Keith Snyder
Door always open.

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Okay, I don't have to kill myself

A story is a sequence of events linked causally, but told linearly. A wall of index cards represents causal flow pretty well, but it can fool you into thinking you're looking at a linear sequence of events, which you're not.

So the index cards got transcribed onto a three-column outline (the columns are plot, character, and a certain important maguffin's latest location, because trying to keep track of where it was, who knew it, and who knew they knew it was giving me hives). Once forced into linear order, these "beats" got numbered; then the beats that already existed in the first draft as full scenes got scissored out and taped together in the new order, with placeholder notes where new scenes have to be written (no computer cut-and-paste--it doesn't work as well for structure). The leftovers went into the trash, with a few set aside for reintegration along the way.

Then the three-column outline, itself, got Xeroxed, cut into its individual beats, and attached to the corresponding scenes. The result: A stumbling Frankenstein of a script, ugly but functional, with structure intention notes taped to every limb and organ.


This went next to the laptop, and I started typing it over in a fresh Final Draft document. Again, no cut-and-paste; strictly re-keying from scratch, a technique I learned from Michael Seidman that turned out to be necessary for the success of the last third of THE NIGHT MEN.

I'm now on page 11 of the rewrite, and this is working. The scissor-and-tape version is 80% of the first draft's length, it makes more sense, it's more focused, and all the best parts are still there.

A lot of writers resist killing their darlings. The more darlings I can back against a wall and slaughter, the happier I am. The hard part is figuring out where to put the wall.

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