Outlining & Writer’s Block
by Larry Brody
One of the big differences between beginning writers and “old pros” is that beginning writers are always telling me how much they love sitting down at the keyboard and “winging” their scripts, while the pros invariably stress the importance of having a good outline before they start writing.
As an “elder statesman” myself, I’ve tried both methods, and outlining your story is the way to go. In television we spend as much time on the outline as we do on all drafts of the script combined.
There are two reasons for this. Businesswise, if you outline every beat of your story and get the producer to sign off on it your relationship with said producer will be much more comfortable. Creatively, having a good outline means less work while writing the script. Instead of worrying about what happens next, you can concentrate on the most interesting and exciting way of making each event happen.
This second, creative reason is important in another way also. Beginning writers often contact me wanting to know how they can overcome “writer’s block.” Yet the pros I know never talk about being stuck in the middle of writing a script. Over the years I’ve come to realize that writers hit walls when they’re insecure about whether story points work.
Sometimes this happens after the shaky section. Sometimes before it. Other times right at the point itself. If you’ve worked out an outline and satisfied yourself that this is the best way for your story to go, there is no insecurity. And no dreaded “writer’s block.”
Take it from me. A writer’s life like a chauffeur’s. It’s a hell of a lot easier if you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there before you get behind the wheel.
First in what I hope will be a long. long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every Tuesday. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.