Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Treatment Blitz

I believe in treatments. Writing treatments got me started as a screenwriter. Ages ago, I read a book called Writing Treatments That Sell
by Kenneth Atchity and Chi-Li Wong and this was where I started, before ever attempting a script.
Definition: A treatment tells the story. As opposed to a synopsis that describes the story.
For creative writing in general, I'm not big on outlining. I'd rather write the cliffhanger way, where I'm always sweating because I don't know what's going to happen next. But I would not like to attempt a screenplay without a roadmap.

Who wouldn't love to have the legendary experience of Sylvester Stallone writing Rocky, where he locked himself in a room and wrote the script in three days? I always assume he wrote from gut-level passion for that one, with no treatment in sight. Maybe I'll try it once like that. But later, after I've finished more scripts.

The story for my first script came to me out of nowhere when I looked at the painting on the cover of a book my husband bought. Not knowing the first thing about screenplay formatting, writing the story first was the most accessible way for me to get started. And though much of the marketing advice in Writing Treatments That Sell was years premature for me, the template for writing a three-act treatment was not.

I'm not normally a template person. The only other time I've tried to use a template was to write a pitch for my first script based on a template from Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge. I followed the Hauge process faithfully but felt scummier and scummier as I did so. It all felt so fake, I couldn't go through with it.

From that, I learned a valuable lesson. Take what works for me, what feels right for me, and ignore the rest.

So far, the Atchity & Wong three-act template has helped me finish five treatments—including one blitz where I wrote three in a row in a short timeframe. The object of that exercise was to have a variety of genres to show when a friend offered to share the treatment for my finished script with his producer friend. (see Writer Discovered While Waitressing)

I'm about to start my sixth treatment today. It's not that I need a mountain of treatments before attempting my second script. It was a process of figuring out which story I want to commit to next. Murphy's Law! It turned out to be the one I'd written notes for in December but not the treatment.

My intuition is telling me this is the story to go with next. But if I'm listening to the wrong voices, writing the treatment will let me know.

Today's treatment will start with the usual fear: the one whispering that I won't know how to execute my story. But that's just part of the terrain. If I falter, I can look at a Tweet I made on @fearofwriting yesterday:
“Stop waiting for permission. Stop looking for a magic formula, a special book, an inspiring moment. Just do it!” ~ FoW student @janesedixon

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