What can I say about rewrites? They are great and they are also a bit of a bitch… I know, did I just go negate? I really find that info on the actual process of rewriting from the stuff I have read is fairly limited, so hopefully I can fill that void a little with some stuff. Today, I plan to begin mine – my second ‘decent’ script, my second rewrite while ploughing through a new story’s first draft on the side. It’s a hard trek, I tell you, at least for mine – in the past, though, I had no idea how to even BEGIN one. Since then, I have learned a few things here and there:
- Make sure…and really, MAKE SURE after you have written your first draft – you take a break. As long as you can – at least two-three weeks tops. You can’t rewrite anything without some level of objectivity.
- Now when I get back to my script, the first thing I do – turn off everything – or if you are that tempted, make your calls, speak to your loved ones (for the last time, muahaha) for two whole hours. Off distractions!
- Reread the script. Start-to-finish. Emphasizing: picture it like a movie – much as you can – the story, etc. Do not use a document that is editable – do not type in dialogue (though you can note ideas on the side). One of the silliest mistakes I used to make was start messing with it before reading the whole thing. While you can take that red pen and add notes on a printout OR do what I do which is read the entire thing off my iPad and add stickies, keep the actual document intact. I recommend PDF’s, basically anything uneditable.
- Spend the two hours and read the whole thing. The important thing is picture it as a movie. Can you see this as a movie? Ok, I said that…
- For this second draft, I focus on the story. See if it works.
- Mental Checklists: is the pacing ok? Are the characters making sense? Scenes to throw out? What scenes work, what don’t? Are they likeable to a certain extent? Do they elicit the right emotions? Could certain scenes be improved – instead of the guy randomly fainting because he’s depressed, could he just get it over with by falling off a cliff? Wherever you can throw in visuals, action, do so – don’t worry too much yet about trimming dialogue yet though if you can make something better visually, do that (that’s for the polish). Movies are primarily visual – something to always keep in the recesses of our minds.
- Speaking of cuts – think about these as well – but don’t stress about them. The point in this draft is to just nail the characters as well as story and make sure it’s the story YOU want to tell.
- If you have those scene cards up from before, bad news – put them away(aah! All that work!) – but keep them nearby just in case. Usually what ends up happening on my end is I redo them again from scratch!
- Speaking of outlines, in my opinion, this is the most important, rewriting wise. Rewrite the entire story – outline-first (see previous post on outlining here). As you rework, edit, make changes, note each scene, why it’s there whether it has a purpose or not. Also think about characters – figure out whether they are functional and adding to your story more than the random joke/line.
- Speaking of characters, aside from bios, one thing I forgot to mention in some of those classes I took (which, dummy that I am, I didn’t used to do before that I am finally doing now) is being VERY CLEAR on who each of these characters are before heading into the rewrite (or if you are smarter than me, doing it early on in the prep stage rather than now). One way is to just write it down in one doc (I call mine ‘Character keys’)- their core essence — who they are – where they are from and what their archetype/role is in your story (aka. hero, villain, mentor, pretty princess, bad-ass..ok joking about the last two). Keep it brief… this is a HUGE HELP when you are trying to nail down their dialogue as well.
- Usually my rewrites can take anywhere from four weeks to ten for me. It really depends on how much time you have and how much you can do. I do it the same way as I did the first draft – arming myself with a (hopefully much better) outline but again – important not to overthink it! Just keep moving, write it as well as you can – and get it done as soon as you can.
- After this rewrite as usual, put it aside like before. If you are getting stuck among the way, my favourite tool is have another screenplay to read alongside. Or if you have another project, split time between both – and also sometimes taking a break is all it takes to get your brain cells back in gear before you prepare for the next round – the polish (yes, a couple more rounds, this is the real work!).
- After all that work, you deserve to celebrate! Put it aside again for a few weeks, more if you can. If you have a friend or two who is willing to read it and you feel confident, pass it on, in fact do. Being the worrisome type, I tend to be very fussy about people reading my stuff these days and wasting their precious time with it until it’s fairly decent. I have felt like I had to rush this before and usually it doesn’t work… TRUST ME! So my suggestion is take as long as you need with it! When I say ‘decent’ at least that the story is down, the plot is clear and the characters are close to what you want them to be.
I have also decided to add a ‘useful links’ section to each of these posts that I have used from now on, where applicable. Here you go:
Anymore you guys want to add, please post in comments and I will include them in this post. Any feedback, great too! I will keep updating!
Next time: Rewrites Part II – The Polish!