The Struggle to Pick a Format for a Story Idea

Last year, I was most fortunate in having enough blog content ready to post, that I could afford myself a little time to pursue other creative writing opportunities. There have been several ideas for fictional stories swirling around in my head lately, and committing them to paper (before I forget them) was becoming increasingly important as plot twists and defining moments in conversation were routinely popping into my head.

What seems to be a continuing trend, whether writing for my blog or for a fictional piece, is that I don’t seem to have a linear process of writing a story from beginning to end. It starts with glimmers of ideas that spawn other ideas that, over time, can be organized into an outline which then leads to the development of the background and context to connect those ideas.

It’s not pretty and makes writing a bit of a puzzle, but if directors can shoot movies out of sequence, why can’t a writer write out of sequence. In the end, the process of reassembling and organizing the sections can be just as much fun. Thankfully, technology makes that part so much easier.

However, for my fictional material, a new struggle emerged. As much as my little writer’s voice has been very enthusiastic about spreading its wings and committing creative material to paper, it has also been subject to some analysis paralysis.

The question that keeps coming up: What is this story? Is it a novel? Is it a short story? Is it a play? Is it a screenplay? Is it a movie? Is it a series?

I can’t tell you how many times this question rambles in the back of my mind when I am stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

As much as technology can make reassembling the puzzle pieces of a story significantly easier, the little voice has a valid point. If I write something in novel-style narrative, and after development it seems to be more dialogue-driven, it probably will require rewriting the whole story into screenplay format.

It could also be the reverse situation. A story that starts out in screenplay format may need to be rewritten into novel format, if it seems like the story requires narration to drive it forward with elements that won’t be discussed among characters.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start writing a story one way and having to change it at some point in the process. I just wish we had “Storyline GPS” to tell us that earlier in the process.

Rewriting an entire written piece sounds like a lot of work, but I keep telling myself that if I do, it is a great opportunity to smooth out any rough spots in the story I may not have originally seen, and to ensure continuity in history and character development.

Along the way, retelling a story in a new format may even spark new inspiration and contribute some shiny new elements to make the story sparkle or take the reader’s breath away.

It also occurs to me that rewriting a story into a different format can alter the story telling greatly, such as accelerate or slow down the dialogue or action, in a way that not have originally envisioned. This could also generate new opportunities for my characters.

I firmly believe that the answer is to just put the story down on paper, persevere, keep writing, and to let the seedlings of the story reveal what format it should take. Suspending judgement and discovering the story as it comes to me often brings surprises and inspiration.

Either way, even though I would like to save myself some time in trying to get it written in the proper format as early as I can, I find myself easily seeing the positive of this additional layer in the writing process.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,


Filed under How to, Writing

4 responses to “The Struggle to Pick a Format for a Story Idea

  1. Dave

    Andre, I heard on a television show just last night, “you can’t correct nothing”. It was a conversation among 4 “writers” ( a columnist, 2 writers/authors, 1 songwriter/performer/author) and how until something is actually put to paper there’s nothing that can evolve from it. All agreed their pieces usually change 2 or 3 times in the process. They also agreed things can have more than one life. Columns that later create books, books that create song, and so on. Just keep letting your inner voice guide you and let it evolve. You’ll know when it’s in the right format when your inner voice takes you in a final direction.

    • Hi Dave, thanks very much for the comment! It’s nice to know that what I am figuring out intuitively as I go along is a view shared by others who probably have considerably more experience than I do. I guess writing takes a little fearlessness especially when it comes to the prospect of changing the piece, from top to bottom, and to do so without losing one’s enthusiasm.
      Thanks again! Cheers!

  2. Great post! I find that once I beat out a story, that’s when I decide its format. And you’re right – rewriting is a pain but OH so worth it.

    • Hi Eliza,
      Thank you very much for the compliment and for the comment.
      Once I figured out the bright side and benefits of rewriting, it didn’t seem to be as much “work” as just another part of the process.
      Thanks again and have a great day!

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