How do you get from a first draft to a finished original spec script? Before you crack open that first draft and start slashing with a red pen, it’s a good idea to put a rewrite system in place so you don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve got a little catchphrase I like to tell myself…
Getting a script from draft to done takes several rounds of rewriting like a BOSS.
B: Take BREAKS on the project so you can see your last draft with a fresh perspective.
O: Read the latest draft OUT LOUD. This medium is written to be performed and what reads well might not actually speak well.
S.S: Edit in chunks, taking multiple passes with SPECIFIC STRATEGY.
If you read through your own work you’re going to see a lot that you want to change. Add to that, if you’ve asked a trusted mentor for their notes on your work, you’ll probably end up with several suggestions from them. It can be hard to know where to start or finish. It’s a good idea to make a list and break it down. Get into the habit of going through the script multiple times with your eye on just one specific aspect of the writing each time.
Here’s a sample list of some of the big ones:
-Integration of theme in character choices and consequences
-Structure/ pacing of the main plot points
-Scene movement and purpose
-Consistency of character voice
-The specificity of place and props
-Moments of connection
-Moments of conflict
-Setup and release of tension
-Am telling when I should be showing?
I’m sure there are many more specifics you could take a pass for. Whether you make the changes with each strategic pass or let the notes add up to make more changes all at once will be a matter of individual process and circumstance. A book like Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid offers a great overview of the many moving parts in a smoothly working story.
It’s a big grind of a job to do alone, and morale can drop quickly. It’s important to break it down into manageable chunks and plod on. Try to be patient and kind to yourself and your project so you don’t get overwhelmed. And if you do start to feel overwhelmed? Your mind might try to play tricks on you, convincing you that it’s a waste of time. Keep Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art on the bedside table. Grit your teeth and do the work anyway. Chip away at your B.O.S.S rewrite list. You’ll be glad you did.