If you’ve faithfully done your due diligence with your pre-draft exploratory work on character backstories, discovering their voices, and working out an initial plot outline for your whole story, there comes a point when you find yourself as prepared as you’ll ever be to make the initial plunge into draft.

When that’s where you find yourself in the process, there are a number of things to keep in mind as you face page one.  And one of the most important is what I call “the spontaneity factor.”

The benefit of having done thorough pre-draft work, including a rather detailed plot outline or treatment of your story, is that you have gotten to know your traveling companions quite well and you’ll be departing with them on your journey with a road map beside you that guarantees a route to the final destination.  And this gives you the freedom–the permission–to let your characters talk you into getting off the pre-planned route and explore any number of side roads that may materialize.

There’s no law that says you have to adhere to the route you’ve charted out.  If and when your characters prompt a change in your course, let them have their way.  Welcome the unexpected and explore every impulse.  You want things to happen that are total surprises.  Your people may do things that will shock you.  And you should always be encouraged when they seemingly take over, leading the story in a new direction.  This shows that they have life and vitality in the world you’ve placed them in.

The beauty is that your road map is still there on the seat beside you when and if you do get lost.  It’s   still available when your traveling companions agree with you that it’s time to push on toward your final destination.  It’ll help show you how to get your party back to the main road or figure out an alternate route that will still get the group where it eventually needs to go.  The point is that writing the first draft should be an adventure and spontaneity is a key factor in allowing it to come fully to life.

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I’m the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Our last residency just ended, running from January 6-15, and we are currently accepting applications for starting the program with our June 2017 residency running from June 23-July 2.  I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright’s Process.

You can follow me on Twitter @eitherorfilms or @mfastagescreen.  I’m also on Facebook at buzzmclaughlinscriptconsulting