, plot is the imitation of the action." The action is something that happens when something is born, develops or dies between the beginning and the end.
9. Structure the story
When you are starting to build your story (the whole) you have to make coherent sense of the parts (scenes, sequences) and all the disorganised information you have gathered through research and exploration (characters, setting). In order for you to make sense of story and grasp the complexity of the whole, you will structure your story and design an exciting plot that will transport audiences and your characters on a fantastic journey. The function of structure is to have story logic.
10. Write a Story Outline
Once you have made sense of the whole it is important to deconstruct your story and explore the interior world and uncover your story events (scenes and sequences), the parts that make up the whole. You will write what happens in your story from start to finish. Keep each event as a separate paragraph. (Example: Mary and John talking about having children is one event; Mary discusses having family with her mother, is another event. In a standard 120 page screenplay, you will have approximately 45 to 50 story events from start to finish. The function of the Story Outline is to identify the crucial story events from your characters life that will tell the story from start to finish.
11. Write a Top Sheet
Now that you are clear 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 features your concept, theme, synopsis, character descriptions, your own biography, the business statement (business plan), and relevant historical background. The Top Sheet can be given 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.
12. Do a card outline
Once you have written your story outline it is time to deconstruct the whole. This is done by doing a card outline, using an index card for each story event (scene or sequence) to explore the interior world of the event. This can be seen as the first rough draft of your script.
13. Write the First Draft
You will start writing the fist draft; a first draft is not the end, but marks the real beginning of the writing process. You have to convert treatment description to full scene description and add dialogue. This is where you put it all down. There are six steps in writing the First Draft:
14. Have your story read
You would hopefully have read through it, and paged through it several times, enjoying the texture of it. The good news is that you have a first draft. The bad news is that the process is not over yet. Before you submit your draft to an agent, or production company, you have to find out if it works. You can send your script to a reader, and have it evaluated, or call together a reading session.
15. Rewriting (Now it's time to really start writing your story)
Professional screenwriters learn that true success requires the ability to respond intelligently to criticism and to tolerate sometimes endless rewrites. The key to success for writers of screenplays is getting the screenplay not only sold but also produced, and not only produced, but also released, and not only released, but released successfully. Remember that you are going to rewrite 70 - 80% of what you have written anyway. You will work on several re-writes until the writer reaches Draft X that is as perfect as it possibly can be; this 'final draft' will be professionally formatted an preferably evaluated by a professional reading agency.
The mutation of drafts: When reading screenplays and scripts on www.imsdb.com, note the differences between a first and fifth draft, and between a draft and Shooting Script (a Shooting Script is developed during the film process and will have scene numbers, whereas a draft does not have scene numbers)
16. The spec script
When Draft X is handed over to a studio, or sent out to be sold it is known as a spec script; if the spec script is sent out by the writer without the involvement of an agency, it is known as an unsolicited spec script. If the script is sent via an agent, it carries the guarantee that it has gone through some form of evaluation and script editing.
17. The marketplace
You have to 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 have to have a clear understanding of the marketplace. The first step in understanding the marketplace is knowing that there are different markets that will be ideal for particular products, and specific markets that will be wrong for
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