The Theory of Chaos

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How a writer processes temptation

If writing is sex, outlining is the foreplay. A man's got to train himself at it, but once he learns the value of it, hoo mama.

However, revising an outline is like videotaping your own foreplay and then analyzing it on Maddenvision. I don't know what the hell it is, but it sure ain't sexy.

I'm at that stage with this treatment I wrote last year. I hoped to give it a thorough revision while I gathered notes on the new screenplay and cleared out my head space so I could prepare to re-write it. It's not going well - I'm at that stage where every time I look at it I feel like I'm being punched in the forehead.

So when I'm lying on my bed, face pressed into the pages, tapping at the back of my head with my pen, this is the sort of conversation I have with myself:

Why am I writing this lousy idea?

You came up with it, and among the ideas you came up with, it was voted Most Likely To Make You a Great Deal of Money."

Yeah, but I don't love it.

You're just saying that now, because it's the least fun phase. You loved it when you were compiling raw story material, and once you start writing real pages you'll love it again."

Hmph. What makes you so sure?

Because you do this every time you outline."

I'm bored with all this prep - I should be writing from the gut. It'll be fresher that way.

Every screenplay you've written from the gut sucks."

Wow, little harsh there?

Well somebody had to say it - either it implodes because you don't know what the story is yet, or once it's down on paper it takes three times as long to revise because you were structuring on the fly and big chunks have to be ripped out now."

The new screenplay mixed outlining and gut, and people love it.

The first screenplay you outlined was the one you sold. That's all I'm saying."

It's a crappy idea and I'm a crappy writer.

Oh, now you're just being juvenile. You'll write the hell out of it. You know this world, you'll have a laugh on every page."


Oh I get it. You're trying to go off with some other project, aren't you?"


No, you're thinking about that novel again, the one you started outlining during Happy Hour at Islands!"

I was just messing around, honest. It's at the bottom of my priority list. Absolute bottom. We're on the same page here - write screenplays, make money. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

Oh, I hate it when you're glib. It's your passive-aggressive side."

Passive-aggressive? You're the one whapping my skull with a PEN.


  • I am quite certain Bob McKee has similar internal dialogues, with his trademark hubristic relish, the parties not feuding but uttering a nauseating array of endless hosannas.

    By Anonymous Michael De Luca, at 9:34 PM  

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