Are you dreading your rewrite? If so, you’re not alone. Everyone knows that writing is rewriting. But for many writers, the rewriting process can feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to hold onto that creative spark that made the script worth writing in the first place.
So, before you abandon ship and confine that half written script to the obscurity of your desk drawer, check out this series of articles. Each week, we’re going to be discussing a simple thing you can do right now to breathe life into your rewrite, and make the process not only effective, but also fun!
#1 – Never Rewrite Without a Goal
As any of you who have taken my Write Your Screenplay
class know, a character without a goal is like a car without an engine. You can polish it up all you’d like, but it’s not going to go anywhere.
And just like our characters, if we’re going to be successful in our revisions, we’ve got to make sure we’re effective in our goal setting, not only for our characters, but also for ourselves. That means setting a clear, objective goal
for each draft of our screenplay, which allows no debate over whether or not it’s been achieved.
For example, depending on what phase we’re in of a revision, we might set a goal like one of these:
- Make sure the main character is driving the action of every scene.
- Find lines of dialogue that feel a little familiar and either cut them or make them more specific to the character.
- Chart out the 7 Act Structure of the character’s change.
- Make sure the action on the page captures each image exactly the way you see it in your head.
What’s great about goals like these is that you can know if you’ve achieved them. Instead of wasting your energy panicking about whether your script is good or not, you can watch it evolve in front of your eyes, knowing that each draft is that much better than the one that came before.
Rather than feeling like you’re trying to juggle a million deadly chainsaws that you simply have to fix in your script all at the same time, you can devote all your focus to the one thing that is most important for the draft you’re working on right now.
Rather than basing your feeling of success as a writer on things that are beyond your control, like having a good writing day, selling a script or winning an Academy Award, you’re basing it on a simple area of focus that will not only grow your script, but also vastly grow your abilities as a writer, with every script you write in the future.
So if you’re working on a rewrite of a screenplay, an act, or even just a scene, take a moment to clear your mind of all the things you’ve been told you have to do, all your fears about getting to the end, finishing, not finishing, selling your script, or having talent as a writer.
Instead, think about what this screenplay is really about for you, and set a clear, objective goal
for the one thing that’s most important for you to achieve to take the script to the next level.
In early drafts, or early phases of your career, it may be hard to identify what the most important thing to focus on might be, or to separate the many conflicting things you’ve been told to do from the ones that really matter to you. Trust your instincts, or seek out the advice of a mentor you trust.
What matters is that you choose one goal to focus on, and frame it in a way that you can know if you’ve achieved it, regardless of the shifting winds of your own (or anybody else’s) subjective opinions. That way you can know you are succeeding in each phase of your revision, whether this is your final draft, or just one of many along the way.