I finished my outline yesterday, and felt really good about it.
--Good balance between plot and emotion? CHECK!
--Pushing the characters forward without going fan-fic crazy? CHECK!
--Good balance between lightheartedness and heart-string-jerking? CHECK!
It's taken me a long time, but the whole thing seemed to flow.
So far, my process has been:
1. Watched a million episodes of the show I wanted to spec.
2. Found a fun, exciting, show-consistent concept.
3. Analyzed the show's story structure.
4. Decided which characters would carry the A, B, C, and D plots respectively.
5. Made mini-outlines for the A, B, C, and D plots.
6. Wrote in-depth treatments for the A, B, C, and D plots respectively.
7. Re-did each of the mini-outlines (beefing them up a lot and focusing especially on the A-story act outs).
8. Wove them together into an outline.
9. Made sure the full-episode outline was structurally consistent with the show, and there weren't any obvious plot holes.
And today I started writing the treatment...which, to me, means writing the spec's entire story out in prose. The first act came easily, and was almost exactly the same as the outline--though I did fill in some vague spots. All was OK with the second act, too. The events came in the same order, and I didn't find any major logistical issues.
But I just finished doing the same for the third act, and now I'm worried, because that bit of the treatment didn't go so well. Did I lose sight of my concept? Did I spend so much time making A BIG INTERESTING BEAUTIFUL LIVELY plot that I buried my hook? It feels like there's a ton of stuff going on, but none of it relates to my main hook, and I think it'll muffle the punch of Act 4 and 5.
For sure, some (Act 3 and likely 4) events have got to be shuffled around. And I'm going to go back to my notes on the show, to make sure I'm telling my story at exactly the same pace and with the same (diffusion of) focus as the show writers do. It's a constant pull-push, writing a spec. On the one hand, I ask: is this a good story? So I try to go crazy with the creativity to make it better. But on the other hand, the question that's more important is: will this script be a good example of the show? Could it go on TV and fit in perfectly to all that came before and will come after?
The line between creation and mimicry is so tough to find! But the whole point of a spec is to display one's skill at finding that balance. Maybe some people have more trouble infusing a piece with their own voice? I know I have the most trouble with the mimicry aspect of spec writing--everything I see and hear automatically goes through my little Sasha-Filter and comes out seeming completely different from how it went in. Which can be a good thing--but which also means it's essential for me to try especially hard to stick to my bible--the show itself. So, while I'll be trying to write the best story I can, it's smartest for me to always refer back to the show whenever I'm in doubt.
Honestly, in the midst of all this treatment trouble, I'm considering re-writing my outline to copying an episode's structure exactly (I've even already got a particular episode in mind). Why not? At least it would keep me on a very short leash.
Aw well--that'll likely be my next step. I can't wait to get to the fun dialogue/action/writerly stuff...but there's no way the spec can be any good if the structure's at all off. I'm more anxious to write a spec worth something than to just get one done--no matter if it's taking a couple weeks longer than expected.
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