Thursday, February 23, 2017

Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep — Script Diary

The last thing you should do before you type FADE IN…

Do you have a story you want to write? A feature length movie screenplay? An original TV pilot? A web series pilot? A novel? Short story? An epic length limerick?

The Zero Draft Thirty 2017 Spring Challenge is for you!

March 1: You type FADE IN / Once upon a time.

March 31: You type FADE OUT / And they all lived happily ever after.

Hold on. I’ve just heard from the proper authorities that our request for an additional day in March has been granted. So technically, you’ve got 31 days, but since we’ve already got all the invitations printed as Zero Draft Thirty, we’ll just keep it at that.

In any event, here is some background on exactly what the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge is. On October 15, 2015, I posted this, inviting people to join me in November as I pounded out a draft of a comedy script. Hundreds of people responded.

So I posted this a few days later. Hundreds more people enlisted in the cause. We even got a groovy visual to go along with the initiative:

Then every day for 30 days in November, I did a Zero Draft Thirty post with inspirational writing quotes, videos, and handed out a daily Trumbo Award to the person who was deemed worthy for their efforts in supporting our collective cause.

A Facebook group emerged from the process, now with over 600 members. The Challenge was written up in Indiewire. Translated into Spanish. Got its own hashtag on Twitter: #ZD30SCRIPT.

Eventually over 1000 writers joined up for the Challenge. Via Facebook, Twitter, or email, nearly 200 writers let me know they had finished their Zero Drafts.

In processing all of this and noting how I had long promoted the idea that we should aim to write two scripts per year, I thought why not do a spring ZD30 Challenge and a fall ZD30 Challenge.

Hence the Zero Draft Thirty 2017 Spring Challenge in March.

And you are cordially invited.

In the days leading up to ZD30, I figured we could spend some time talking about story prep as well as psychological prep for our collective writing effort.

Today let’s talk about one of the most valuable first draft resources I have discovered: Script Diary.

The last thing I do before I type FADE IN is create yet a Word file, which I call Script Diary.

I come to the diary to start every writing session. I visit it when I get stuck. I return to it when I hit on a story revelation. Day after day, I use my script diary to chronicle the writing of the story.

At the start of a writing session, I note the date and time in the script diary, then get my fingers and brain loosened up by typing up my thoughts about the scene I am about to tackle. I’ll remind myself what type of scene it is, which characters are participating in it, what each of their agendas is, who is playing what story function for that scene, how the scene relates to the overall plot, what the central point of the scene is, and so on. As I’m doing that, normally lines of dialogue pop to mind and I’ll put those down — so in essence I’m pre-drafting the scene, and can take that sketch to my script file and use it to write the actual scene.

I also use the script diary to track my emotional connection to the story. For instance, I may be worried about whether the scene I’m about to write will work or not. I may be concerned that one of the characters doesn’t feel quite right. If I’m stuck, I use the diary as a place to express my fears about the story; in fact, if I’m really stuck, I’ll ‘ask’ the characters, right there in my diary, to talk to me, show me what they want or need.

Now you may think I’m crazy — talking to my characters, asking them for help! But ever since I’ve started using a script diary, my experience of my story’s characters has become that much more… real, I suppose is the best way to describe it.

Whenever I am stuck, I start writing in my script diary, and invariably I become aware of my characters. Suddenly, one of them will turn and halfway glance at me or motion, and I’ll ‘follow’ them.

What I am saying is that my characters lead me deeper into my story. They show me the way. And the script diary is a crucial part of that experience because, I think, I am opening myself up to my characters, creating a ‘dialogue’ with them on those diary pages.

And there’s something else that’s very cool about a script diary: when you’re done with the project, you’ve got this journal of the entire writing process. You can go back to see and feel the actual moments where you found a breakthrough, where you busted through a story block, where your characters spoke to you.

Like everything else in this succession of posts, a script diary may not work for you. However, I encourage you to try it at least once. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Back to the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge:

March 1: Type FADE IN.
March 31: Type FADE OUT.

One month. A first draft of an original screenplay. TV pilot. Or a rewrite of an existing script.

For background on the Zero Draft Thirty challenge, go here.

Don’t forget the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook group. A terrific collection of folks who post things every day, even when we’re not in a challenge.

So calling all Zeronauts, Outlaws, Scamperers, and Writing Warriors. Who’s up for pounding out a Zero Draft in September? LET’S DO THIS THING!

Hashtag: #ZD30SCRIPT.


Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep — Script Diary was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Zero Draft Thirty: Story Prep — Script Diary

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