In reflection as my dream of being a full-time writer, I have many dreams of various mediums (prose, screenplays, poetry, comics, etc.). However, at one point I was like, “damn. I’m far too wrapped up in the little details. There’s not story here, just ideas and archetypes that may or may not fit together.” Needless to say a brother was most frustrated with the process of learning multiple techniques on writing. What a brother also failed to do as he was caught up is listen to his instincts.
If not listening to my instincts was a lesson I needed to learn, well then I missed the boat a few times. May times I decided that the best route was to comply and be like everyone else. Many times this lesson crossed my path, and I ignored it. Well now I’m at a point where I’ve learned a lot of the rules when it comes to writing. No two professors are alike, and that is a challenge.
For example, when I took fiction writing as an undergrad, we learned to “write it out.” You don’t edit as you go along (you will be stuck on page one till doomsday), and you for sure didn’t know everything your characters did or will do. It’s a trip of discovery. You feel your way through situations. Characters have epiphanies, and that’s a wonderful experience. I love that about prose. We are artists trying to find our way. It is only after completing that first draft that you go back and edit.
By contrast screenwriting classes in graduate school have been about using the book The Writer’s Journey, which is a great tool by the way. I am by no means dissing it. I still have and use my copy. I’ve been taught that if you don’t resolve your ideas in the planning stages, then your story will fail. Also there’s a commercial side to screenwriting for film and television. A brother was hard pressed to find a situation where the artistic side won over the commercial. Not that my scripts couldn’t be both artistic and commercial, but it was a clear case of what side the bread was buttered on. You must be able to sell your scripts.
I took several classes in writing of fiction and nonfiction, and found with each professor there are different techniques I’ve picked up. I have found some common grounds too. There is definitely a high advantage to learning the three-act (and sometimes four-act) structure. There is a mild difference in all the mediums. An article is not a screenplay, neither is a short story, and so forth. Knowing the differences matter. There is also an advantage to understand how some characters have archetypes they are based on. Even further, formatting scripts and stories in a professional manner is more than a must.
Now comes the fact that I must reconcile all of these techniques. What works, and what doesn’t. This has been a bit of a struggle for me. I have so many techniques in my queue and I didn’t know how to apply them without my internal censor going off.
I need to write things out. My instinct tells me to get the idea out of my head and onto paper first. Only then can I look at The Writer’s Journey, or any other tool I use for writing a story. There have been scenes so clear in my mind’s eye that I needed to write them without hesitation. It needs fine tuning, of course, but I will say that I’m doing all the things I need in order to get the story done.
It’s clear to me that there is no right or wring way to complete your story. For me it has been the accumulation of different ideas and techniques. A learning experience. Only after having so many varied concepts/teachings can I now look back on the things I need in order to advance my creative writing. Who’s to say I won’t learn another way to write. After all I have multiple books on screenwriting at my disposal.
I will say its time to move from theory to practice. Also I need to stop ignoring my instinct.