Triple the Effectiveness of Your Rewrite
- October 6, 2017
- Posted by: HalCroasmun
- Category: Articles
“There’s nothing wrong with your script. It just needs a rewrite…”
I know, it hurts hearing something like that. Just when you thought your script was ready, they are pointing to other improvements they want. But doing the right rewrite can not only elevate your script, but your status as a professional screenwriter.
If you were to classify scripts coming into Hollywood, they might fall into these categories:
High: Amazing quality, ready for the market.
Medium: Scripts that could be amazing with a rewrite.
Low: Scripts that have no chance of success.
So if you are hearing “It just needs a rewrite,” you are part way to success…if you do a high-quality rewrite.
The key is to find the amazing screenplay that is lurking inside what you’ve written. Often, that means you’ve got to search for the true core of the story and rebuild based on that. Once you are totally clear on what could make this story great, you need to do everything you can to bring the entire story up to that level.
Are you ready to do that?
Today, we’ll do the first of a few articles on rewriting. With each one, you’ll see familiar ideas and new ideas. The question is not if you are familiar with these ideas. It is this:
…DO YOU USE THEM?
A. “Discover” Versus “Protect.”
Ever seen this happen? Someone reads a script and makes a suggestion. But for some reason, the idea horrifies the writer. In fact, they hate it!
Then, two weeks later, when the emotion dies down, they realize it was a pretty good idea. Maybe even a great idea. So why did they hate it so much the first time they heard it?
Most likely, that idea threatened something they had already written and they unconsciously felt the need to protect their words/ideas/scenes/characters, etc. Nothing wrong with “protecting your babies.” It is natural to take care of something you’ve created.
But what if you go into “discovery mode” instead of protecting what you’ve already written?
Here’s some thoughts on how to do that:
1. Focus on the bigger picture.
Sometimes, people get so caught up in defending small details that they lose sight of the larger issues…like the overall story or what it takes to sell the script or even more important, what will move your career forward. Those are the bigger pictures.
2. Declare to yourself that the script can be improved.
When a writer think their script is perfect, they often won’t allow anything to “interfere” with that perfection. So even the best ideas will not be allowed in.
Instead, what if you looked at any feedback as a possible source of making your script great? What if you go in knowing that even the best scripts can be improved…if the writer is open to it.
3. Look first for the value in their comments.
What if you can launch into a discovery-oriented brainstorm session with the person and work to double the quality of your script in that one conversation?
Rewriting takes a lot of work. But it can be joyous work if you are fully committed to the discovery process. But when people start defending and protecting a script, they just left the “creative building.”
Obviously, you don’t want to make changes that don’t improve the script. You have a right to be selective and to delete poor ideas and suggestions. But by being open to potential improvements, you may just find something that truly adds value to your story and script.
Even if what they say is completely off the wall, it may be a seed of something brilliant. Or it may point to a problem that you didn’t notice. If three or more people suggest improvements for one area, chances are that it isn’t living up to the rest of the script. Their specific suggestions may be bad, but the act of them pointing at that area has meaning in itself.
Just keep looking for the value in their comments and you may be surprised how many times you find it…even if it wasn’t there in the first place.
4. Remember that your version is still safe.
Since you can save each draft to your hard drive, you’ll never lose anything by creating something new. You can always go back to the original draft and use that.
This gives you the freedom to be truly creative. You know that your version of the script is safe, so you can try new paths and test out suggestions. Many times, writing it out will provide you with a completely new insight into how the idea might fit into your story.
B. Think of rewriting as a Non-Linear process.
Once you’ve completed your first draft, you can see the story as a whole. You now have the ability to make changes in multiple places of your script AT THE SAME TIME. You aren’t shackled by the one-page-at-a-time prison. Instead, you are free to consider and improve many areas in the same thought process.
For example, if you change the last thing a character does in your script — their big ending — you often will instantly think of five setups that need to be in place for that ending to work.
That is non-linear thinking.
How does this improve the rewrite process?
For one, you are thinking in setups and payoffs. Just as important, you can now think from the end to the beginning.
Knowing how a character will end up will often change their actions, their d ialogue, and could even change who they are in the story. Being able to consider multiple elements at the same time means you make better decisions and end up with a much tighter story.
C. What will make this script great?
Now that you are in discovery mode and are thinking non-linearly, the next important step is to ask one simple question and keep asking it until you get a satisfying answer.
What will make this script great?
Don’t take this lightly. This could be the most important question you’ve ever answered, at least in the screenwriting world.
Most people have started with a story, populated it with characters, and added dialogue and action…without ever considering what could make it great. Then, they start pitching it and get negative reactions from agents and producers.
If they would have only taken the same amount of time with this question as they did to create their characters, chances are that they would be getting better results when they approach the market.
When I work with a writer on a rewrite, I’m totally focused on this question. From the opening of the script until the last words, I’m searching for what could make this script great.
Here’s the beauty of asking a question like this: I either find what is already making the script great or I find what could potentially make it great — all because I asked that question.
BTW, I keep asking it until the answer shows up.
WHAT TO DO?