hello everyone:
I have been a silent observer of this group for too long. Lots of interesting posts and great information from people who seem to really know what they (you) are talking about. I honestly have gained a lot from the things I have read here (particularly the Castaway Wilson/Degrees Of discussion).
But now it's my turn to speak. I'll try to make it short:

I'm a new, inexperienced screenwriter who has 16 years experience in the film industry as a Production Designer/Art Director. But I have come to understand that the power really lies with the Writer, and I want to start to tell my OWN stories. I've taken UCLA screenwriting classes and others, McKee seminars, etc.
I am working on a historical drama screenplay, and have done mounds of research on my topic. My question is this: Do you more experienced folks out there have any methods using index cards, post-it notes or whatever to organize your thought and research and start boiling it all down into a cohesive story? I am developing my own, only because I've never actually read anything on the topic (other than a few brief paragraphs in McKee's "Story"). What methods have you found in terms of filing or organization of thoughts, etc. that have helped you keep it all straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

Thanks
bexrex
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I am working on a historical drama screenplay, and have done mounds of research on my topic. My question is ... of thoughts, etc. that have helped you keep it all straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

I don't believe there is a single magic bullet that works for all writers. You've got to find the tools that suit the way you think and work. You've got to know how much of the story you want to carry in your head, and how much of it you want to actually see.

I've tried outlining on 3x5 cards, but found that by the time I have enough information to put on the cards, I'm usually ready to start typing an outline. Flipping through the cards isn't enough of an aid to my thinking. What might be useful is writing scenes on cards and pinning them to a cork-board where I can see them all at once and move them around. Now that I've got a bigger home office I might try that for the next story I start.
In the meantime what I prefer to use is a very concise, single sheet of paper. The two sheets I use are either 1) a special story-outline form I hoisted from Richard Krevolin's book "Screenwriting From The Soul", or
2) a sushi menu.

The sushi menu I cribbed from my favorite sushi restaurant. It's got 60 items on it so, if you turn it over, that gives you 60 faint lines you can use to describe 60 2-minute scenes. It's a nice, concise thing to carry in a pocket while I'm fiddling with ideas and structure. Once I finish off a pad of menus I go back to Neo, at Broadway & 84th Street for another one.
The Richard Krevolin chart is here
http://www.schmuckwithanunderwood.com/stepchart.pdf. It's sort of self-explanatory, but it makes much more sense if you read his book first. The chart is sort of predicated on the idea that you need to nail down your theme, and articulate it concisely before you start writing. It's probably not the single best book on screenwriting, but it's accessible, and I got a lot out of it.
Good luck with your story.
Alan Brooks
~~
A with an Underwood
Break a lead.

I am working on a historical drama screenplay, and have ... straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

I don't believe there is a single magic bullet that works for all writers. You've got to find the tools ... of the story you want to carry in your head, and how much of it you want to actually see.

Well hmph. If you read my books you'd know about software that helps do this for you like Inspiration (www.inspiration.com) or Storyview (www.screenplay.com) but since you're so uninformed you didn't buy the book now you won't know about them, ha!
(recommended competitor mention snipped)

The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.

Theodore Roosevelt
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What methods have you found in terms of filing or organization of thoughts, etc. that have helped you keep it all straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me? Thanks bexrex

Welcome, bexrex. (You sound like a corporation. I trust that you aren't one though.)
My "system" for keeping my "research" "organized" is a very simple one. (TM simple. I invented it.)
One computer file folder for each movie story project. (At least 2 bkups.)
One "real world" (you know, meat space?) file in a "real world" file cabinet for any "real world" "research" for each movie story project.

Since I'm a bit prone to "organizing the world" (but not in a bad way... ), I tend to go for simplicity and clarity as being key things in my screenwriting endeavors.
Leaves you more time to work on the real "nut" of the movie story.

Works for me anyway.
Some people like the 3x5 cards. I tried working with them, but like Alan, found they were a not for me. A bit too cumbersome. I always had to carry around a little box. Carry a slightly larger box, and you've got a computer! With everything you need to write the story.

Just try stuff you think will work for your particular way of working. If it sticks, it's yours. If it doesn't, then you're free to try more stuff.
Good luck on your script!
Doug
"Meat space been berry, berry good to me."
"Sometimes you gotta say goodbye to the things you know, and hello to the things you don't."
Steve McQueen in "The Reivers
hello everyone: I have been a silent observer of this group for too long. Lots of interesting posts and great ... of thoughts, etc. that have helped you keep it all straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

An old respected indian once told me a story that impressed me, and haunted me, and made me rethink many facets of my pointless life. I don't know how they do it, these Indian storytellers. But I do know one thing, they don't need post-its.
A good story is a good story. If you can think of one, and write it down properly, engagingly, nothing else matters.
Know what I mean, jellybean?
Software cannot improve inspiration, nor underlying storytelling talent or passion. But it can definitely improve the profits of the company that sells it.
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Now THIS dude knows what he's talkin' about. Except I ain't quite sure what the berry meat thing means.
I am working on a historical drama screenplay, and have done mounds of research on my topic. My question is ... of thoughts, etc. that have helped you keep it all straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

You can read a lot of articles in magazines and hear a lot of advice from screenwriters who will tell you exactly how to go about writing your screenplay. It's ***, and if you want proof, just read more than one of those articles because they all say different things. Only you can know how to write your screenplay.
But if you want me to give a little rundown of my own process, okay. The last script I wrote, I did no research for, because it all took place in the environment I grew up in (and still live in) and was well within my expertise. There was a wedding scene, so I spent a few minutes online looking at samples of wedding vows so I could get some ideas, but that's it.
For a script that involves some actual research (like the one I'm working on now, which is going to take a boatload), I believe in total immersion. It's highly impractical, but I need to feel like I have a complete mastery of every aspect of the script so I'm in total control. I keep a big notebook and just write down anything that I think might be important, and I bookmark all the relevant websites I find, but mostly I'm just filling my head with as much information as possible. I may only use 5-10% of the stuff I learn (maybe even less), but that's just the way I work. Besides, I actually find the learning process quite fun. I'm learning all kinds of interesting stuff about Pakistan, China, freighter cruises, and missionary work right now. Emotion: wink

My writing process takes place pretty much entirely away from the computer and the written page. I work it all out in my head. When I feel I have a good grasp on it, I write a sequence outline about a page long describing the major events. A few days later, I do a step outline on the computer describing every scene from beginning to end; just a basic rundown of about 10-12 pages. By then, the story is pretty much done. I've done all the creative work so it's time to begin the actual writing, which basically consists of dictating the scenes from my head into Movie Magic Screenwriter, as well as working out the dialogue more specifically.
This process means that I'm never sitting in front of the computer waiting for inspiration to strike. By the time I sit down to write, it has already struck and been nurtured, at a time and place much more conducive to creativity than my computer desk. This could be anywhere, from a bus stop to sitting in a park to taking a shower. I never experience writer's block. Not that I don't have* it. I just don't really *experience it, because I'm basically always ready - 24/7 - to "create" (i.e. write, but without the pen). When it's not happening, it's just like a normal day that happens to have been void of any inspiration. This, of course, sucks in its own right, but it doesn't feel nearly as bad as the descriptions of writer's block I've heard.

While I'm doing the first draft, I'm also going back and doing minor revisions*, and making little notes on my step outline from time to time about scenes coming up. Revisions are quick, basically consisting of cleaning up messy dialogue and spotting errors.
I've read all kinds of crap about how after your first draft, you should immediately cut 30 pages worth. Or that you should have your special place to write and always write a certain amount of time, or pages, every day (even if it means just sitting there). Or that you can't touch your script for two weeks after you've written your first draft. Or that you should just ignore research and make interesting stuff up instead. Blah, blah, blah. I used to get caught up in that stuff. Not anymore. No one can tell me how to write my script, and I can't tell you how to write yours.
*Supposedly you're never supposed to do this. You're "supposed" to do the creating in the first draft, and the revisions only afterwards. But like I said, the creative work has already been done at this point. Besides, I've never bought into the idea that the right brain and left brain have to work completely indepently anyway. I find they can work together quite harmoniously. Of course, I'm a pianist, and they say playing a Bach fugue is one of the best workouts you can get for working the two sides of the brain simultaneously, so maybe it's from all that practice.

Stephen Mack
"Nobody's smart enough to be wrong all the time." -Ken Wilber
I am working on a historical drama screenplay, and have ... straight? Is there a magic bullet? Will it shoot me?

You can read a lot of articles in magazines and hear a lot of advice from screenwriters who will tell ... workouts you can get for working the two sides of the brain simultaneously, so maybe it's from all that practice.

This brings up an interesting point. Lots of the important things - such as whole new scenes or turning points and characters that change roles - come to me in bed, walking the dog, watching a football match or whatever. I don't sit in front of the computer waiting either. The computer is used to make the pieces stick together more than anything else.

M
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