Peggy Bechko on Writing Without Boundaries

Um, it’s a map, without borderlines. Get it? An outline without boundaries.

 by Peggy Bechko

All right screenwriters, TV writers and writers of all stripes. Have you ever thrown all concepts of structure to the wind, all outlining directives out and just written something on the fly?

Really. I recommend it. For a while forget the novel ‘structure’, forget the 3-act structure. Forget all those rules and directives you’ve been told and have been following.

Just sit down with an idea and write…and write…and write.

Complete a short story, a script, a novel without restricting yourself.

Result might be great! Could be crap.

But here’s the thing. It’s a very freeing thing to do. I’ve done it many times and many times from that effort sprang a published book or in a couple of cases an optioned script. Yes, I had to go back to tweak the said piece of writing.

I had to do a thorough edit and find all the places that things kind of went off on a track of their own. But the core was good. It was solid and the story great. And I was winging it the entire time through the first draft. Whohoo!

Only notes I had were ones I’d made along the way that let me keep track of characters, what they were doing, their appearance, their goals. No outline other than a rough sketch of a story idea that evolved as I wrote. Writing this way made the characters clearer in my mind. The story fell into line with what was, for me, amazing ease. This is the ultimate spill your guts onto the page with no restriction.

In the end it might not be something you can use. But, then again, it just might. And writing like this is a way of breaking all the rules and opening up new gateways for yourself. It’s a draft after all. And remember the first draft is usually (I know, some say always) garbage. But the first draft really is the place it all begins. It’s where the story is hung from sturdy limbs. And the characters step out from cardboard cut-outs into real live people with pasts, problems and desires.

Seriously. When we begin writing at the start of our careers we look for all kinds of tips and hints. We might hook up with a mentor. We search the web now for all sorts of tips from all sorts of resources. After all that, sometimes it’s best just to take our idea, sit down and write!

All the help you got from a mentor, all those tips and helps you collected before will come together as you write.

It might not be the best way to go for every project. It would probably trip you up if you’ve been signed on to write for a series on TV or maybe a series of novels since a formula will be in effect. It might make you nervous, typing those first words onto a blank screen without an outline or whatever method you’ve used to prepare.

And I know a lot of writers will gasp in horror. (Am I looking right at you, TVWriter™ Bossman Larry Brody?) But, take it from me, writing like this can be an amazing tool.

When you’re done, when you reread, the flaws will jump out at you. After that, I’m willing to bet molding the story into the form it must have to succeed will be an exciting adventure.

Go ahead and try it. And don’t forget to leave some comments on how it went and what you think.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.