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Outlining/ drafting using a script/ screenplay (1 Viewer)

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
So I have been experimenting with how I want to outline/develop a story, particularly a novella/ novel-length story. I have enjoyed writing short stories but my end goal is to write novels. As a new writer, I struggle with completing a novel size work. I started two novels when I was in middle school/high school but I had no concept of story structure and i jumped ideas a lot.I never finished one. Fast forward to the beginning of February 2021 I took a gander at writing again. Unfortunately, I still didn't understand story structure that well, and I basically pants myself into a mess✨

I prefer editing over drafting so i plan to write, what i'd like to call "the bare bones" of the current project I'm working on. Complete the draft then fatten her up later. They say taking away is easier than adding but considering I cannot finish a novella or novel from beginning to end, i'd rather beef it up later. if I end up with 30 to 50k words and it has a coherent beginning middle and end that's better than having a 70k with a plotline that is leading who knows where and is unfinished.

Anywho...I am a fan of movies/ TV (more so than novels tbh. I still read tho of course ) I like to write dialogue and character interactions the most. When watching writing videos this past year I heard about different drafting methods, one being 'zero drafting' or 'fast drafting' a draft before the 'first draft'
so I was thinking...since I like dialogue so much and I struggle with completing a story and drafting why not try writing a script or a 'screenplay' for my 'zero draft'/ outline. Of course, I'd have to change the original format of a screenplay a bit to fit what I'm trying to accomplish (which would be an outline for a novel, not a movie) its something I'm considering trying in the future.
Currently, I am writing things in notebooks and flashcards while I draft. (i also draft chronologically I am not a scene jumper) it seems to be going fine...hope to make it to novella size then see what I want to do with the story before I add anything or do major edits...

What do you think about using a screenplay-type format for a zero draft/ outline for a novel?

I was thinking about buying 'save the cat' and 'save the cat writes a novel' but idk if I need both. i'm interested in studying screenplays regardless if I use the format as a template or not for an outline.

interested to hear your thoughts~
 

Lawless

Senior Member
What do you think about using a screenplay-type format for a zero draft/ outline for a novel?
My current WIP "The Incomprehensibles" has so much dialogue that I've often had the feeling it looks a lot like a screenplay. ;)

I'm OK with it, because why not let the characters discuss things, asking, objecting to and misunderstanding each other, rather than make the narrator tell things? In fact, I wonder why so few writers do it. Maybe dialogue doesn't come as easily to them as it does to me?

I've never thought of making an outline in the form of a screenplay, though, or making the first draft like a screenplay and then converting it into "normal" narrative.

Might even be a good idea. Start with a conversation where people discuss what happened in the story, and when someone says "XYZ happened," someone else might ask "How did it happen?" and you write a scene to give a thorough answer. Might be interesting.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
My current WIP "The Incomprehensibles" has so much dialogue that I've often had the feeling it looks a lot like a screenplay. ;)

I'm OK with it, because why not let the characters discuss things, asking, objecting to and misunderstanding each other, rather than make the narrator tell things? In fact, I wonder why so few writers do it. Maybe dialogue doesn't come as easily to them as it does to me?

I've never thought of making an outline in the form of a screenplay, though, or making the first draft like a screenplay and then converting it into "normal" narrative.

Might even be a good idea. Start with a conversation where people discuss what happened in the story, and when someone says "XYZ happened," someone else might ask "How did it happen?" and you write a scene to give a thorough answer. Might be interesting.
I know people have different methods of outlining and drafting. some people outline more than others...so Idk if writing an outline in a script/screen play type format is common with more avid planners? perhaps not (and maybe for good reason 🤷‍♂️ )

Looking to buy 'save the cat', and possibly other books. Maybe even look for some popular movie scripts/screen plays online to study? I'd like to learn the format and change it to make it work better for a novel. (gotta know the rules before I can break them properly ;) haha )

Glad to hear you think this idea is interesting! If you give it a try, let me know what you think and if it works.
Right now I'm just 'mingling' with the idea...have no idea if its a good one or not.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
@Lawless I think @VRanger said in a post somewhere (maybe more than a few times) that he read a book with pure dialogue, which is fine if that is what the author intended. When i started my novel i literally just wrote. I had no idea, just a happy little bee typing away, imagining how conversations were flowing ... only to realise 10k in ... it's not reading how the head thought it should.

I sent snippets to my cousin (the one of my two readerships - I have expanded to three, maybe four since Firefly!) but he wrote back saying it was okay but it read like a film script. And it made me think a lot. A novel, can be anything an Author wants, and that is the most important aspect ... what does the author want. In my case I wanted to be a story teller, to pull the reader into the world I created ... not a script for a low budget movie. So it changed my thinking and how i needed to think and plan more carefully for my story.

@KeganThompson I know I mentioned this before somewhere in the forum, but I was lucky enough to have already thought, and written the ending of the book so I had the opening and the end ... all I had to do was fill in the middle. Since pantsing along didn't help at all i made myself a flexible structure dividing the novel into 7 folders and in each folder knowing where i started and where it had to end to join the next folder. Whatever happens in between I didn't care. A folder could have 4 small chapters or 8 or 9 in another and it didn't matter. I flipped chapters a lot during the first draft, never having a muddy middle. If i had a scene in my head that were a few folders ahead ... i would start there, and only returning to the unfinished chapter with motivation.

I found that if you just churned the numbers, it made poor writing, especially as a pantser, so the my jumping around process was only developed for motivation only ... but it got done!
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
@Lawless I think @VRanger said in a post somewhere (maybe more than a few times) that he read a book with pure dialogue, which is fine if that is what the author intended. When i started my novel i literally just wrote. I had no idea, just a happy little bee typing away, imagining how conversations were flowing ... only to realise 10k in ... it's not reading how the head thought it should.

I sent snippets to my cousin (the one of my two readerships - I have expanded to three, maybe four since Firefly!) but he wrote back saying it was okay but it read like a film script. And it made me think a lot. A novel, can be anything an Author wants, and that is the most important aspect ... what does the author want. In my case I wanted to be a story teller, to pull the reader into the world I created ... not a script for a low budget movie. So it changed my thinking and how i needed to think and plan more carefully for my story.
My goal isn't to make it read like a script or screenplay, I think it would be interesting to read books that are primarily dialogue (if you got any suggestions @VRanger lemme know ;) )
but I still want to write other things and be good at description, voice etc. I just like dialogue a lot and I thought it would be fun idea to experiment with. I guess my thought is, if people can turn a book into a screenplay/movie, then why not use a screenplay-esque outline for a novel? 🤷‍♀️

@KeganThompson I know I mentioned this before somewhere in the forum, but I was lucky enough to have already thought, and written the ending of the book so I had the opening and the end ... all I had to do was fill in the middle. Since pantsing along didn't help at all i made myself a flexible structure dividing the novel into 7 folders and in each folder knowing where i started and where it had to end to join the next folder. Whatever happens in between I didn't care. A folder could have 4 small chapters or 8 or 9 in another and it didn't matter. I flipped chapters a lot during the first draft, never having a muddy middle. If i had a scene in my head that were a few folders ahead ... i would start there, and only returning to the unfinished chapter with motivation.
I thought of my ending and my ideas in the novel i attempted earlier this year, I just had so many ideas and the idea kept changing as I was drafting it. So i stopped writing it because it was the wiser choice. sometimes the best thing to do is to give up LOL (and try again some another time)
I found that if you just churned the numbers, it made poor writing, especially as a pantser, so the my jumping around process was only developed for motivation only ... but it got done!
I'm not interested in jumping scenes, i don't think that would work for me... (though I do it a lot in my head) but that's why i'd like to try to write an outline in the form of a screen play, I can have a 'completed' story technically and I can rework it before converting it into a novel. (and have fun with the dialogue!)
That or I can just play around with screen writing (not to convert it into a novel) and learn something new. I just don't know if its a good idea or not, but either way I want to give it a try, I'm going to at least study screenwriting. I have an interest even if I dont plan to get into the film industry so why not look into it 🤷‍♀️
 

KatPC

Senior Member
My goal isn't to make it read like a script or screenplay, I think it would be interesting to read books that are primarily dialogue (if you got any suggestions @VRanger lemme know ;) )
but I still want to write other things and be good at description, voice etc. I just like dialogue a lot and I thought it would be fun idea to experiment with. I guess my thought is, if people can turn a book into a screenplay/movie, then why not use a screenplay-esque outline for a novel? 🤷‍♀️
Hey Kegan, :)
I can see your point ... my suggestion is ... try it! No harm in it. With heavy dialogue you can build your own story but it just really lacks the setting, which i guess you can fill it in during the drafts. I have always had the 'worlds' in my head before I write, or at least a good idea of what the story will look like during the 'ideas' stage. I always view the setting to be a vital part in a story. Dialogue may contain the 'meat' and 'info' but the setting provides the ambiance and feel to a book, but that maybe just me. I could write the background with two characters never saying a single word nor anything happening ... maybe that is a difference in style?
 
Hi Kegan,
I've written scripts before. I think that following a really strict structure like a screenplay can help you get into the rhythm of writing because you can pick a location and time, and then bring in characters and write dialogue and action. And I think that can help get into the rhythm of writing better than having to decide what to write at every sentence. For instance, deciding to introduce more characters or change the time or location, or "tell" something to the audience at every sentence can be exhausting.
So I think it makes a lot of sense to use a screenplay for outlining.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Hi Kegan,
I've written scripts before. I think that following a really strict structure like a screenplay can help you get into the rhythm of writing because you can pick a location and time, and then bring in characters and write dialogue and action. And I think that can help get into the rhythm of writing better than having to decide what to write at every sentence. For instance, deciding to introduce more characters or change the time or location, or "tell" something to the audience at every sentence can be exhausting.
So I think it makes a lot of sense to use a screenplay for outlining.
thank you for the insight, I'm looking forward to trying this out the more i think about it :)
also welcome to the forum!
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
My goal isn't to make it read like a script or screenplay, I think it would be interesting to read books that are primarily dialogue (if you got any suggestions @VRanger lemme know ;) )
Sorry to be so long to answer ... it's been a busy few days on site and off!

The books I think you're remembering were TEN books (1,000,000 words) that were NOTHING but dialogue. In my opinion, it didn't work, and I felt bad the lady spent all that effort without getting (or possibly getting but not acknowledging) she was on the wrong track before she completed that effort. I can't think of novels off the top of my head I'd describe as mostly dialogue .... maybe Perry Mason books. They have a lot of dialogue, often many pages in sequence.

There's another thread on "how much dialogue is too much", which I don't have an answer for. I start a dialogue sequence and I keep at it until I realize it's carried out its purpose for the scene. I use it to set up action, reveal action, reveal plot, and reveal character. Sometimes a few of those are going on at the same time, plus of course, it needs to be fun to read.
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Billions of years ago - LONG before I met my wife, I briefly dated a woman that talked incessantly. She was quirky and fun, then her chatter became like the radio playing in the background, then... well I'm reminded of a George Thorogood song.
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
What do you think about using a screenplay-type format for a zero draft/ outline for a novel?

I was thinking about buying 'save the cat' and 'save the cat writes a novel' but idk if I need both. i'm interested in studying screenplays regardless if I use the format as a template or not for an outline.

Hi @KeganThompson, I love Save the Cat! It's pretty useful for novels, too. I really benefitted from learning better how to structure the beats.

That said, the more you read about the novel-writing process, the more resistance you may find against using instructional methods that are other than literary. The idea seems to be that if you want to be a novelist, then study the novel. A poet, then study poetry. A script writer, then film or tv.

Personally, I find it beneficial to cross-pollinate, so to speak. Just remember who you think your readers might be and in what format they might best receive your story. Of course, if it's experimental or just for yourself, then that's different.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Hi @KeganThompson, I love Save the Cat! It's pretty useful for novels, too. I really benefitted from learning better how to structure the beats.
I ended up buying both save the cat and save the cat writes a novel on amazon I probably don't need both of them but was curious on how they differ...we will see once I get to them alone with the many other books i have waiting for me to read haha
That said, the more you read about the novel-writing process, the more resistance you may find against using instructional methods that are other than literary. The idea seems to be that if you want to be a novelist, then study the novel. A poet, then study poetry. A script writer, then film or tv.

Personally, I find it beneficial to cross-pollinate, so to speak. Just remember who you think your readers might be and in what format they might best receive your story. Of course, if it's experimental or just for yourself, then that's different.
I like different forms of literature..when it comes to poetry, I'd prefer the song lyric avenue...i listen to music pretty much all day every day. I've considered printing out lyrics of songs I really like but I haven't done it yet..
I like experimenting, I don't want my writing to become too formulaic. I like to write "YA" but I'm not too concerned with anyone reading my work atm, its more of a personal thing. I'm a big fan of film so I thought why not look at scrips/screenplays? :)
 
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