“You just muscle it out”

Advice on writing the first draft from writer-director Darren Aronofsky.

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Starting Saturday, September 1, we will launch the 2018 September Zero Draft Thirty Challenge. Participants have a simple goal: Write a story from beginning to end in 30 days. Screenplay or teleplay. It’s like NaNoWriMo for screenwriting. This quote below comes from writer-director Darren Aronofsky whose film credits include Pi, The Wrestler, and Black Swan.

“First you start with an idea, then you start to flesh out the structure, and that’s a long process. I think that’s where we spend a lot of time, just figuring out the structure… all the acts… the beats of the story. And then comes the great leap which is the first draft, I call it ‘the muscle draft,’ where you just muscle it out. You don’t worry about what you’re missing, you just get through it, get to the end… You find that a lot of novice screenwriters will spend years on the first act and it’ll turn into the best first act in the world, but you need to have the whole picture. I think I read an interview with George Lucas saying that the best advice he got from Coppola was, ‘Just get through it.’”

There’s a lot of ‘meat’ here [or seitan for our vegan friends], so let’s break it down:

  • “First you start with an idea, then you start to flesh out the structure, and that’s a long process. I think that’s where we spend a lot of time, just figuring out the structure… all the acts… the beats of the story.” This is prep-writing, a critical aspect of the process. I keep hammering on its importance because it is important. Don’t take my word. Take Aronofsky’s!

When it comes to a first draft, the focus has to be on getting it written. As Aronofsky says:

“You just muscle it out.”

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The official hashtag for the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge.

If you want motivation to pound out a screenplay or teleplay? Join hundreds of other writers for the 2018 September Zero Draft Thirty Challenge by checking out the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook group. I started it in November 2015 for the first Zero Draft Thirty Challenge. It’s 3K+ members strong and a great partner to what we do here at Go Into The Story.

Hope to see you there!

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