Counterpoint: In Defense Of Writing Without A Net

If you think staring at the blank page is intimidating, imagine staring at 100 blank pages. All at once.

Sometimes, that’s what outlining feels like. You look at the outline, and you see the spaces where all the moving parts are supposed to go, but you’re not sure what goes where. Or you have all these different elements cobbled into a Rube Goldberg device, and you’re not sure if the end result will be anything like what you intended.

Every so often, it’s a good idea to set the outline aside and dig in. Write a scene. Write three. Don’t think any further ahead than five pages.

What you’ll find is that you can get a grasp on something concrete. The voices of your characters. One or two specific actions. An aspect of the location you hadn’t thought of before.

It’s a form of reverse-engineering your outline. By taking a moment to live and breathe in the world of the story, you see how some of the smaller parts function. When you see that, you can extrapolate where they can go from here.

Is this a good way to write an entire screenplay? Not generally, as tunnel vision can set in and cause you to miss the opportunities that planning helps to create. But this technique can be used as part of a middle path between the control and planning of outlining and the unbridled creativity of just ripping through pages.

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