Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Veteran TV Writer’s Screenwriting Process is Different Than Conventional Wisdom

I read it all the time: the best way to get through a first draft is just to start writing, get the words on the page, avoid stopping to make corrections, and wait until your next draft to start nitpicking. “Vomit draft,” they call it. But, the screenwriting process that works for many writers won’t work for everyone, and veteran TV writer and producer Ross Brown is proof of that.

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Ross has “made it,” if you will, having had a successful TV and movie career with shows like “Step by Step,” “The Facts of Life,” “The Cosby Show,” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” He’s now the creative writing MFA program director at Antioch University in Santa Barbara. His writing process is the opposite of a vomit draft.

“I tend to be one of those writers who writes slowly and deliberately,” he said. “Some people write really quickly and can write 30 pages a day and then go, “Well, those are all terrible,” and spend the next week and a half revising those 30 pages. I tend to write one scene at a time and revise it quite a bit before I’m happy to move on to the next scene.”

For some writers, the problem with that approach lies in losing their creative flow or being so dissatisfied with their work so far that they delete what they have entirely and are back to square one.  

But for Ross, having an idea of how the story will function helps him to know he’s on the right path to the ending. Since he knows where he’s going, he can look back on where he’s been without issue.

“When I’m writing a screenplay, I always outline first because screenplays are so rigidly structured,”
he said.

But even if his medium is less structured than a screenplay, he still starts with a rough outline.

“If I’m writing a play, I find maybe four or five key moments in the play, and I have a rough idea of the structure, and then I feel comfortable writing.”

There’s no right way to get your story out of your head, of course, but you should have a good understanding of what triggers creative blocks. Even if you’re a vomit draft type of writer, an outline is always an excellent place to start. You can start with as simple an outline or as detailed an outline as you like, depending on how much of the story you’ve worked out in your head.

“In terms of how much outlining I do ahead of time, it varies depending on what I’m writing,” Ross concluded.

I tend to be one of those writers who writes slowly and deliberately. Some people write really quickly and can write 30 pages a day and then go, “Well, those are all terrible,” and spend the next week and a half revising those 30 pages. I tend to write one scene at a time and revise it quite a bit before I’m happy to move on to the next scene.
Ross Brown
Veteran TV Writer & Producer

I’d love to know how you prefer to write. What’s your system? Please comment below.

The cool thing about SoCreate Screenwriting Software is that it’s going to work for you no matter your pre-writing process (or lack thereof) and, ultimately, make the entire journey more satisfying and fun. I hope you’re already on the private beta list, but if not, . We’ll be able to notify you as soon as SoCreate is ready to take for a spin.

So, have a plan, or don’t.

Whatever works for you, do that,

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