Updated: Jun 25, 2019
You gotta chase that darn rabbit, like a wild coyote after … well, you get the idea.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard regarding creative writing is the “follow your instincts” approach. When facing your first draft, you “jump down the rabbit holes” your mind leads you into.
When you chase rabbits, you may not end up with a coherent first draft. You might end up with a horrible mess of a story. Yet, within that mess, you’ll probably find the fodder for an original creative work.
For screenwriters, this principle again holds true. The problem for many screenwriters is that they seek THE FORMULA, a template, a guidebook, for how to structure a marketable story, perhaps forgetting or neglecting the most important aspect of creative writing: the fact that each story is your story, and great, original stories spring from a fertile writing process and your mental gristmill. You have to just grind it out, at least at first.
The fertility of your own creative writing process depends on how you cultivate your mind, and one of the best ways to cultivate your mind and your next story is to give it free reign to explore the potential within you and within it. You can’t lock your creativity in a box (a formula) and expect a breakthrough to something original and fresh.
Your potential as a screenwriter is released when you go for broke, when you let it all hang out there, when you explode and explore the possibilities for taking your story somewhere new and unexpected.
Structuring your story is the second step, not the first. The first step is following the rabbit trails of your creative writing mind and worldview, and thereby challenging yourself to come up with something special: a story only you can create.
Don’t worry if your first draft looks like a ton of slop. Till the soil and plant story seeds. In your second draft (your first coherent draft) those seeds will sprout into a wild garden, and in your third draft you can work on taming the wild garden. The goal, after all, is to grow something fresh and original out of your unique imagination and your craftsmanship as a filmmaker.