I am about to begin work on a new draft of a script of mine that is currently under option with an Irish Film Production Company. I have been seriously writing for two years (since finishing up my Film & TV studies at college) and haven’t to this day had to rewrite one of my scripts based on outside suggestions.
I was just wondering, what tips you would have on re-writing? Are there any tips? Is there even a standard way of re-writing at all? How should I attack this new challenge?
— Kevin Lehane
Cork City, Ireland
The bulk of screenwriting is really screenrewriting. Whether it’s your second draft, or your seventeeth, you’re constantly trying to make the script better/faster/cheaper/funnier while not forgetting what made you write it in the first place. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Be bold. You always have the old version saved on the hard drive, so why not try that radical idea? The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work. Even if it’s a disaster, you may discover some great things you can use in the less-radical version.
Have a plan. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re less likely to hit dead ends.
Don’t confuse rewriting with polishing. Rewriting means ripping apart scenes and sequences and rebuilding them piece-by-piece. Polishing is finding ways to make the writing subtly better: changing words, moving commas, and breaking up sentences. Both jobs are crucial, but don’t polish until the scene accomplishes its function.
When considering other people’s notes, focus on why they had an issue, not how they proposed solving it. If it’s not clear why a beat didn’t work for them, keep asking questions.
Always be willing to kill your favorite moments. To paraphrase Spock: The needs of the movie outweigh the needs of the scene.