The Writing Process

Writing RulesDon’t worry this won’t be the do’s and don’t of how to write, however if your writing fiction, a screenplay, or a play I can take you through a process that I go through that might help.

We’ve all been there before, you have this great idea, but how does turn from an idea into a masterpiece of writing.  Something I learned a long time ago was create your own process.  I like to begin by putting all my ducks in a row.


     It starts with an idea.  Usually my ideas are not fully fleshed out.  It’s maybe a small thing like, two college kids meet and become best of friends.  Their friendship changes once they start dating.  A simple idea, but there are a couple of good things in here.  Right away you have the conflict in the second sentence and you have three questions you are asking the audience?   How does a friendship change when it becomes a relationship?  Does acting on the feelings that you are having for the opposite gender, effect the friendship negatively?   Can that friendship be destroyed, which then damages the relationship.


     After I have the idea, is formulated, I begin to work on character sketches.  I like character sketches.  They become my bible for all the characters.  It’s horrible to write a play or a screenplay or even a piece of fiction without that character sketch.  In fact, if you’re writing a novel, I would suggest a well thought out character sketch.  It doesn’t have to be for a movie or a play.  There are so many things you can learn from character sketches.  First a decent character sketch gives you an idea of what the character looks like when he or she come to life.  As you writing you will suddenly begin to realize that you are seeing them with every piece of dialogue or action you write for that character.  For me, it goes a little further than that.  I feel their presence in the room.  If you a good character sketch, that character can take over your keyboard.   Secondly, the history of a character gives you an idea how the character reached that point of conflict in the script.  The third thing is the history of a character and the plot can sometimes go hand in hand.  If you have a hole in your plot, reread the character sketch and you may fill that hole or make a complicated plot, easier to write.  There have been times, the only thing I have is a character.  If I put together a solid character sketch, the plot suddenly emerges.    A British soccer movie I wrote called “Derby Double”  started with a character with no plot.  Once I wrote the character sketch, the plot arrived.   If you’re not sure on how to write a character sketch, a good book I could suggest on this is called Successful Script Writing by Jurgen Wolff and Kerry Cox.  If you’re writing a novel, this book may not be what you’re looking for, but there is a really great character sketch chapter with a set of questions you can ask yourself about your characters.  I have used this, not only for my writing, but while directing a play.  Some of the questions may not be relevant to your characters.   I found some were not and chopped and changed it to suit my needs.


If you’re writing something of a historical nature, or a particular topic,  be sure to research the subject before you get started, because if you don’t, your writing is not going to be believable to the reader and it will be hollow.  When I  wrote “Derby Double,”  my lead character Seamus O’Brien was a former soccer player.   The IRA assassinates her at a peace rally in Belfast.  Seamus rips his knee open, playing soccer on the same day and his career is over.  He joins Interpol to find the killer and is forced to play soccer again to bring the villain to justice.  In order to create a realistic portrayal of Seamus, I had to do my research on the IRA.  I used the internet and two very informative books on the subject.  I enhanced a scene with new knowledge.  In one of the books, I wrote there was a picture of an IRA funeral, with soldiers dressed in military fatigues and hoods.  It was chilling to look at.  The picture gave me a great idea for a funeral scene.


     I don’t always follow this rule, but the older I get the more I feel structure is in order.  An outline definitely helps with structure and keeping your plot on track.  The outline is a way for you to see the whole script that you haven’t written.  My suggestion would be after the outline to reread it and make sure everything is in the order you hope it will be.  Then throughout the process of writing your piece, look at it again.


     AC_Smitty_The_Rough_Draft-front-largeOnce I have put the first four together, I begin my rough draft.   I call my rough draft the skeletal structure, or the Skelton script.   I always see the rough draft much like the skeletal structure of a body.  You can’t have the core of a body unless you have a skeletal structure.  The most important thing to know about that rough draft is let it be as awful as it’s going to be.  Yes, don’t worry if it’s awful.  I have often reread my rough draft years after writing it.  I find it amusing because it usually is so bad.   Don’t stop and rewrite it over and over until you get that perfect rough draft.  I have only done this once and it has been with my current script.  I found it something was not working right and I couldn’t move the story along.  Don’t do that though.  What you should be your concern is finishing whatever it is that you are writing.  the story, play or movie.  Remember the rough draft is for you.  I never show a rough draft to anyone.  Why?   I want to read it first and be my own worst critic.  I have to be, because  as I am reading, I see the holes in the script.  I come up with new ideas that I hadn’t thought of, or enhance an idea further.  In fact I don’t even consider the skeletal draft a real rough draft.  I consider it a fake draft, so that I can improve it for the real rough draft.  That second rough draft is where I begin to fill plot holes, I chop, change and move things around.  The best part of the second draft is the character’s are enhanced.  Some characters may not even be there in the rough draft.  Don’t worry about that, you’ll give them their voice,  a few drafts down the line.  I may even change a character name if I feel the name isn’t working.  So don’t worry about that rough draft.  Laugh at it.  You’re allowed to.

Remember the writing process is important.  As I have aged, I have felt a writing process to be a comfort zone.  It also makes me feel like a writer when I know what I am working towards.








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