Creator's Toolkit #9: First Drafts Are Sh*t

It's the end of the year, and I'm going to do a little patting of myself on the back. Though I've been preoccupied with the hoopla of the holidays these past few weeks, I've managed to be very productive (although my blog updates have taken a bit of a backseat this month.)

Last week, I finished the first draft of a feature length screenplay. I'm proud of that accomplishment. Writing a complete film story from start to finish is quite the challenge, so the fact that I have a ninety-plus page draft finished and in my body of work is something I feel really good about.

However, I'm more proud of my approach to the question of "what now?" with the script. As I said, I have a first draft. And as Hemingway famously quipped, "The first draft of anything is sh*t." So I've taken what I hope will be some proactive steps to move my script from "sh*t" to something far better.

First, I've let the script sit for a week. I haven't read it, or started combing through it line by line looking for small fixes. Everybody needs a little time away...(so sayeth Chicago.)

Second, I've let a few select friends and family members read the script. I let my sister read it because she's right in the ballpark of my target market, and I couldn't help but sit in the other room and smile as I heard her giggling while reading it. (Good sign. It's a comedy.) I also made copies for two of my friends. One of whom has spent a lot of time studying both screenwriting and story structure, as well as comedy. We were snowed in last weekend and we spent a few very helpful hours workshopping it. He enjoys working on story and will send me back the copy annotated with his thoughts, questions, ideas and crits. I also gave another copy to pretty much the funniest person I know, and a good writer in his own right, though someone less familiar with screenwriting. I'm looking forward to his feedback as well.

Third, my friend loaned me his well-worn copy of Story, by Robert McKee. This has been on my must read list for years now. And in the past four days, I've blown through this exceptional book. While specifically written for screenwriters, this is essential reading for anyone who fashions his- or herself a storyteller. I'm glad I came to this brilliant piece of instructive writing at this point in time, AFTER having finished a screenplay. I'll be able to use Story to help mold and refine my script, putting the principles of story structure McKee espouses directly to use on a work ready for it. Highest possible recommendation.

What's next on my march toward a second draft? My next step is to block out a couple of hours time and work through my draft on my own. For this next draft I'm going to be looking at the work, trying to push the script to be as enjoyable for the audience (not the writer, aka myself) as possible. I'm also going to be working on eliminating all cliches from the screenplay (or as many as possible) and flagging the scenes and sections that need the most work. There are a few characters I need to round out a bit more, but I'm confident all of this can be done. I'll mark up my copy of the script as I work through it.

Then, I'll combine my notes with the notes of those friends of mine I've asked to read it and from that, hopefully churn out a slightly less sh*tty draft number two.

No comments: