As I’m working on my next manuscript, I have a feeling for the beginning and end of my story but I don’t really know much about that big, sticky, middle section yet. But after reading The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay by Cynthia Whitcomb, I’m using a technique she discusses to help me discover more of my story.
Basically, using a stack of 3×5 index cards, you write your working title on one card, Act I, Act II, and Act III on three others, and then write out as many scenes from the beginning and ending that you know you’ll have. Write down the basic information: where, when, and what. Some of these will be “obligatory” scenes, i.e. in a romance story, you have to have a scene where boy meets girls. In a mystery, you have a scene with a dead body. In a thriller, the bad guy is introduced. Read more
In working on my new manuscript, one of the things I do from time to time is look at my main idea to make sure I’m on track or to see if it’s changed. In The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay by author and screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb, she suggests that you spend a little time figuring out if you can tell your story in an abbreviated fashion.
She’s talking about screenplays here, but the advice also holds true for novels or nonfiction books:
“Write the ad copy. Write the TV Guide blurb. Write what people will tell their friends about this great movie they saw last weekend. Word of mouth is powerful…. This simple exercise, done before you write the script, could be helpful all the way down the road. If you can tell it in a strong, abbreviated version now, it will be easier for you to get it right as you write (And then to pitch it, too).” Read more