At the Screenwriters World Conference this past weekend I attended a class by the amazing Corey Mandell on the art of crafting a good script. He talked mostly about the importance of “integrated writing,” which is his way of saying (in novelists’ lingo) that it’s better to be a combo of a “pantser” and a “planner” than to be one or the other.
What he says is that those who are just organic about things, letting the creativity and the mind flow, without rhyme or reason, really do come up with amazing concepts, and the ideas are fresh and delightful and have fun, unexpected twists. This is a good thing. However, it’s a bad thing too because sometimes it ends up being a pacing mess.
On the other hand, outliner types end up with tightly paced, exciting scripts that have great pacing, good story lines, and meet reader’s expectations. But that may not always be good either because there’s a tendency in those scripts (he finds) to have characters who are flat or plots that don’t have enough “life” or originality.
I’ve done both kinds of books, myself, so I can testify this is the case. So. What’s the solution?
I don’t know. A combo of both, I guess. He calls it “integrated” writing, where the writer uses both techniques to come up with the best of both worlds.
Anyway, what I’m working on right now, my WIP, is a complete and total mess. I wrote it by the seat of my pants, with only a strong concept I was working from, and hoping for the best as I rolled along. I knew there were problems with it. At one point I wrote myself into a corner, laughing out loud when the words, “she saw a motorcycle at the bottom of the bay” rolled off my fingers and onto my computer screen. It was tough, but I found a way out for my characters, but basically the whole manuscript is full of a lot of those, and there’s a sheer void when it comes to pacing.
So, now I have the challenge of going back in and adding a level of organization to the MS that hasn’t been there. I wrote an outline. I set up some rules for the “world” the characters are in. I made a list of all the characters, what they look like (their appearances even change throughout the draft, I’m sorry to say), and what their motivations are. There are several plot lines going at the same time, and I think I’ve got it all lined out to how it *should* be. Ha! Now, to wrangle it into submission.
However, part of me is sad about this. I mean, it’s all fine and good to have a story that makes sense. That’s what I want, naturally. But I’m worried that if I make too many changes, force it too much into submission, I’ll squeeze some of the life out of the story.
I don’t want that!
What I want is for a magical leprechaun to come along and wave a magical hand over it, let all the scenes float up into the air and settle in their proper order, so I can see which places need fleshing out. It’d also be quite nice if the plotlines going nowhere were highlighted in one color, and the plot discrepancies were highlighted in a different color, thank you very much.
What I came up with, during a moment of frustration when I decided to quit writing and just go curl my hair, was that today might be my organizing day. I could put all the desired scenes into the right order. Then tomorrow might be a creative day, where I write up a couple of the missing chapters that I simply know need to go in. I don’t feel like I can be both on the same day. It takes to much gear switching in my head.
Sigh. There’s a lot to think about as a writer. The last novel I wrenched out of my head and forced onto paper in August and September is probably a failure at this point, despite being a lot of fun at the outset, for a lot of these same reasons–an imbalance between planning and pantsing. It’ll be a while before that one sees the light of day again, but when it does, I’m sure I’ll be wishing for a magical leprechaun again. Until then, I am going to be working hard on that organic versus organized balance that seems to elude me so regularly around here.
I’d gladly take anyone’s advice on striking this balance. Please?
I find I have to know where the story ends and who I’m writing for before I can make any real progress. It’s a backwards/forwards thing. I keep the major beats in my head–this, then this, then this–but when I sit down to write a scene I really don’t know what the characters are going to say or where they are or even who’s there until my fingers hit the keys. It’s this element of surprise that keeps the writing fresh and me engaged. The structured outline comes from roughly planning the beats; the pantster organic spontaneity is how the beats get written.
That’s a really good way to think of it, Lehua. I think my chocolate book was like that. I can’t remember with my sumo book. It was a planned draft, but I ended up rewriting it so many times, it pulled a lot of the spontaneity out of it. I think the challenge for me now is to lift some of the spontaneous scenes from the pantser draft and insert them into the organized draft. Can it be done ?????