Wednesday, April 18, 2012

WHAT IS A SECOND DRAFT?

Somebody asked me how much work I put into a second draft, which is a very good question as I may have over simplified the second draft process in my last blog.

For me the first draft is literally just one pass on the story. I may go back a couple of times to make a few quick, minor changes, but mostly I just write from the start until the finish, with very little editing. My second drafts actually consist of several mini drafts, usually ten, so that when I'm finished my second draft it will actually be draft eleven. This is how I do it...

  1. The first pass of the second draft is where I see if my story actually works. If it doesn't I need to rethink and come at it from a different angle. This is where I plug all those nasty plot holes to make sure the screenplay works as a whole.
  2. The second pass is all about structure. Does it work? Is it too fast, too slow, too confusing? Is it end heavy, or does it waffle on in act two? For the fist two passes I'm not worried about anything but plot and structure, because I don't want to complicate things and get myself into a mess. I find it best to concentrate on one aspect at a time. This is also where the first draft will probably change by anything from 25% to 75%.
  3. Pass three is all about my characters, are they believable, do they act like they should and more importantly are they necessary? There have been occasions where I have found characters to be superfluous, so I've had to get rid of them.
  4. Dialogue. Are my characters speaking with their own voice, is there too much exposition in the dialogue, does it sound clunky, do I get a sense of character, is there too much? Remember less is more! Obviously a feature will have a lot less dialogue than a TV drama.
  5. Language and imagery. This is where I lose superfluous words, delete repeating ones and look closely at all of my action description. I want to take out everything that can't actually be shown on the screen.
  6. Restructuring. This is really another pass at structure, but this time I look to see if I can tell my story a different way by changing the order I tell it in. This is also where I see if I am telling the story through the right characters' eyes. On several occasions I have found it more advantageous to tell the story through the eyes of a different character making it more powerful in the process.
  7. Conflict. This is where I check every scene has conflict in it and where I add more layers to ensure it does. Remember conflict is the essential part of any story.
  8. The opening pages. I always check to make sure the opening pages are going to grab the audience. If they're not then I need to change them so they do so.
  9. My second pass on characters, dialogue and action. If what my characters say and do doesn't match their character, then I have to change it so it does.
  10. My last pass is where I proof read for any glaring errors like calling a character by a different name halfway through the screenplay. You would be surprised how often this happens.
It's when those ten passes are done that I consider my second draft to be completed. I do it all over again for the third draft, but then it'll be easier because most of the hard work will have already been done.

2 comments:

David McCrea said...

Good article matey! I totally agree. The one thing which I will look for in the second draft... one of your final points, will be to look to add subtext to scenes. But this is a great post and I will be checking off your tips as I go through draft 2 :)

Jonathan said...

Thank you for this, Dominic! As I come to complete a number of first drafts, this guide will prove invaluable.