Before your First Draft – Part 2 – Brainstorming & Research (Get the big picture)

tumblr_lxloleEgVj1qenfawo1_500I will be the first to admit that in the past, in my own excitement to rush into writing the script (and imagining my own Hollywood dream before it happens), I did very little in the way of prep and thus, often found it would take me ages to get to the finish line, thanks to all the ‘sorting-out-as-I-go’ hurdles along the way – otherwise known as ‘writing on the fly’, or as a friend recently very eloquently put it, ‘writing by the seat of your pants’ (If you are one of these, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going!).

It didn’t take me long to realize that this approach only works part of the time – because after gathering up all the steam, somewhere along the way, a bomb would drop – and I would be plunged in ‘writer’s block’ (Ha! I can say I have gone through that enough times to count myself an expert!), There were several things I would do at this point – scream, weep,  go back and rewrite the first 30 pages all over again. On a lucky day, I would eventually manage to squeak maybe a few more pages, but it wouldn’t last very long because I would end up back at square one – aka. ambitious writer with an incomplete screenplay.

Therefore, in my opinion, the most important predominant factor to determine before typing FADE IN on a first draft is this:

Know where you are going BEFORE YOU START.

After my own years of experimenting and failing, this is the approach that has worked best for me to get to the finish line as soon as possible. That being said (and yes I have repeated this enough times in previous posts): there is no one way to go about things. However, this just happens to be my particular way, which I am sharing and hopefully for anyone who has been stuck like me in the past, they will find this series helpful. So, without further delays, in the first post, we discussed loglines (see link here) so now heading on into step 2: research and brainstorming! Here’s how I go about it:

1) First – inspiration! Find an idea that excites you, motivates you. Through the logline, generally, I will have some idea of what my story is about due to the three elements mentioned in the previous post: hero, nemesis and the goal. Even if I have one of these elements, it’s enough to at least get the ball rolling.

2) Now that we have that – the next step is brainstorming – actually thinking about it. A lot. Something I do while driving (hoping no cop catches me speeding, don’t recommend this), while dribbling PB over my kids’ lunchboxes, while waiting at the longest line at the grocery store, but the point is: let the idea roast. It’s funny how doing nothing physically here can actually be beneficial. Let your mind venture naturally on its own, unguided, into the places you need it to.  Imagine the movie trailer, the characters, whatever excites you the most about your idea.

3) Alongside ‘thinking’, also research everything you can about it. History, places, people, professions, whatever the case according to your genre. In my case, it includes reading a lot of books about my subject/genre as well as watching similar types of movies so I can escape into the story mindset. Being someone with an art background, sometimes I will also draw the characters and post it on my walls to inspire me (or if I am too lazy, I simply google related images and paste it it on my walls to inspire me). Basically, whatever it takes to get into it.

4) While letting the idea sink in, I also start writing a few things down. It’s not an organized thought process here. Just thoughts. Images. Dialogue. Sometimes I write this in longhand, sometimes I type it. I have also heard several screenwriters use index cards (I use them too but at a different stage in the process). Somewhere in these notes will be glimpses of my story: beginning, middle, end, so eventually even if I don’t have all the details, I will ultimately get a general picture of my plot and where I want it to go.

5) After all said and done, I will gather enough information to form the basis of my plot. Starting with the beginning, middle and end. Sometimes this takes me a week, sometimes more depending on the story (note: you can take the pretext of research and go for ages, actually, but I wouldn’t recommend that!)

Speaking of which, I invite other experienced writers out there to provide some thoughts on your own process if you are so inclined and if any of this rings a bell! Next week’s post in this series: The Treatment.  Have a great weekend!

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‘One Lovely Blog’ Nomination!

Aside from the joys and travails of attempting to potty-train my animal kid and my human kids (go figure!) I had this wonderful surprise in my comment thread last week from Lindsey Cotman of Coffee Stained that made a miserably rainy, drenched day with a kid who refused to leave the splash pad (despite the downpour!) a bit brighter.

“Looking forward to seeing you come back, but in the meantime I’d like to let you know that I’ve just nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award.” (Yay!)

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Love the logo? So do I! So without further ado, thank you dear Lindsey at Coffee Stained for impacting my month in such a nice way and for taking the time to do that.  It’s a huge honor, considering how new this blog is and how new I am to the whole blogging shpeel. Certainly inspires  me to keep up with the blogging, that’s for sure! Here are the basics:

The Rules:
Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post
Share seven things about you
Pass the award on to seven nominees
Thank the person who nominated you
Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs

Nominated by: Coffee Stained. Thank you!

Seven (hopefully not boring) Random Facts (P.S. I may have cheated a little with the numbers)
• I grew up in three countries and two different continents (Kuwait, India, Canada where I reside now)

• My family and I (which included 9 year old me, my dad, my mum and my 1 year old sister)  survived the events of an actual war and Saddam attacking Kuwait. We were also considered plum-crazy by our Indian relations when we returned three years later to rebuild our lives there. (We even went back to our same apartment!)

• I am a parent with four kids (a three year old, a five year old, an eleven week old pup  and a spouse who leaves my kids’ diapers around and never makes the bed!)

• I spent over a decade studying art: attended a special arts school, went to college for art, did an absolute ton of art classes and bought tons of stuff  (including these really cool erasable color pencils) assuming all I wanted to do in life was become  an animator and draw Disney films, when instead what I actually wanted to do all along was write them!

•   I like to sing (not just in the bathroom), I LOVE music and I also follow Miss Universe (ever since India won both Miss World and Miss Universe in 1994!). More randomly, I am also a huge Harry Potter fan.

• Even though I am not as much of a gamer now as I used to be, my favorite video game ever is Kingdom Hearts! Have been waiting for the third game for years!

• Last but not least, speaking of kids… and I know I haven’t stopped nattering on about him on this blog, my newest baby’s name is Boo ( after ‘Boo’ in Monsters Inc.). A bichon poo who is both a darling (will doggie-kiss anyone) and a regular macho humbug who thinks he is the boss (chews on my other kid’s toys,  and loves to poo in my office). If you don’t believe me, here is proof:

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And now my seven nominations (which got erased as I was typing – sigh! Happens a lot..)

Coffee-stained blog: Always love fairytales, and the fact that she loves Disney and video games – amongst my most favorite things.
LA screenwriter: The posts are always brief and contain a ton, all that can be read in less than five minutes, both informative and educational. Really enjoy this blog.
Maximum Z: Enjoy all the screenwriting wisdom as well as anecdotes. Also like how he involves his readers and enjoy his sense of humor!
Matt on not-word press: Like his photos, won me over with his keyboard shoe.
Screenwriting-from-Iowa : Love that he blogs everyday and there is always something I can learn as well as always finding something interesting about big shots and their success stories.  His posts are always a great read about the film and writing business!
AJ Brooks: Enjoy his screenwriting how to’s. Always informative and inspirational.
Ryan James Burt: I think his daughter and his devotion to her is adorable and out-of-this-world!

Congrats to all the nominees! More posts from the novice screenwriter later this week!

Update!

Hey everyone, due to summer craziness, professional mayhem (aka. drafts and outlines) and a new puppy (who likes to poop everywhere), the novice screenwriter is going to be blogging a bit less for the next little while. That being said, I will try and throw in a few posts every free interval I get and should have some new discussion tidbits early next week! Look forward to seeing everyone then!

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