Do you see your screenplay as Château Latour or Two-Buck Chuck?



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  • Do you see your screenplay as Château Latour or Two-Buck Chuck?

    I was cleaning out my inbox and found this article in an email from a friend. I thought you might find it of interest.

    I wrote a short story some years ago–a story I thought was fantastic.
    It was funny. It was clever. It was sure to be snapped up by some literary magazine or another.

    Instead, I ended up submitting it to a magazine, only to have it promptly returned, covered with red marks.

    Boy, was I indignant. Obviously this editor had no idea what constituted good writing!

    After I cooled down, I decided to look through the feedback I’d been given. It seemed there were a lot of unnecessary words, most of them circled or crossed out. I started to see that this person–although still in my bad books–had something of a point.

    The Worst Writing Mistake You’ll Ever Make

    So, where exactly did I go wrong? Was my story really that terrible?

    Well, let’s just say it wasn’t nearly as fantastic as I thought. The reason I couldn’t see all the mistakes I’d made was this:

    I didn’t give it time to breathe.

    Instead of filing the story in a drawer for a month or two, then coming back to edit it with fresh eyes, I made the mistake of editing too soon. I didn’t give myself the chance to stand back and look at my work objectively.

    The More Time, the Better

    I never did get around to resubmitting this particular story to any other magazines. I figured one day the right opportunity would present itself and I might pick it up again.

    Every so often, I’ll open that file on my computer. Each time I do, I see more and more flaws inherent in the writing–so many, in fact, that I am always relieved that I haven’t sent it out again.

    Last night, I had another look at the story for the first time in at least 6 months. I was mortified by what I saw. Though I’ve read it over and over again, the more time I give it, the more I become aware of my mistakes.

    And, I believe if I left it untouched for a year, my horror would grow exponentially.

    How to Avoid Submitting Too Soon

    I’m very aware that when one finishes writing something, there comes an overwhelming feeling of simply wanting the piece out there. No matter the consequences, you want to start submitting that story whether it’s ready or not.

    You must resist the urge. To submit too early portends almost certain rejection of your manuscript.

    Instead, follow these steps:
    1. Finish the first draft of your piece.
    2. Make any obvious necessary revisions.
    3. Stick it in a drawer or file it in the deepest recesses of your hard drive.
    4. Wait.
    5. Wait some more.
    6. Just a little longer.
    7. Revisit your piece to gain a whole new perspective. Read it out loud. Make revisions as needed.
    8. Proofread.
    Remember, the longer you wait, the more flaws you’ll find. The more flaws you spot before you submit your piece, the better.

    That’s not to say you’ll always have the opportunity to wait. If you’re working to a deadline, you may need to wait a little less time than if you’re sitting on an unsolicited submission.

    But keep in mind, tired eyes miss mistakes. A weary mind is not the best judge of quality.

    How much better might your work be if you give it time to breathe?
    Last night, Jesus appeared to me in a dream and told me that loving me is the part of His job He hates the most.

  • #2
    Glimmer Train. I sent it to them about a nanosecond after I finished it, thinking for sure they'd cream themselves based on one simple conceit: I had hidden the true nature of the relationship that was at the core of the story but had provided enough clues, I thought, that any astute reader would pick up on it.

    Glimmer Train rejected the story, and I was bummed, so I put it aside for a while (getting short stories published wasn't really where my focus was at the time).

    About a year later, I opened up a binder that had a bunch of my writing in it and ran across the story. I read it, slowly and carefully, and two things became apparent by the time I was finished:

    1. It was REALLY pretentious.
    2. Nobody in his right mind would pick up on the subtext. I mean, there was nothing in the story that would suggest it. Nothing. The only clues were my word choice in a few areas and an obscure literary allusion. I hadn't given my reader 2 + 2. I'd given him zero.

    And guess what?

    I tried to read it again just now (it's on my desktop) and couldn't get through the first paragraph without feeling a strong urge to polish/edit. After about a page and a half I gave up on it.

    Talk about fresh eyes. Yeesh.


    • #4


      • #5
        " Don't really like writing. But I do like having written." Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad.


        • #6


          • #7
            Free Script Tips:


            • #8
              Last edited by ihavebiglips; 09-21-2010, 10:34 AM.


              • #9
                2011 Screenwriting Goal: 15 pages a day.


                • #10
                  I'm a product of everything I've ever experienced ... I need to get out more!


                  • #11
                    Originally posted by Lucha Scribre View Post
                    gives me time to forget about the damn thing
                    That's probably the best service you can do to any piece of writing, ensure you can come back to it with fresh eyes at least once. After that, you are ever in danger of playing the endless revision game so it's good to set a goal, time limit, what have you, at some point.