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Home » Archives » February 2006 » Avoid Chafing! Check That Outline!
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02/22/2006: Avoid Chafing! Check That Outline!

Back from my mini-vacation! Very refreshing! But it has gotten harder and harder to be out of touch with my life. I was emailing friends, getting calls on the cell phone, and feeling guilty about the times when I was genuinely unreachable. I recently changed vacation plans when I realized I'd have no internet access at my intended hotel. I couldn't face such a thing. Breathing is input, and increasingly, input is breathing.

When I was getting started as a writer, I sought out support, eager for the input of the other writers in the Disney fellowship. But I thought that as I moved out into genuine employment, that I would begin swimming on my own, with less and less input from friends as I learned more and more skills. But that hasn't been what has happened at all. I've actually become more collaborative as I've gone along.

When I was starting out I would NEVER have let a friend read an outline of mine. I would've felt like I wasn't ready to be judged until I had some kind of finished script -- that's the point at which the "idea" started to feel like an "entity." But once you're employed on a show, the outline is treated as an entity, too. Your show runner reads the outline and gives you notes. Then it is sent on to the studio and the network, and they have input too. You rewrite the outline until it's right. This process avoids lots of horrible huge changes after you've already fallen in love with dialogue. Even if I'm writing a spec pilot on my own, and have no boss, I will get input at the outline stage now.

If you have friends who know the show that you're specing, have them read your outline. Even if they're not writers, they are viewers, and they know if something feels like the show or not. This will encourage you to write a strong, clear outline, and it will help you catch story problems at an early stage. I know an outline feels like a private thing, and this is a little like bringing friends along to help pick out underpants, but if you can stand it, it can be really helpful. Have you ever regretted an underpants purchase? Then you know the kind of discomfort you'll be avoiding.

Okay. I think I'm finally done with story-and-outline stuff. Soon we'll get to dialogue! The fun stuff!

Lunch: A perfectly dreadful chicken wrap thing on the plane. The ingredients were fine, but they were wrapped in a flavorless white paste. Yuk!


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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