You have to love rewriting. You can hate it some of the time. But still, you have to love it. ;You have your story, settings, characters. Large kernels of everything you wanted your movie to be. It just needs thought, a plan, and then for the writer to get back on the keyboard or the pad and pen to make it great. If you’ve already written a first draft, the best draft is close. Rewriting is THE writing. It is the fun part and the agony, THE creative process in screenwriting. Sadly, there are very few automatic writers. Most of us have to start with a rough draft which we ought to celebrate before we analyze it, criticize it, and then rewrite it at least once, maybe several times.
FACT OF LIFE: Plot and character development may seem effortlessly embedded in the best movies, but, most probably, the writer and filmmakers carefully constructed these elements over many drafts through the rewrite process.
Even with the most carefully structured beat sheet or story outline, it is almost impossible to write the best version of the script on the first pass. There may always seem to be missing dramatic scenes, incomplete sequences, unresolved character issues and emotions that beg to be explored.
“The first draft of everything is shit.” Ernest Hemingway
Chill out, Ernest. It’s not that bad. THERE IS A PROCESS TO REWRITING BUT ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. You will discover what works best for you. There are guidelines and a few requirements.
First rule of rewriting. Don’t talk about rewriting or your finished draft. Quiet that part of your brain for a while. Put your script away, far away, for at least two weeks. More if possible. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it even. Reward yourself appropriately for finishing the draft. Celebrate the milestone. Savor the aftermath and pick up other toys to play with for a while. Take a walk. Talk to your loved ones. Read a book. Watch some movies. A fresh perspective will come. You will eventually be able to see the draft with fresh eyes so you can approach the next phase of creative development and writing with energy, clarity and equal measures of compassion and critical honesty.
“I am a rewriter. I rewrite a number of times. Imaginative richness is born in rewriting.” Bernard Malamud
“I may be the world’s worst writer, but I’m the world’s best rewriter.” James Michener
Personally, I tend to enjoy rewriting. Some of the time. Of course, it is not always fun to hear criticism from friend-readers, to see the glaring problems — bad dialogue, typos, thin description, incomplete characters, plot problems. But once you figure out how to solve the problems and have let all those critical voices quiet down, the writer in you(not the critic-story analyst) slides into the helm. It should always be that way. You rejoin your beloved characters and journey again with them through story. You are back inside your movie, making it better, more real, more dramatic, more of what you intend it to be. Once you’ve gained some momentum in the rewrite process, you will see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. And it may approach more rapidly on a rewrite draft than on that first draft you labored over. If you are on the right track, if you have set the co-ordinates for your rewrite journey well, your script will be getting better and each successive rewrite pass will be completed with greater and greater fluidity.
Setting those coordinates, the goals for the next draft, is a crucial phase, just as important as the actual writing. This process of problem solving, gathering concepts to address in the rewrite is what we will discuss next.