“I look at the research/planning phase as a feast. I consume research and notes, gorging myself on things that work, things that don’t, and things that have no point whatsoever, finally hitting that point that I can’t digest any more ideastuffs, and proceeding to regurgitate all of that into a handwritten first draft all over a yellow legal pad.”
“…the three tools that are absolutely essential to my workflow are Scrivener, Evernote, and a notebook. I use Scrivener for character sheets, saving research, and eventually, the second draft of a story onwards. Evernote is my capture tool for online research (which I then move to Scrivener later to create an archive of the project), and a notebook is where I empty my brain on everything from the current project to future projects to life, cookies, and dog treats.”
Films spend time in pre-production, writers should too. The emphasis of getting words on the page shouldn’t mean draft after draft after draft. Planning can help you put words on the page even before you type FADE IN.
Make notes, timelines, and character profiles. List films which will inspire the tone of your script. Customize Google maps, take a drive around your locations on street view, make notes. Use index cards, post-it notes, or a moleskin. Get tactile. Draw character arcs. Write the same scene from the point of each character. Read and take notes. Thoughts are products.
Whatever you do will create a structure to help you know your script so if when problems arise you’ll easily navigate them. Those third act woes will innately be reduced. You’ll relax enough to listen to your script and find genuine places for character development. You’ll write with confidence.
Research, plans, outlines — it doesn’t matter what you call it or what the process is for you. The point is to do it.