Posted May 22, 2023 at 11:13 am

As I’ve been saying, you should think of your outline as a map. This map shows you ​one way to get from The Beginning to The End with some interesting stuff along the way. But writing​ the story is the actual journey. Do not confuse the two! While writing you’ll come across detours and unexpected delights or complications that you could never anticipate when you were making the outline. Don’t be afraid of them!

“Oh, it would be so cool to do X, but the outline​ says I have to do Y instead, oh well.”

Hey, you wrote that outline. It’s not the boss of you. Take that detour! Try that different scene! Blow up this conversation with a different line of questions or an actual explosion! Whatever! See what happens!

These alternatives might turn out to be better than what you originally planned but you’ll never know until you ​check them out.​ There’s no way to know if this new path kinda sucks or if it'll become the best thing about the whole damn script until you try it. So, y’know, try it. And if it sucks, who cares, your map will show you how to get back on track and continue the journey.

Here’s one way I give myself permission to be receptive to the new ideas and alternative paths that crop up as I’m writing. Let’s take ATOMIC ROBO AND THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA #1​ for example. The filename for the script goes like this...


Pretty simple. “Volume 13, Issue 1.” Let me know if I’m going too fast!

Okay but let’s say we’re 18 pages into writing this 22 page script. And because of some random line of dialog here on Page 18, I’ve come up with a great ​new​ way to end this issue that's completely different from what was in the outline. AND​ I’ll have to change some stuff as far back as Page 15 so the continuity lines up.​ And, one more problem, I’m not quite convinced we’ll be able to pull off this new idea while ​also​ establishing all the beats our readers need in this issue for the rest of the series to make sense.

What do I do?

Dare I risk abandoning the original outline and ripping up some solid pages just to follow a whim that I'm only half-convinced might work? No, that’d be stupid.

But it’s ​also​ stupid not to give it a try! So here’s what I do.

FILE —> SAVE AS —> v13_01​a​.doc


Now the original draft is isolated off to the side while I'm working from a brand new fresh file. No matter how badly I butcher this thing I will always have the unscathed original to fall back upon if necessary.

Trust me on this: ​stick with letters​. Go from filenameA to filenameB to C and so on. They’re much easier to parse than something like v13_01.3.1.2 vs v13_01.3.2. And let us ​never again allow a file name as cursed as v13_01final_ver2_new_final_alt_FINAL ever see the light of day. You've got 26 letters. It's unlikely you will need more than 26 distinct drafts. And if you do, just go from Z to AA, AB, AC, etc. But also maybe think about a different story at this point.

Anyway, creating a fresh draft is also handy when an idea crops up while writing, say, Issue 4 but it needs like six things changed way back in Issue 2 and four things changed in Issue 3 to make sure all the continuity works out properly.

That’s a lot of tinkering across multiple files! It’s kinda scary! What if I do all that and hate it? New drafts! If it changes (or ruins!) the flow, or the end product of all these changes isn't as elegant as the original, or they create new unsolvable problems I couldn’t anticipate until I got my hands in the dough and only then realized the salt was actually arsenic...who cares! All those crazy changes are on completely different files and I can go back to the original versions at any point. No harm, no foul!

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