I was lost in the abyss. At least the abyss also known as the Second Act. I’m in the midst of drafting a screenplay that I was commissioned to write and my deadline is quickly approaching. Before starting the script I wrote a loose outline so that I know the major plot points and how the movie ends, but filling it in with interesting scenes that drive a compelling story is where I was stuck.
I had all of these fragments floating around in my head as to what came next but they became so convoluted that it was causing inertia, which is exactly the opposite of what needed to happen with a looming deadline and a very patient producer waiting for a delivered, that being, an exceptionally delivered, finished script. I needed a more detailed guideline than the loose outline, something to help me sort out what comes next, kind of like a GPS to get me back to where I want to go. I needed a beat sheet.
According to Screenwriting Consultant Extraordinaire Pilar Alessandra of On The Page, “a beat sheet helps you organize seemingly random scenes into one 'beat' of story. Group those beats together and a bigger 'movie' emerges.” She says when the “beats line up, actually making some kind of sense, they tell one story.” Pilar shared with me her smart “Eight Beat Feature Structure” and I plugged my seemingly mess of a project into it and… Voila, I’m back on track!
It got me thinking about how often the same thing can happen in life. We can be floating along with maybe a loose idea of where we’re heading on a project, or a career path, or a health plan. And, then we hit a roadblock or are faced with a myriad of options for our next step, or maybe we’re just in a rut of daily routine that starts to suffocate our thoughts and actions.
What do we do next? How do we get moving in the right direction or get out of the rut? Sound familiar?
Next time you’re faced with this kind of stalemate, stale moment or abyss of the mind, perhaps take some time and create your own beat sheet, or GPS, for the project, a career move, or yearend goal.
- Write down your End Goal – what’s the end result you’re after
- Break that down further into Time Beats – give yourself mini-goals to hit on the way to your end goal
- Give each time beat a Theme or a Name – if it’s a 6-month goal, give each time frame beat its own identity, such as First Steps, Action, Mid-point Success, Renewed Strategy, Overcoming Final Obstacles, Final Push & Accomplishment.
- Build in anticipated conflict/obstacles – being prepared for what can come up is not only smart, but can be fun too. Then, when you see it coming you can head it off at the pass.
Pilar also says that “sometimes we group the events in our lives this way. We refer to 'the wedding' or 'the move' or 'the accident.' String these together and you’ll see the timeline of your life.”