Prepare Thyself: Plotting to Dominate the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge

Zero Draft Thirty is a fun, rewarding experience… until it isn’t.

The easiest way to ensure that your ZD30 is a success is to plot everything out in advance. When you’re writing a large chunk of text over a long period, the burnout comes swift and it comes hard. Don’t try and make it more difficult on yourself by going in without a plan.

Pantsing vs Plotting

In the great debate of “flying by the seat of your pants” versus “plotting it all out in advance,” I am what is known as a reformed pantser. I believed wholeheartedly in going with the flow and letting the characters tell me what to do.

NO MORE!

When it comes down to it, you need to plan out longer work. When I was writing my feature The Patron Saint of Spies, the first draft was done intuitively. I let the story flow through me and went with my gut. I only worked when the Muse was talking, and it took me forever. When I finished, I read through the draft, and I did not like what I saw.

Knowing that, I plotted out my next script (a ridiculous chase movie called Certified Public Accountant) pretty extensively. Even though it was a silly thing designed to boost my confidence, I was amazed at how much faster my second script went to my first. I was able to put out a seventy page draft in a matter of weeks instead of months, and the plot problems I had with Patron Saint just weren’t there.

So learn from my mistakes! Plot out your script before you start writing. When you have a map to go by, you’re much less likely to get lost.

How to Plot

I’m not going to tell you that my way is the only way. Every writer has a way of plotting out story that works best for them.

Some people like being more free. You could keep a notebook and jot down ideas, connecting them in a mind map. You could storyboard major set pieces. You could also put together a loose narrative story. You could also go the tried and true route of putting each scene on an index card and carrying them with you.

Some people work best with a more rigid system. They use bullet points and go through each scene, putting loose notes what’s happening in each place. You could also put together a whole story bible, with every bit of information that you’re going to use for your screenplay.

Personally, I like Post-it notes. I use a pad of little two-by-two Post-its, and put each beat of the story on a note. I then put all the notes on the table so I have a literal bird’s eye view of my story. I can look at the progression of the story, where there might be holes, and rearrange beats as required. If I want to carry them around, I have a folded up piece of poster board that fits in my bag. I just stick my story on the poster board, and then every table becomes a desk.

However you do it, make yourself a map of your story so that you don’t have to rely on that fickle Muse to get you through. You’re going to be busy, so you can’t rely on her.

Site Maintanance, you know what that means!

Still working hard behind the scenes to get stuff figured out.

I am working on putting stuff together that’s going to make posting to my portfolio easier and cleaner. I’m also going to go in a fix some bugs in the theme that have been bothering me for a while.

Of course this means that I am going to have something things moving around, disappearing, reappearing, and/or breaking. If you find any issues, please shoot me a line on the contact page or on social media.

I will also be doing work in my portfolio. I’m trying to find a tool that doesn’t make displaying PDFs so weird, so those might disappear for a while. If you have any interest in my samples, please drop me a line as well.

I’ll try and continue posting with more regularity though, so there’s that. The blog won’t be touched, just everything around it.

Pardon my dust, and sorry for the inconvenience.

This draft is going to kill me…

I’m getting ready to apply for grad school. I’m fucking terrified.

While I’m not worried about leaving Full Sail with a good portfolio, I’m always looking for ways to set myself above the pack. So, while my FS portfolio is going to be chock full of quality short form pieces, I told myself that to stand out I was going to write a feature film.

Why do I always do this to myself?

I’m about three-quarters of the way through my second draft, and I am hitting a wall. I at the point where I’m making huge structural changes, so I’m basically writing from scratch. Where the beginning of this draft was basically retyping from the page and tightening things up, this is basically coming from nothing.

I know that part of my issue is that this is an ambitious project. It’s the first of hopefully many, but it’s also the one I’m hoping to make a big splash with. I don’t want to fuck it up, and i don’t want to give it to people who I respect as teachers and artists and embarrass myself. It’s tearing me up.

I’m working on it. But it’s hard.

The 1, 2, 7, 14 Formula

On the Go Into the Story blog, I found a really good bit of advice that I’m going to work on folding into my writing habits.

It’s called the 1, 2, 7, 14 Formula and it’s split into four parts: read one script a week, watch two movies a week, write seven pages a week, and put in fourteen hours of story prep a week. When you put it that way, you have a clear setup for long term success.

Scott Myers did the math:

If you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

You will have read 52 screenplays.

You will have watched 104 movies

You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

Spread that out over 5 years: 260 screenplays, 520 movies, 10 original screenplays.

That means you could have read every one of the top 101 screenplays as voted by the WGA, plus 159 more.

That means you could have seen every one of the IMDB Top 250 movies, plus 270 more.

That means you could have written the exact number of original screenplays Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Bodyguard, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) wrote before he sold his first one.

All by setting these simple goals: 1, 2, 7, 14.

So I am going to actively do this. I’ve already set up a slate of screenplays that I have in my collection that I’m going to read in the next couple of weeks, and I might do blog posts about them. As an screenwriter, I really need to analyze as many screenplays as I can. This is a good way to actually turn it into a long term habit that can only benefit me and my career long term.

Slow website rebuild

I’m slowly losing my mind.

I am working to get my site back up to snuff since the incident, but since WordPress is being weird it’s taking a while. I am having difficulties finding a good theme that actually, y’know… works with what I’m trying to do with it.

So, the blog may go through a few more drastic cosmetic changes before I’m done, but I am still working on it behind the scenes.

Right now I’m just going to keep adding blog posts so I’m actually making visible progress.

Vimeo Find: Hermetic Dating Rituals

I love this short animated film!

The story is as relatable as it is hilarious. The short is only two minutes long, but it packs a lot in there, from the first swipe to the post coital snuggle.

The animation style is also really appropriate. And how hipster is it for me to say I want to base my future interior design schemes around this short film’s color scheme? Really hipster, right?

Well, this is awkward…

This is why you hire professionals to do website design:

So I tried to upgrade my website (a perfectly fine website that has done nothing but love me) and managed to completely delete it. Poof. Blammo. Backups not found.

This is my fault. I don’t know why I try to get fancy with these sorts of things. I read half a book and think I can wing it.

I cannot wing it. Ever.

But… I was planning on a complete overhaul. A serious reworking of how I deal with my internet presence. Now that the adrenaline is subsiding, this could be a great opportunity.

So, on the day after St. Patrick’s day, I am fighting my instincts and taking this as a sign of new beginnings. A real opportunity to rebuild and fix things that I just let go. So, here we go!