Rewriting - holding writers back



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  • #61
    Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post
    Let me first note, I think the name of the thread should probably be changed to be clearer. Based on reading the original post and looking through the thread a bit, it seems like the title should really be, "Does Lack of Rewriting Hold Writers Back?"

    If so, then yes. I think some writers fire ahead to quickly and don't take the time to properly polish their work. They get too excited and just start sending it out. At the same time, I will note that spending too much time on a script -- writing & rewriting & rewriting, etc. -- doesn't help the vast majority of writers either. Know when to move on to a new idea, set the project aside and don't beat a dead horse.

    In terms of my own writing, I'm as tough on myself as I am anyone else. Probably tougher. I read through the script and try to, as objectively as possible, decide whether something is working or not. I cut out things that seem to slow the story down and/or don't move the story forward. I rewrite dialogue that needs to be funnier or smarter or more moving, as best I can. Once I've gone over a script a few times via full passes, at least; then and only then will I send it to others for feedback.

    Not to bore all with too much info, but I wrote a dark comedy once from an incredibly detailed outline/treatment. The first draft was 204 pages. Way too much. I chopped it down to around 100 pages. Took out things that weren't needed, etc. and polished all as best I could.

    Once I've gotten a script ready I get feedback from people I trust who either know script writing well, and/or are incredibly well versed of films.

    Like Bono (and others), I print out my scripts too. I think that's the only way to go to truly get things as correct as possible. I grab a couple of pencils and start crossing out stuff, making notes on things to add, etc. then dogear the pages. From the feedback I receive from my readers, I try to implement and address all as best I can. If a note doesn't quite seem to work for me, I will pass on it for at least the time being. But I try to stay open minded to all notes and especially any notes behind the note.(I will even read some scenes out loud to see how they play.)

    Now, I have done lots of coverage on scripts for all levels of writers, including of course, pros over the last 30 years. I've given notes and feedback. I've done ghostwriting, polishes and tweaks, so I think that helps me a quite a bit when looking at my own stuff. Again, I try to be tough on my stuff and I rarely consider anything written as "being in stone" or great. That's for the rest of the world to decide.

    For me, editing something that is there, is better than a blank page, in basically every case. I worked with playwright once to adapt their play. They wanted to take a stab at it first and wrote a 201 page adaptation of their own play. It was a comedy with a little fantasy and romance in it. When they tired out, they let me take my shot. I cut all they'd done down to around 65 pages. Rewrote a fair amount of those pages, then added in 40 or so new pages from scratch.

    I look at rewriting as taking out all the stuff that simply doesn't work, polishing the "ideas" that are there that need help, then try my best to improve every element from descriptions to dialogue to pacing to character arcs. You have to be as objective with your own work as possible. Then rely on friends, peers, and so on to push you further and get it the best you can. You can't be too precious with your work. Get used to notes. Get used to feedback. Get used to addressing all the best you can. That doesn't mean you should or have to abandon all but be open to listening and trying things out.

    The great thing about digital files is you can save & archive your draft and then work on implementing the suggestions. See how those work then go from there. I've cut stuff out and later on realized the story needed it back. Easy to find, copy & paste and put back in, if truly needed. Keep an open mind, to at least some degree, about suggestions & notes.

    If none of the above helps you, then please ignore. ?
    It's good that you are harder on yourself/work than anyone else and are objective. That is a rare mentality to have in this sensitive world. The second point you made, about listening. It's important not to try and explain yourself. If your intention didn't come through with words, then you did something wrong.


    • #62
      People say it, but I don't think people believe it when you hear practice your craft. They don't hear that advice any more because it's so obvious -- but to me writing specs and rewriting them and doing that 5 or 10 times with specs is obvious to me for success.

      If you are like an old poster who was working on the same spec for 15 plus years (and it did not seem to improve as he was resistant to advice that way more than 3 people agreed on) instead of writing 15 specs in 15 years, you are doing it way wrong.

      How do you learn how to drive a car? Be doing it. Reading about it does not help. It's something you have to get the feel off. When I first learned to drive a car I almost crashed it into the garage because even though I had been in cars my entire life, I was too stupid to realize that if you put the car in Drive it moves even if you don't press on the gas. Why? Because I grew up playing video games and if he you didn't hit the A button the car would not move in the video game. And that is what I assumed would happen. I thought the car went if you hit the gas and brake to stop. I did not realize it would slowly move on it's own. (I will pause for laughter).

      My point is that simple thing is one of many things you learn when you drive a car. How to move the wheel. How to park. How to switch lanes. How to find a parking spot. What to do when your kid throws up in the back seat. You can read about all these things, but you will never get good/great at doing them unless you do it a lot. It's about feel. The same with rewriting. If you aren't rewriting a lot, asking questions will only get you so far. You need to do the job to get a feel of what it's all about. What is obvious to me now is for sure not obvious to me when I was first starting out.

      Also if you have a specific question, you need to show your actual spec to someone willing to read it and get feedback. Every spec can have general problems we can guess at, but the specific questions some people have are impossible to know without seeing it in front of us. And of course NOT everyone will agree. It's opinion.

      Gremlins was a straight horror movie. And it became a horror-comedy with a beloved Gizmo. But some other producer might have been let's make it as is. There is no right answer, just choices.


      • #63
        The Gremlins script doesn't help - it's just one of a million scripts that changed between drafts. It's not seeing what changed that is the issue but how the writer went about it. Did he start from scratch or alter scenes and characters but by bit? Whatever he did, how did he see through the 100 page complete story he had to cut, add, redo completely?

        How does anyone go about it?


        • #64
          Well no way to know what Chris did with Gremlins but what I do first is duplicate the document. That's the first step. That way you can always go back to the first draft without worry.

          So I work from the full completed spec. Call it titleofspec1.fdr Then I duplicate it and make it titleofspec2.fdr and I turn on revision mode so I can see changes in RED and start using the notes I've got and tackle them.

          I start on page 1 to the end... some notes are about the entire script. Some are specific pages like fix this or that. New line here.

          Sometimes I have to remove 30 pages and start writing new stuff leaving the old stuff behind.

          So Act I I may know I'm keeping just needs a rewrite, so I do that, changes in RED. Lose some stuff, but say first rewrite 90% of it stays the same.

          Then in Act II I get notes pages 30 to 50 are boring -- so I may cut them.

          Then I go to pages 50 to 110 and start rewriting them and addressing those notes.

          Then I would go back and try to figure out what NEW 20 pages I need to put in the beginning of Act 2 to make them not boring.

          But I'm sure everyone works a little differently. And every spec is unique. It truly is a skill that you have to learn by doing it. So you finish a spec, get feedback and then fix it.

          I had a 150 page draft at one point of my spec. I knew I needed it to be 110. So I had to make choices. Then I get notes from rep and one of them was these scenes are boring. So I did cut them out. And move things around. Then write new scenes. It's a process. Sometimes you try things and it's wrong. And you try something else.

          For instance, I'll usually have to write many opening scenes to figure out which one is best.

          Is this what you are asking? If we had 10 pages to all see we can discuss them and it would make more sense... we were doing that with Joe's script and I thought it was very useful...


          • #65
            That's exactly what I'm looking for - thanks!

            When you cut 20 pages from act 2, how do you join the dots to the remainder of the script? And if you do - then you end up with a draft that's only massively different in the middle of the script so how do you go from that to an entirely different 3rd act?


            • #66
              Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
              That's exactly what I'm looking for - thanks!

              When you cut 20 pages from act 2, how do you join the dots to the remainder of the script? And if you do - then you end up with a draft that's only massively different in the middle of the script so how do you go from that to an entirely different 3rd act?
              Okay great -- getting on the right track now.

              Again each spec is different. Notes can be specific like "don't like that 1 joke" or cut this character entirely. Or can your lead guy be a dog instead?

              But in my cut 20 pages example, I need to cut the pages so I could see WHAT IT LOOKED like without those pages. How the spec reads without those scenes at all. And that is eye opening.

              And what happened was I realized that the scenes not only did stink but I didn't need most of it. So I think my solution was to not replace them at all and I just moved page 50 to page 30 and it worked better.

              Some stuff that I cut in the 150 page draft did come back in the final draft just in different places. That is why it's key to have different documents so you can cut and paste to try things out.

              Also I know some people are against page numbers and things, but I knew i I wanted a certain thing to happen around page 45 to 50 not page 75 -- so cutting the 20 pages did that! It moved all the good stuff up and I hit the marks I needed. So literally by cutting on the bloated stuff I solved most of the issues in that particular spec.

              And as we went the notes got more specific. So at the end I'll have like 38 versions of the 1 spec, but the changes get more minor as the numbers get higher. So verison 38 vs version 37 could be 1 word.

              Rewriting is not glamorous a lot of the time. But it can be rewarding when you take something from a 6 to a 9 out of 10.

              Key to me is to NOT BE AFRAID to try stuff as you have your previous document.

              I just read a TV pilot and it was good, but I suggested the writer think of new opening scene -- same idea -- just a try to write a few takes and see which one is most funny. Also I think the thing should open with pages 6-8 as pages 1-3 and then move the current 1-4 behind it... so it's a lot of rearrange to see if it reads better that way.

              Same way they edit a movie. Rewriting is editing.