Reader Question: How do I know when I’ve done enough story prep and can start writing?

There’s no formula, no guideline. But there is your gut, your creative instincts.

The question came up with a writer I know who has spent several weeks breaking his story: How can you know when you’ve done enough prep work and can go to script? Below is my response.

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There’s no firm answer. Some stories and some writers at some times benefit from having a full-on scene-by-scene outline. Some stories and some writers at some times do not need to go all that way. Some writers actually benefit from having a number of unsolved story issues lying out there, teased by the mystery of how they’re going to resolve them. As screenwriter Liz W. Garcia said:

“Outlining is really tough work and it’s the necessary work that I loathe. It’s necessary so you don’t get lost while you’re writing the script. But, you have to have something left to discover during the writing process or you won’t be inspired. There won’t be any magic that happens.”

This is where you need to be in touch with your gut. Your creative instincts. If you really feel ready to type FADE IN, like if you look at one more bloody index card or re-chart your provisional outline yet again, you’re going to throw up. Or more positively, perhaps you can’t sleep because you are so thrilled about going to pages…

If that’s the case and you ask for my advice, I’d probably say, “Go with your feelings, Luke” (Obi-Wan Kenobi voice) and off you go to FADE IN.

That said, don’t be deceived by other voices deriving not from your creativity, but that part of you which works to undercut your writing. It can seem to be your guy, but in actuality, those voices are trying to get you to slough off on your story prep knowing that will probably hurt your writing project.

It takes some solid intuition to discern which is your gut and which are voices out to undermine your creativity.

Whatever you decide, factor this into your equation: Once you type FADE IN, you absolutely must commit yourself to reaching FADE OUT. No excuses.

Get the damn thing done!

So sorry, there is no clear cut answer. My advice: Get in touch with your gut. Let that be your guide.

Final Note: Story prep IS writing. It may not be page-writing, but it is writing.

GITS readers, any advice? Head to comments and let us hear from you.

For 100s more Go Into The Story Reader Questions, go here.

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