Outline or no outline, Part Two

Here’s the “weird reason” I wound up writing The Story Store without outlining. To begin with, the title came to me in a dream.

In my dream, I was sitting across a desk from Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) in what I guess was her office. She put down a script of mine she was reading, turned to me and said, “This is pretty good. Did you write it?”

I got all snippy and replied, “No. I got it from the Story Store.”

Many people don’t know this: a question writers are often asked, is, “where do you get your ideas?” Writers sometimes answer, “why, where everyone else gets them. The Story Store,” or “the writers store,” “the idea shop,” or somewhere similar. It’s a gag, not a real place.

Still half-asleep, the story of The Story Store started to fill my head. I got up and wrote fifteen pages of notes. The next day, I wrote more notes. Alex, my main character, popped up in my head as if he’s always been there. Sara, Mr. Crumley, and Benedict the writer, they all just came to me, like unexpected but welcome guests.

I couldn’t NOT start writing it.

Still, it felt like driving at night with no headlights. I got nervous, especially on days when I couldn’t think of what to write next. I wrote endless notes, started two or three outlines, created timelines for my characters, and made lists of events as I thought of them.

Nothing worked.

Lacking an order for my events, I often wound up writing a scene, or several scenes, as separate documents. It was like designing my own jigsaw puzzle, but without having the complete picture. I’d decide where they were supposed to fit in later.

Some of them fit into the Recycle Bin.

But, in the end, I had a book, and a lot of outtakes for the director’s cut. And 35,000 words of notes.

The book I’ve started writing now – working title, “When We Dream, Where Do We Go?” – is beginning life as an outline. I’ll see how it goes.