I’ve got two posts left in this topic, and they’re kind of interchangeable, because the more you do of both, potentially the tighter you can get the script. Today, I’m going to expand on yesterday’s topic and talk about rewrites.
So with the rough stuff on the page, and the structure coming together, it’s time to start tightening, expanding, contracting, shifting and omitting bits that need attention. How many drafts you intend to do, and how much changing of the script you to do consider a full pass of the script is your call, unless you have external influences, like producers who want a draft (in which case, do all of your draft passes, but call it whatever draft they are expecting).
Just knocking out another draft before the races, darling!
My personal preference is to set yourself targets and make the passes specific. Without trying to explain away my entire process (hey, it took me time to work this out, and my process won’t necessarily work for you anyway), main passes that are worth doing include keeping your characters consistent, making sure the plot logic works, and making it fun!. Also, one for spelling, grammar and readability is worth it too, as they can sink your script if you don’t pay them proper attention.
If you have been using a structural pass of the script to fill in all of those blanks (where did the zombie elephant first come from? Where does it end up?), then you’ve probably created a load of scenes to fill out that whole subplot. But have you made sure it works? That bit where the zombie gets in and bites the elephant, how did he open that door? Could he really catch the elephant like that? This pass is not necessarily a fun one, and potentially involves you getting incredibly anal about your work, but trust me, if you can find big glaring questions that you don’t yet have answers to, you can guarantee your audience will find them!
They’re here somewhere. I will find them!
From there, it is very much up to you. You will reach a stage where you have done all of these important passes and need to just keep rewriting bits that don’t feel natural, or that don’t get the greatest response (see tomorrow’s post on readers!), so the passes will become more on the whole thing. The further down the line you get as a writer, the more abstract those later passes will come (only speaking with some experience here, but I’ve at least noticed the more I direct, the more the edit comes down to clarity and pace, and less about not having the basic coverage to even cover the shot, so I’m extrapolating with the writing – I imagine that the better you get at writing, the less it becomes about simply putting scenes or characters on paper, and becomes more about the clarity of your writing and the ability to tell a visual story on paper/screen).
To add to our running example, maybe this is where we find that Jed’s introduction feels very late and he needs to be move forward a couple of scenes. Then a following draft you realise his presence isn’t being felt because he’s not interacting with Bob enough, so you give him some more scenes with Bob. But then you realise you’re overwriting Jed because he’s more fun to write, and potentially taking over, so you try to scale him back a little. It’s the balance thing, and it’ll come over time.