Writing Challenge for Quarantine Life

Why hello, writing community! I have missed this blog SO MUCH, but just have not had the space in my schedule to focus. Even before the world went a teensy bit (understandably) crazy, I had been working on a new idea for a challenge and project we could do together to keep our minds active while not overwhelming ourselves.

There’s been a lot of discussion online about people using this available time to write that script they’ve been dreaming of… as well as the reactions of people championing the idea of relaxing and not putting that kind of pressure in ourselves in this limited time. I vote we land somewhere in the middle.

For the next two weeks we’re going to write a draft. This draft can be based on an outline you already have, a rewrite, or even just an outline. For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to do an outline. The way I write them tends to basically be a script without dialogue, so they can be anywhere from 40-60 pages long depending on how descriptive you are. I understand that not everyone has an idea they want to work on though and instead want a challenge to get that muscle moving. This challenge works for that as well.

This whole format is based around how I learned to both write and break down scripts for analysis in college. It’s based on the ideas Robert McKee has broken down in “Story” and was even more simplified in “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all screenwriting books say the same basic things about character and structure). It’s also similar to what any other college screenwriting curriculum will do as it enforces the steps you need to understand what is working or missing in your script.

So here’s how it’s going to work…

Starting tomorrow, March 17th (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) there will be a post on this site that breaks down a script. Not the entire script, just the focus for that day. It will also break down whatever elements that you need to consider as you’re writing. Here’s how the schedule will look:

Week 1
Day One, 3/17: Basic Elements
Day Two, 3/18: Pre-Existing Life
Day Three, 3/19: Inciting Incident
Day Four, 3/20: First Act Decision
Day Five, 3/21: REVIEW
Day Six, 3/22: Progress / Reversal #1

Week 2
Day Seven, 3/23: Midpoint
Day Eight, 3/24: Reversal #2
Day Nine, 3/25: False Climax / Low Point
Day Ten, 3/26: REVIEW
Day Eleven, 3/27: Third Act Decision
Day Twelve, 3/28: Climax / Resolution
Day Thirteen, 3/29: REVIEW

Each day will feature a different example of whatever the topic of that day is. I’ll be breaking them down into the major beats, but you should flesh out further to all of the beats that happen in that sequence. It doesn’t need to be formatted into an outline or include dialogue just yet. On “REVIEW” days, we’ll go back and format into an outline while also adding/editing things from sequences that didn’t make sense as we kept going.

The above is based around feature script structure and is focused on building those writing muscles. If you are working on fellowship scripts, then simply swap out for television structure instead. If you’re more advanced, having written a few scripts already, allow the above schedule to simply be a guide and refresher. We’re never done learning, myself included, which is while I’ll be writing my own script as well as these posts every day.

I’ve been unemployed as well as a freelancer in different times of my career, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the way to get through times like the current self-isolation many are doing, it’s by making sure that you have a structure to guide your day. So let’s use this time to be productive and also attack in a way that is achievable. This way we’ll all come out of it seeing forward motion in our creative careers.

Let me know in the comments what you’re working on during this challenge and, as always, Happy Writing!

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