Friday, May 21, 2010

First Draft's a sprint, Rewrite's a marathon

I'm not a runner but if I was, I think I'd rather do a "put-everything-into-it-and-it's-over-in-5-seconds" sprinter than a plodding marathoner. Speed, not stamina. Which might explain why I love bashing out quick first screenplay drafts and dread the rewriting journey that follows.

But it's the rewriting that makes you see whether you're a real writer or not. Whether you have what it takes to rescue a draft and refashion it. So it's an essential skill to learn - I think every writer would agree on that.

Everyone has their own approach to the rewriting game but here's mine:
  • Get some perspective on the script. The one I'm currently rewriting has been languishing in a drawer for months.
  • Do character arcs for all the main characters. See where they should be at the start of the movie and at the end, and at all important points in between. Then see how far they are from these arcs in the current draft.
  • Work backwards - see where each character has to get to and decide what they will need to do during the story to get to that point. If it's a murder story, what clues does the sleuth need to find or what leads do they need to chase in order to solve the death? If it's a romcom, what ups and downs are going to keep the main couple apart - and what events/actions will bring them back together?
  • Work the Board - I don't necessarily do this for first drafts but it's essential for rewrites. Write each scene on a Post-It or index card and arrange them in order. Does it look right? If not, re-arrange it until it all fits together!
  • Go for a walk and have a think. I do this whenever I have a scene that isn't working or a plot-hole I can't fix. By the time I've come home, I've usually come to a decision about what to do.
And remembers, writers write but real writers do lots and lots of rewrites....

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