There’s an old joke about screenwriting; Two development execs meet in the hallway. One says, “Hey, what’s cooking?” The second one, extremely excited, replies, “I just bought this script. It’s the most perfect piece of writing I’ve ever seen. Characters, story, EVERYTHING about it is A-number-one. Academy award time.” “That’s fantastic,” says the first one, dripping with envy. “So when do you go into production?” “As soon as I get the rewrite.”
Whether or not the joke is particularly funny is a discussion unto itself, but what the joke definitely is, is honest. If a script makes it straight from the first draft into filming, something is very very wrong. Editing, revising, rewriting, and reworking are of the utmost importance if not for discovering those changes that can elevate the final product, then at least for gaining some peace of mind. Here are three things to keep in mind while editing your script.
Don’t dive right back in as soon as you’ve finished writing. This is how a writer, whose mind has been mushed into soup by their efforts, fails to approach their script with fresh eyes. Take a short break, work on something else, ask a trusted reader get in touch with us to have a look at your script. Anything to put some distance between you and the story, so that when you get back to it, you’re equipped with a refreshed point of view, one more akin to that of your proposed audience.
Don’t grow overly attached. Ask yourself, whenever attempting to justify a scene or line’s presence, is there a logical reason, supported by the story surrounding it, for this moment to be here? If you can’t articulate its purpose, either in developing characteristics which later play a role in the story, or setting up a plot-thread, or any other such reason, if the only reason you can think of is: “I like it”, you may need to think twice about including it. Tuck a good idea away for another script, but don’t feel obligated to include an idea just because it’s good when it may jut out of your story at an odd angle. Audiences can feel when a scene is wasting their time.
Don’t Format in the first draft. Keeping track of all the tyrannical rules of formatting required of a “professional” script whilst in creative frisson is a tough nut to crack. Instead, write your first draft however you like, and once the editing process rolls around, get the checklist out, and format as you go through your script for revisions. You’ll save yourself a lot of stop-and-start during those ever-crucial initial writing sessions. On a similar note, this is also the opportune time for spell-check.
There are a lot of things to be aware of while editing, and the truth is that they fluctuate from script to script, each story needs unique tactics to whittle it down, hence the value of collaboration. Regardless, hopefully these pointers help you get started on your journey to perfecting your script.