Now, the title sorta screams, “Duh!” We all know that they’re needed for marketing a story, selling it, etc. Here’s the thing that I’ve known for some time, but have failed to put into practice. They’re necessary as a writing tool. As proud as I am of the latest draft of my sci-fi spec, I’m finding little areas that need improvement as I work on this
piece of crap treatment. Little things that fell through the cracks, things that didn’t even occur to me in the heat of blasting out my action and dialogue. Little bits of missing story logic coming up in the treatment and it’s giving me the opportunity to make a quick note or two in a separate file I’ve marked down as a “to do” list before I submit the script. I’ve always known that I should try to work on a treatment before, or while writing the screenplay, but now it’s something I can appreciate. The scary thing is, I think I need to try writing more than one at different stages.
Before sitting down to write my next screenplay, I want to take a stab at a treatment. Just a quick compilation of my notes and outline in prose form. Then I want to update it as I write the script. The hope here is to be able to look at the original version, and the updated one, for a quick painless tweak and presto: marketing tool.
But after today’s brief stab at the treatment before going to work at my day job, I know it’s not going to be that simple. The reason a treatment is an invaluable revision tool AFTER I’ve written the screenplay is because I’m not “in it” as I read and write. I’ve got some distance from the script which gives me a different perspective. Now, another contributing factor could also be that I have gotten some distance from the script since I haven’t worked on it in about a month, but something about the process of writing a treatment, I suspect, forces a different perspective. And I think that’s because it’s a different way of writing.
I’m not at all suggesting that this is how the pros do it. How the hell do I know? Besides, everyone will tell you they have their own process. This is just an idea, a theory I thought I’d share. And let’s dispense with the industry jargon to further that different perspective: If you’re plugging away at your script or novel or whatever, and you want to know how the bigger picture is shaping out, try summarizing it in prose or outline as you go along and include what you’ve already written. You may be surprised at what’s there. Good or bad, you’ll definitely be ahead of the game for your first (or next) revision.