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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rewrite Right

I have a rule when writing first-first drafts (as opposed to second-first drafts, third-first drafts, etc: is there REALLY anyone out there who submits a REAL "first" draft anymore??): walk away for a minimum of THREE DAYS. During these three days one must not even so much as THINK about your first draft, let alone call it up on the desktop and have another quick read-through. No sirreee. Do this and all is lost.

Why? Well, you don't notice the BLOODY OBVIOUS for a start. Maryan has a great post on this and I second her idea. If you keep going back and looking, you're too familiar. Be too familiar and the BLOODY OBVIOUS gets right past you, just like the fact your kid went to school this morning with toothpaste all over his jumper (guilty as charged).

I finished a first-first draft last week in-between Lilirose's naps over a two week period. Because my time was disjointed in writing the draft, the story came out a bit wonky. But that's okay, 'cos I knew that would happen: hell, my life is wonky at the moment; it can't be anything but with a nine month old in the house. My life is perpetual nappy changes, peekaboo and searching for Flat Eric, her favourite Houdini toy. The joys of motherhood.

So, reading through it yesterday then, I found STUFF is wrong with the draft: it's peppered full of typos, there's adverbs (SHOCK! HORROR!), even some NCI. The structure is a bit lumpy. All things I KNEW would happen.

But what about those things that surprised me?

Here goes:

*First off, there's a character who asks people if they want a cup of tea. ALL THE TIME. What happened there? It's a bloke too: in my experience, no fella has ever asked me if I want a cup of tea. Is this some kind of twisted wish fulfilment?

*The profanity in my script is OTT, even in survival situations.

*Considering my character gets beaten up around the end of Act One and everyone says, "Oh, your face!" and "What happened?" BY THE VERY NEXT DAY no one appears to notice: even when she meets new people. Weird.

*A policeman puts his hand THROUGH THE WINDSCREEN to shake someone's hand. Now, I can't drive, but even I know you put your hand through the car side window.

*My protagonist says "Thanks" what feels like every five seconds. Shut up, love!

I could have read through and read through until the cows come home and I wouldn't have noticed these five very obvious things that another, unconnected Reader would have picked up on on the very first time they set eyes on the page. It's like one can be "too close" to one's drafts: whilst coverage is always an idea, sometimes one can pick up things alone. Fresh eyes are what you need - it's the only way to pick up the BLOODY OBVIOUS.

And first-first drafts ALWAYS have BLOODY OBVIOUS mistakes in. Readers can smell first-first drafts like anacondas smell rats. Readers are those fearsome predators, ready to strike and squeeze the life out of your screenplay... Actually, Readers are more likely to roll their eyes, switch the kettle on for another cup of coffee or tea, sigh theatrically and maybe get a biscuit as well, then write PASS.

Don't let them pass. Not on a first-first draft, in the very least. Rewrite right: it's no accident that "draft" rhymes with "graft", I always say. I usually write between five and seven versions of my first drafts, though one once made it to sixteen. Now, I think it's "ready" - but only in the sense that it's ready for development, not shooting. Scripts are blueprints, people.

How many do you write?

21 comments:

Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

With a first-first draft I don't think it really matters how many mistakes you have in there.

What matters is getting from start to finish. If you stop after every new page reading back and forward, you loose the flow and the script takes at least twice as long (if you even manage to get it finished - I'm guilty of that).

Write FADE IN, get the script to the FADE TO BLACK part, and worry about what's in the middle later.

Lucy said...

Hear, hear Chris. Don't you FADE OUT? I've always associated FADE TO BLACK with theatre, though could be talking tripe. Does it matter - anyone?

Elinor said...

I agree, Chris. 90 pages of stream of conciousness now, chiselling out the diamond of your genius later, once you've stopped being embarrassed by all that's wrong with it. Fading to black, now. Good luck tomorrow Lucy. x

Lucy said...

Stream of consciousness is good - as long as you can pick out what's good about it and concentrate on it, whilst cutting back the rest with a hedge trimmer without mercy!

Thanks Elinor - will of course keep you all posted...

Robin Kelly said...

Would you like a cup of tea, Lucy?

Lucy said...

Why thank you Robin, how kind of you to ask. I'd be delighted. Just a dash of milk, no sugar. Ta.

Robin Kelly said...

Coming right up. I'm posting it so it might be a bit cold.

Lucy said...

Use a thermos you fool. And bubble wrap the thermos. And if it still breaks and I drink broken glass, I'll sue your ass. But thanks.

The Moviequill said...

I do Fade Out (I see some The End)... Happy Valentines Day... I once read it took Richard Curtis 17 first drafts to get a first draft of Four Weddings And A Funeral, so I don't feel so bad (btw, my record so far is 14)

Lucy said...

I read that too, MQ.

I see ALOT of scripts with THE END at the end and in fact, some even with FIN as in "FINITO". I don't think it matters much personally, but others have told me IT TOTALLY DOES, so it's another of those "things" to fall down on, so I'd put FADE OUT every time.

Pillock said...

My record is five rewrites.

On the BLOODY OBVIOUS, don't forget, those Stephen Hawkings voices on Final Draft make you notice things you would have missed.

Olaf Legend said...

"draft" also make me think of "breeze" which writing a screenplay is anything but! Peace of Swedish writery wisdom, my friend.

And while you are dealing out cups of tea, howabouts one of your english custard creams to go with it?

Chris (ukscriptwriter) said...

Fade to black is what I get as auto text from Movie Magic.

I went to type FADE OUT, but FADE TO BLACK came up halfway through 'fade', so I just hit return to accept.

Am I trusting the software a bit too much here?

Hmmm

Enzio Pesta said...

Is it possible to write a script completely with adverbs?

I have attempted this and ended up in intensive care with what the doctors thought was a brain anuerisim. Turned out it was just some bad tuna fish.

Love your new blog, Lucy. Only all that pink makes me want to stick needles in my eyes. Seriously, it's a medical condition. Can you do something about it? Really, I love the blog.

Lucy said...

Pillock - half the bits of Final Draft I don't use. Hate those mechanical voices. Why were they included? Don't think they're any use whatsoever, bar picking up typos.

Olaf - told you in my 50 things. I DON'T BUY BISCUITS. EVER.

Chris - this is why I don't like movie Magic, gives you dilemmas like this.

Enzio - given your hatred of screenwriters, I'll leave the pink ; )

oneslackmartian said...

wow, you did a damn good script read on yur-self.

I've become CHARACTER-OBSESSIVE since my rewrite. Mine sat for about a month before the first rewrite. And just before I picked it back up, I found that I couldn't remember HALF the characters. Completely unfuckingmemorable.

So I didn't even pick it up. I found everything I could on character, studied it, digested it, made notes, blogged about, talked about, spun my Tai-Chai balls, and basically shed my 98-pound weakling status in character development.

So now I'm rewriting and trying to puff up some flat-ass characters.

Anywho . . . sad the old blog's dead . . . but I dig your new one.

Pillock said...

One of them sound like a robot Vin Deisel. I think it's Boy 2.

Olaf Legend said...

you don't buy biscuits? does that mean you steal them?

Lucy said...

OSM - unfuckingmemorable characters is not a good idea. Well done on rectifying the situation.

Pillock - they all sound the same to me!

Olaf - I NEVER EAT THEM.

Lucy said...

The Verdict is in: got some coverage from The Lovely Danny Stack and the first-first draft is predictable and a bit 2D...on most fronts. AND I AGREE!! thing is, where do I start now?? This is the bit I love...

MaryAn Batchellor said...

I blush.