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.

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