I have been doing NaNoWriMo for many many years and I LOVE it. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve created a new course all about writing a novel in a month, it’s called
FROM NOTHING TO NOVEL and it’s going to get you from the blank page to a completed novel in just a month—now, you will need to revise said novel–but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered because included in my new course, is a special bonus on revisions. AND, since I run a concierge service for writers, you know I will give you lots of options for courses, workshops, and books on revising that I KNOW you will LOVE. Find out more here https://www.stephaniebourbon.com/from-nothing-to-novel
I’m super excited about this course because after spending the summer with writers and talking to writers of all genres and levels finishing a novel seems to be the thing that they need the most help with and since writing a draft fast is my JAM, I created this course.
I also blog about it on my OTHER BLOG—I know I know, I have more than one blog–I’m a writing slut that way. LOL for lack of a better term.
In film and especially television writing the “beat sheet” is something that is needed to show your showrunner or director the beats of the script so they can approve the story before you spend hours and hours writing it.
It helps them “see” it. It also helps you see the big picture.
The beat sheet is an outline of your story in beats. What happens in the story beat by beat.
You open your notebook, notecards, or even Word/Scrivener (I like to use Scrivener for this) and literally write out the beats like this.
Scene 1–this happens
Scene 2–this happens
Now, you may not know what happens in perfect order–so then just write what you want to happen out. This is why I love using post-its and or notecards and the stickies in Scrivener
Scene-character finds out….
Scene–character makes this decision
If you are doing it this way, leave the scene # out until you figure it out.
Most novels have roughly 66 scenes
When you are writing them out you are making a narrative plan for your story.
Remember that every scene/beat moves the story forward. When you sit down to write your story you should always think of what is happening now and going to happen at the end.
In novels, it’s always the end of the current book for your beat sheets. In television-it’s always the end of your current episode, unless you are working on your series bible and that’s a horse of a different color–but uses a lot of the same principals here.
For a screenplay, it’s like a novel–your beats take the characters from A–the beginning to Z-the end.
Example. You are writing a story about a man who wins the lottery but must spend it all in a week without giving it away in order to prove his love to the woman he loves–or something like that-just making this up as I go for this purpose.
So your rough beats may go something like (this is when you are just figuring it out)
Scene–man goes into work
Scene–man buys lotto ticket
Scene–woman he loves tells him that all he cares about is money
Scene–he makes a plan to prove to her that he doesn’t care
Scene–man wins lottery
Scene–woman tells him he must spend it all in a certain amount of time
Scene-man buys a house
Scene-man buys a plane
Scene-time is running out scene
Scene-man proves his love
Something like that—you would start with.
your character—this is the first beat sheet.
Harry Potter lives under the stairs
Harry Potter discovers he’s a wizard
Harry Potter defeats Voldermort
(basically book one–this is what happens)
If you want to write a love story, like a rom com it’s the same.
Harry and Sally meet and drive to New York together
Harry and Sally become friends 10 years later
Harry and Sally get together
then you go back and fill it all in.
I use the beat sheet method when I know where I’m going-as I generally am not an outliner-but it works and helps keep me on track.
Why and how to put into action for story planning.
WHY–to get organized and see the story and if it is even something that will work.
HOW–that’s up to you. You can use Word/Scrivener/Contour/Save the Cat on a computer
You can use a notebook or notecards, post its.
Just get it done so you have a road map for your story.
Then you can start drafting.
You can either do the beat sheet PRE or POST writing.
You use it PRE/before drafting to avoid things like writing in circles and having the story go no where.
You use it POST/revisions to fix story issues that you may be having.
There is no right or wrong way here.
For me, I like to pants it out for novels or screenplays with just an idea in my head first but always, and I mean ALWAYS, use beat sheets for making sure that it’s all working nicely.
I highly recommend Save the Cat, and Story Fix both will help you with the concept of using beat sheets. Contour software has specific examples of the hero’s journey on films well known and loved so you can see the beats and calls to action for your main character.
I have a new course for novelists called FROM NOTHING TO NOVEL and I’m inviting you to sign up now before Oct 1, 2020 to get a special thank you gift from me.
Forget About Being a Great Writer and Focus on Story First
Have you ever picked up a book that has been on the bestseller list for months and months and the author is all over the publishing news because all the movie deals coming in and how rich they are—and then the writing is bad, like really bad, and you think—WTF???Yup–been there, done that. Have you ever gone to the movies and so many things are wrong and yet the film is bringing in millions and millions and you cringe at the story mistakes? Yup–been there, done that.
This has been my philosophy for as long as I can remember.
There is nothing wrong with being great with words or wordsmithing. I admit, it’s not my thing, but if you allow it to get in the way of the story, that is where you will have problems.
The reason is that people come to you for the story not the words.
STORY IS ALWAYS FIRST.
The words should come LAST.
The sequence of writing a novel should go something like this.
NEW FULL DRAFT– I do this from memory with a blank page.
REVISIONS on story, character, at the chapter level.
Then workshop it.
Then critique group.
Then if you are really sure this is the best version of your story you get to line edit. (usually about the 8th or 9th revision)
Sounds like a lot of work right?
Yup, it is.
Writing novels is hard.
Think of it this way, if you were to make a wedding cake, you finish with the tiny details you start with the eggs, flour, sugar, etc.
It’s the same with your story.
Now, for the screen and TV writers out there, this is the same for you.
if you waste your time writing clever dialogue, scenes, and jokes but the story isn’t working, your movie or your episode will most likely suck.
Why? Because story always needs to be first. Great sentences and super clever jokes won’t and can’t carry a story.
I STRONGLY recommend the below two books by Lisa Cron-they are game-changers.
WIRED FOR STORY & STORY GENIUS
They will help you get to the root of your story and the exercises she has are invaluable
EXERCISE Make a list of your top ten favorite books or movies (or both) and then write down what you love about it. I bet ya, it’s the story. It may be all the clever jokes or the witty dialogue but at the end of it, it’s probably the story. Example–THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN–very funny, lots of hilarity–but why do we love this movie? The STORY is solid. The character has a want and a need that isn’t happening for him until he is forced to change. Another example is the GILMORE GIRLS--talk about your witty dialogue but is that why you tuned in? Nope, it was the story of a mother and a daughter in a small town. The witty dialogue was just the flower on the icing on the cake. One more. TWILIGHT. Is the writing brilliant? Is she a wordsmith? No, but the story of two teens in love and one of them having a dark secret that is dangerous is one we know and instantly want to know more. Also, 50 SHADES OF GREY.
Now, are you ready to make your STORY stand out?
I know that you are. It’s hard because it’s been drilled into our heads that we have to be these perfect writers to be successful but honestly, that’s part of it but more importantly is the STORY.
Don’t forget that.
Then pretty words.
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