READ IT AND DO NOT WEEPPosted: 12/03/2010
Here is some great news. You are not just the screenwriter. You are also the most important critic and evaluator of your draft. You will read it first and last. You will seek opinions from other readers and listen to them carefully. They may have some excellent ideas for you. But it is up to you to set the agenda, to use their reactions to form your plan for how to proceed with the next draft of your script. So after some quality time away from your first or rough draft, it is time to give the script to Reader #1. You. Go ahead. Pick up the pages and read them carefully AND openly. Give it a discerning yet fair and compassionate reading. That means keeping an open mind. Cut the writer some slack. You cannot fire the writer. Don’t even think about it. Because the writer is irreplaceable. You need that person back in the trenches for the rewrite and beyond.
Try to see the movie you put on the page as you read. Make notes, reflect on the changes you believe need to be made. Write down quick reactions, new ideas, questions, concerns, complaints, goals on a separate sheet of paper. Put an exclamation point next to things that please you: Surprising things. Personal bests. Dialogue that works well. Description you appreciate. Scenes that really work. And let yourself celebrate the successes. Reinforce the positives. Maybe even force yourself to smile to yourself.
Of course, there will be bad news, too. For every writer. There may be fundamental issues of plot structure, character development, any number of things that you will have to address. The writing work may only be half done (or less) in certain areas. Xs and questions marks in the margins of the above. Be selective. Try to isolate problem areas When you get to the end of your first read, you should have a few pages of notes and a heavily marked-up script. This is a start. Writer-Critic needs to be filtered and interpreted just like all others who may read the script at this stage. The good news is that once you understand what it is you need to do, the rewrite agenda will start to fall into place. If you have a solid plan, rewriting script pages is usually easier, more enjoyable and gratifying than working from blank pages, writing that first draft. I swear it’s true.