Here are the eleven steps to cracking any story:
1. IDEA: A stage of over-confidence in which the screenwriter believes the seed of an idea that just popped into his or her head will make a good story and that the idea itself is so compelling that “this script will practically write itself.”
2. BEGINNING THE OUTLINE: The part where the writer realizes he bit off more than he could chew.
3. COMPLETING THE OUTLINE: A rush of energy as the writer realizes the hard work is completed. This will, indeed, be a great script. Based on this outline, “This script will practically write itself.”
4. REVIEWING THE OUTLINE A DAY LATER: The point at which the writer realizes he or she was a bit hasty and the story might be a little routine, lack sufficient development, and need just a tweak or two. The writer revises.
5. BEGINNING PAGES: The point at which the writer realizes he or she is a complete fraud, knows nothing about writing, and should be laughed at and chastised for even trying.
6. REOUTLINING: A laborious chore akin to torture during which everything the writer thought was working is thrown out and painstakingly replaced with much thought, self-doubt, struggle, stress, lost sleep and depression.
7. BEGINNING PAGES AGAIN: The point at which the writer now knows for certain he or she is a complete fraud, but by now has too much invested to turn back. A depressing journey into an awareness of one’s limitations.
8. GETTING TO THE MID-POINT OF THE SCRIPT: The point at which the writer believes “there’s only part of the second act and then the third act to go. The rest of this script will virtually write itself.”
9. COMPLETING THE PAGES: Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the writer picks up speed, gains greater stamina, writes more pages, and completes the first draft.
10. REVIEWING THE PAGES: The writer tosses out the third act, realizing that “picking up speed” might not be the best way to complete a script.
11. REWRITING THE THIRD ACT: The writer relaxes, starts rewriting the third act and realizes the problem with the third act is that the first two acts don’t work. The writer tosses the entire script in the trash, prepares a noose, and – just before swinging – musters up the energy to start again.
Repeat as necessary….