Wednesday, May 21, 2008


- Another post in the occasional series of brilliant posts from Dom. Yep Indeedy!

As you know I hate rewriting. There is always a danger of doing too much, losing your focus and turning your script into a mindless pile of drivel, if it wasn't one already. What is needed is a bit of structure to those rewrites. Split them down, concentrating on different aspects of the script one at a time, so you don't get bogged down and confused as to what you're actually trying to do. Focusing on smaller tasks makes the over all job a lot easier. So here is my rewrite routine, invented by myself and not stolen from the ideas of other people.....honest!!!

Draft One: The 'get it done' draft.

You've done your outline, your treatment, polished your characters, so now it's time to write. So write. Resist the temptation to go back and edit. If you need to make notes then make them, but what is more important at this stage is that the script is on the page. It doesn't have to be brilliant, it just needs to be done. Now leave the script alone for a couple of weeks.

Draft Two: Structure.

When you come back to it and reread what you've written it's going to look pretty bad. Don't worry, draft two is designed to iron out any inconsistencies, any gaping holes in the plot, and to make sure that anything important you have introduced in the script later is set up earlier in the script. Don't be tempted to work on anything else at this stage, that'll come later.

Draft Three: Characters.

Do you know your characters? Are they believable? Do they have flaws the audience can identify with? Do they act true to their character, or do they do things simply because the plot requires them to do so? Characters need to be believable and to engage the audience. If they don't then you need to take a serious look at them. Don't forget, even the greatest hero has his own motivations driven by his own selfish desires. No one is all good, nor all bad. People are a mixture, with their own likes, hates, fears, and desires.

Draft Four: Dialogue.

Could you identify your characters by their speech alone? Everyone speaks differently. Go to a public place and listen to people having conversations, what they say, how they interact with others. This will help you individualise each characters' speech. Avoid writing regional accents phonetically, it makes them hard to read and will put readers off. Don't forget people are not always nice to each other, including friends and family.

Draft Five: Imagery.

Look for repeated words in your action description and find new ones to replace them. Look at your description. Could it be shorter, more direct? Is it flat and dull? Could it be punchier? This is the draft that could make a lot of difference to your script, so take your time with this one, even if you have to spend several days searching for just the right word to describe something. Remember screenwriting is all about imagery; TV and film are a visual medium. Make you scenes stand out in the mind of the reader.

Draft Six: Restructure.

Would your script benefit from telling it in a different way, or order. Take Memento for instance, an excellent film told backwards. The film could work both ways, but it adds an extra level of poignancy to it by being told backwards. Look at you script and decide if a liner plot is the best for your story. To be honest I'm always certain about the way I want to write a script when I start, but it never hurts to take a second look.

Draft Seven: Conflict.

Conflict is the essential part of a story. If you have no conflict then all you have is a script to go to sleep by. Look at each scene, is there conflict, even if it's between friends. Don't forget there are different levels of conflict, you don't need two people beating the crap out of each other in every scene.

Bad Example

Fuck you!

Fuck you more!

Good Example

Enamel sits behind the counter reading a comic, taking the occasional sip from a mug of tea. He doesn’t look up when Barnaby enters.

Sorry I’m late.

Ogling Angela Cooper again?

No! I would have been on time if I hadn’t knocked over
some silly old fart and spilt his shopping all over the pavement.
He made me carry it home for him.

Enamel looks up to dispense some sage advice.

You let people push you around too much, Barn.

Advice given Enamel returns to his comic.

Yeah, well no more.

Barnaby heads towards the shop’s back room. Enamel sticks his tea mug out at arms length with out looking up from his comic.

Barnaby sighs and takes the mug from Enamel before exiting to the back. Enamel smiles.

Draft Eight: The Opening Pages.

The first five to ten pages are very important. These are the pages a reader will look at. If they don't like what they see they won't read any further. So make sure your opening pages contain a great hook and are the best they can be. It's worth spending a bit of time on these pages to get them right.

Draft Nine: Back To Your Characters.

Yep, more character work. Make sure each of your characters' arcs are believable and satisfying to the reader. They can have either an upbeat, or a downbeat arc, or a bittersweet one. Remember, they have to be satisfying to the reader.

Draft Ten: Proof Read.

As I always say to my wife, "I'm a writer, I never professed to be able to spell, that's why they invented spell checkers." I'm a crap speller so I give all my work to my wife to check over. If you're spelling and grammar is as crap as mine hand your work over to someone you trust and give them a big red pen. Red is such a lovely colour.

That's it....or is it? Well no, now's the time to send you script out to others for their opinions. Once you've got that feedback you can start the process again. Remember, writing is all about rewriting.


Lucy V said...

You do TEN drafts before you get reader feedback???

Wouldn't it be easier to work on what others have a problem with FIRST then look at the other stuff?

After all, we all have our talents - whether it's character, dialouge, structure or whatever. Leave the bits you're good at til last I say, concentrate on the problem issues you find hard first - means you get more done?

Dominic Carver said...

"A good script, is a rewritten script." Dominic Carver 21/05/2008

Lucy V said...

I disagree, I have read many bad scripts that have been rewritten many times.

A good script has many other features other than the fact it has been rewritten; being rewritten is a given, surely? No one actually sends out first drafts anymore?

Mark said...

Conversely, I am a fantastic speller and I pass all my work to my wife so she can rewrite the entire script.

Preston Garrett said...

Surely it depends who you're sending it to? Friends, agent, mentor, tutor, script editor... And it's better to send out a script you're happy with than end up with a pile of notes about things you already knew needed fixing.

I think that's a really useful way of going back and looking at your work, breaking it down and concentrating on very specific things like that.

Each "draft" doesn't have to be a major rewrite, and a lot of them go hand in hand. You can't tinker with your character arcs without having a knock on effect on your structure for example - and we all know the hellish house of cards that is the rewrite.

But once you've got a script that works I really like the idea of doing a read through to punch up dialogue only, and then descriptions only and then looking at individual characters and so on, focusing on just one thing at a time. As long as you never send out anything with "draft 10" emblazoned across the front!

Cheers Dom, nice one.

Lucy V said...

You might already know various things need fixing Michelle, but you DON'T know how someone else might interpret it and/or fix it. That's what's useful to me. for example, I've sent stuff out thinking a particular character sucks or my structure isn't tight enough...Only for one, two or all three of my Po3s to come back with a far more glaring problem.

I just do not believe you can be objective about your own work - you can "tinker" all you like, but unless you are willing to bring people and other opinions INTO your writing, you will end up with about 117% more work (that's a statistical fact by the way Vic Reeves-style ; )

Preston Garrett said...

Oh no, don't get me wrong. Of course I'm not saying don't get feedback or undervaluing how important it is. I just think it's a nice way of breaking the work down - sometimes when you come back to a script after working on something else for a while, it's hard to know where to start.

I wouldn't necessarily think of each one of those stages as a "draft" but as a step in the process of creating a new draft - which ends in feedback, which begins the process again.

But you know, we all work differently. Horses for courses and all that. And Blogger obviously disagrees with me as well because this is the second time I've tried to post this comment...

Lucy V said...

I agree Michelle - we definitely do all work differently. I ALWAYS get feedback immediately after the FIRST FIRST draft - there are always opportunities missed but at this point you're so in love with the fact that you've FINISHED you can't see them. I generally get feedback after draft 3/4 and after every draft between about 6 and 10. I always do between 8 and 10 redrafts - I think of a redraft as a rewrite where more than a third of the previous changes for example, anything else is a "tweak". Tweaks are not the same as redrafts I think because you're just shiftying about if you know what I mean. I suppose if you include redrafts and tweaks I must do about 20 drafts generally. But I don't count tweaks.

Dominic Carver said...

Michelle gets it. Maybe I shouldn't have called them drafts, but sections instead. It's just an idea to break down the task of rewriting. I know that when I start a rewrite most of the time I haven't got a clue where to begin. Doing it this way helps to focus on what needs to be done, making the rewrite less daunting.

And of course you need to send it to others, then when you have their feedback to can go through the process again.

Lucy V said...

I don't think it's a question of "getting it"... I'm what education theorists call a "holistic thinker" rather than "sequential thinker" so don't need to break the tasks down into sections as I am daunted more by looking at it stage by stage, rather than the whole picture.

Always other ways to interpret stuff Dominic. : )

Dominic Carver said...

Do uneducated theorists call you a "pain in the ass know it all"?


Lucy V said...

I don't know it all Dom and never have said I did. In this writing lark, you do what you can, how you can. I'm merely pointing out that not everyone does or thinks things the same way as you.

Dominic Carver said...

I know, I was just pulling your leg ;-)

evil twinz said...

Don't let Lucy push you around Dom, she's a pussy cat really.

But you probably should do less drafts man, you have a little baby to look after! Social Services will do you for neglect at this rate, I see it in my game daily. I hope you have a wife stashed somewhere too.


evil twinz said...

Oh: you do. You even mention her in the article. Whoops.

I have blogging ADHD... You don't actually expect me to read your post all the way through?

Tim Clague said...

Whatever - anyway, I try and do these passes just as you suggest Dom. But do them in my structure charts first. So same process as you, but earlier.

Jon said...

10 drafts!!! I do a couple then get bored... more seriously, I prefer the idea of getting the plan-thing worked out first otherwise it's a bit like trying to build a house without blueprints and by the time you put the thatch roof on and you look at the stained glass windows and think maybe I should have put the a damp-course in after all. Of course, I've had no success so...