Finishing that first draft is a big deal. It is a piece of writing. Something that is now a whole, even if the parts don't necessarily run smoothly. And because it's not perfect it's so easy to get down on yourself when you start looking at it. Therefore, when rewriting, it's good to follow a few simple rules that will help you structure your rewrite and stave off self-loathing:
After printing out your project, take some time to celebrate your first draft. You finished! Hey! Hot Damn! Not everyone can say they have a first draft of ANYTHING. For me, when I used to finish something, I'd celebrate by drinking and eating cheese. Now? I still eat the cheese but I lost the drinking portion so I've folded in shoes. Once that celebration is over, take a couple of days off if possible. But not much more than that. A couple = 2 from what I recall from elementary school.
2. GET YOUR PEN OUT
After you've taken your teensy break, have a pen ready and read one way through off of the hard copy. Don't start rewriting as you're reading. Go to sleep.
On the second pass, start categorizing your rewrite. Sample categories could be: Plot Issues, Character Issues, Scenes to Delete, Structural, Formatting...
Come up with a strategy. Though that sounds simple that may mean rebreaking an entire story or A Plot. You may rebreak many threads and that could have domino effects. That's okay. Take the time to thoroughly decide on the approach of rewriting and thoroughly examine if you change x how will y be effected? Will it be better? As long as you think through the approach both within the document and what your approach as the writer will be (ie.: I'll work for 7 days on this part and then see where we're at and maybe switch gears) then you will have a strategy. (By the way, I've had to rebreak outlines more times than I can count. There's no shame in that. It though might not be necessary. Take it all one problem at a time and you may find big sweeping approaches aren't what's best. This whole section could be called DON'T PANIC).
5. PICK YOUR POISON
A little adjunct to Number 4: While you're thinking of your rewrite, you may want to think about what to attack first. There's a saying which is "Go in the order that is killing you." I recommend rewriting the most challenging area(s) of your project first then go towards the easiest.
6. TIME MANAGE
Time and schedule your sessions so when you're rewriting, if you say work at 90 minute timed sessions, your chances of ending on a high note are greater than if you work for hours on end with no real cut off point. Danger there is basically getting sunk into the depths of despair.
THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR by Cynthia Greenburg Dunlop
online shop, look at a scene, read about politics, look at a scene, call an institution I have a long-standing gripe with, glance at manuscript sitting by coffee maker, lie in bed and think about what I didn't accomplish today, look at phone, remember before bed looking at my phone is supposed to be bad for me, go to sleep.
Time Management is something every creative person must incorporate into their process so the slog-feeling of rewriting doesn't thwart effort and self-esteem.
Bounce ideas. Don't be afraid to call fellow scribes feedback. You can easily ask a trusted soul to read a scene, a chapter, or the whole thing. Be ready for feedback you hadn't anticipated and come prepared with specific questions like "Is this part working?" "Did you get that so-in-so was trying to do this or that?' "Did these lines land for you or feel funny?" Caution though - if you want compliments ask buddies, if you want truth, ask peers.
Good luck and when you sell it, buy me the pair of shoes that are in my cart on Amazon with the other things in my cart that I never bought.
When we fall in love with our prose sometimes we don't think about why the sentence, paragraph or scene is actually there. And that can really fuck up what would otherwise be a good piece of writing.
Before I worked on shows and before I taught writing classes, I took a bunch of writing classes. I learned a lot. And from the many classes I took I can boil something down for you so you don't have to take the same amount of classes. Put your work to an Intention Test and see what stays and let go of what some of us might refer to as "the fat."
For the Intention Test, ask yourself these five questions:
-What is my intention for this Scene/Page/Chapter?
-Why is this Scene/Page/Chapter here? What is the point of it?
-Does this Scene/Page/Chapter move the story forward?
-Does this Scene/Page/Chapter offer any new information/characters?
-If this Scene/Page/Chapter wasn't here, would anyone miss it (other than me?)
I think this could be helpful and help pry your addiction to Sentimentality away from its grasp. We get sentimental about our writing. We fall in love with our lines. As many writers complain about writing, often, I think secretly many of us kinda fall in love with our writing. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard a writer say, But I really liked this. There are so many things I really liked too. But streamlining, getting to the point, etc., makes pieces flow and readers love you for it. There is no excuse for dense, bogged down writing that has no real point and gives the reader the excuse to walk away.
Don't let them go! You do have power over your reader and you do have power over your weaker inclinations! The solution is to use The Intention Test, grow a pair and make some fans!
Okay so just by writing that title it occurs to me not everyone does an outline. There are a lot of different ways to approach writing and some script writers just don't like or do outlines. And full disclosure, I have written successful scripts without them. But if you have a complex story, are juggling many plot lines, and let's face it, if it's a screenplay, when you skip the outline, you run the risk of writing a 250 page or a 30 page script. Or you quit. Which sucks. It just does -- you had that spark, that good idea, you were all excited, but then you just dove in without thinking. It's like jumping off a diving board into a pool that doesn't have enough water. Head first.
"BUT THE WATER WAS SO BLUE!"
Uh huh. Very smart, Maria, very smart.
Not only do I recommend writing an outline, but then when you're in script, I recommend doing everything you can to adhere to it. I love freedom in writing of course, and new ideas can and do arise as you're in script, but if you've really done your job in constructing a solid blueprint that means you have thought a lot about the different reasons to put this story point in this particular place, etc. You may not remember all the logic that went into your outline when you're in the script but your former self, while writing the outline, wasn't in the glamor-part of writing but was instead doing the heavy lifting; the heavy lifting of thinking.
Scriptwriting is usually the fun "glamor part." The outline is the blue collar job. It's the foundation. The hard stuff. The unromantic, thinky, logic part. It's also the shit that makes the script job run smoothly. Imagine building a building without a blueprint. Super obvi analogy but it works.
In my humble opinion, outlines are essential. It's the time you've dedicated to thinking through story, characters, tone, every possible turn and twist, while also, making sure you're pinpointing what needs to be there at that moment and why, so that the story moves forward and that people who are reading what you've written (and ultimately watching it) stay engaged.
My advice doesn't mean divine inspiration shouldn't be heard when in script. But think before you do. If I decide to put in new material, which of course happens and should and is welcome, it's with real acknowledgement of what happened before the sparkly new idea. How does the sparkly new idea affect my outline? Can I recall the reason the outline was as it was before adding the new element to the script? What are the future ramifications, ultimately meaning, if said new sparkly idea gets in is there a domino effect? Is it not only worth it, does it make it better?
Adhering to the outline means cooler heads prevail. It's your head and it's cool.
I used to teach a class in this stuff and lately I've realized oh my God, what I told those students wasn't just b.s. I'm sticking to my outline like glue and I'm having forward momentum. I want that for you, too.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.