Screenwriting

Just Walk Away: Rewriting, Step One

We’ve gone through a lengthy research and planning process, spewed the first draft (affectionately referred to by myself as “the vomit draft”) all over the typed (or, in my case, handwritten) page, and written “fade out” in varying degrees of legibility.

Now what?

Walk away. Leave it alone. Don’t look at it. Don’t re-read it, and don’t think about it. Have a drink or four. Soak it in. You’ve just done something 80% of “screenwriters” haven’t done – written a draft of a script. You’ve taken it from idea, which is meaningless, and taken it into an executed brain dump with form, structure, and something resembling the vision of a final product (that is now, oh… another buncha dozens of drafts down the road). Savor it.

You’ll have plenty of time to agonize over the crappy, one-dimensional characters, clichéd situations, and plentiful plot holes that will plague this draft. And the beauty of it? Nobody is going to read this draft. No one. Your eyes will be the last set of eyes that are laid on this draft (until, of course, you become an amazingly amazing genius of the filmic medium, and your notebooks are scavenged over after your death for pearls of wisdom and guidance for a new generation of writers. But even then… burn the damn thing).

When I return to a first draft after a self-imposed separation (generally between two to four weeks), I approach it with a new set of eyes. I want to read it for the first time, even though I wrote it. I want to discover things that I don’t even remember writing; things that weren’t in my “outline” (a term I use loosely, as I don’t outline, but cobble a bunch of scribbles together with an idea for characters and a situation and let ‘em rip). Things that, had I thought about them, I would never have written. Sure, some things may be awful, but it’s from those bits of suck that pieces of gold can be mined.

In the next post, I’ll dig into the rewrite process (when you actually rewrite – and type)… because I’ll be going through it myself. But first – how long do you wait until revisiting a first draft? A minute? A week? A month? Tell me tell me…

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