Screenwriting : Approaching the second draft by Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan

Approaching the second draft

I've a first draft of a script written, and left to the side for the last 2 months. I'm finishing up another story and thinking of giving my first draft a read and take some notes. So how does everyone else approach their second draft? Do you toss out all or most ideas for characters and plot and let the first draft tell you how the story is going / isn't going. Do you take notes on where the first draft drifts from your original ideas? Do you procrastinate harder, faster, louder?

Jason Dennis

Just being conscientious enough to analyze your script and take notes is 90% of the ball game in rewrites. And you've done the right thing by not touching it for two months - a warning though, you will cringe when you read it. But you have to completely let go of your preconceived notions of the story - every change is on the table. I highly recommend peer review. The website I use for that is Talentville.

K Kalyanaraman

Re-reading your draft does not necessarily mean tossing out earlier dialogues or action. The emphasis for any writer is to keep working on the story-how powerful, or touching, or gruesome (the objective) is. It's a good idea to rest your version for some days and revisit it. A writer will be astonished by the changes she can make, then.

Melinda M. Dus

I usually like to get objective feedback on a first draft before I start revising. Trigger Street is ending but I used to post my first drafts there to get 10-15 peer reviews to see common themes/issues before reworking the story.

Kevin Ryan

Jason I cringed at some parts, especially one piece of dialogue as soon as I wrote it ha. Also I do remember being far into the first draft and already feeling that two characters relationship to each other was polar opposite to what I think it should be and what it could be to make it more interesting. With this script I am letting myself have that first, ultra crappy draft as a gift only I may read and cringe at....then re-write it and send out the second draft for peer review. And hey I can always take any critiques or found flaws as a positive like "you think that's bad. I just saved you from the really really bad stuff in draft 1"

Jason Dennis

Yes I definitely know that "You hate this? Hahaha you should have seen the last one then." feeling.

Andy Silverman

I read through each scene with the thought, what did I want to happen in this scene, did I pull it off, and is it moving the plot forward? Make notes on each scene then rewrite with the notes in mind. Usually the second draft is completely different from the first and much improved.

Jen Govey

I put my 'Readers' hat on and imagine myself getting the script through and I read and write coverage as I would with a professional eye. Print it out bind it (things can read differently on a page than they do a screen). As it's my own script I write highlight while reading green for great red for needs work and go back and write a full coverage. At the same time I will get a couple of friends (who are pro's) to give it a once over. One is a professional reader who doesn't hold back and I value him the most as it pushes my work to another level. It's also good to get layman's feedback for a different perspective. All neg feedback is a positive as it means you get to address stuff and make it better. You need to detach to a certain degree so you can discern different tastes to actual problems. Better to get things good now than have a submission rejected as you didn't put enough time into your craft. All this together gives me a clearer idea of what I've got and helps me decide where I need to go with it. I also have a good look at my synopsis and loglines again. What am I actually trying to say with this script - what are the core underlying messages and how can I bring it to the next level. Has it become a different story? Is it off track in places, or should I follow the new direction, or do I need to get back to the core message more? There's also the editing. Can you say it better with less words. Less is more with scripts. Can you show instead of tell? Can I be more subtle? Do you need better set ups to give bigger payoffs? Sometimes you may want to swap or drop scenes - when is the latest you can join a scene and how soon can you leave it? Does it flow? To help with dialogue, you may need to do some more in depth character background work to really get inside them. I have an A3 cork board for characters with pictures on. I google for photos and pin them on my board with notes that will never make it into the script - so I get a feeling for them as real people. As cineastes we tend to be stimulated by vision and sound, so as well as pictures also think of music or sound that points to each character. When you spend more time with them, they just begin to speak through you more clearly. You can literally hear them and you dictate. It makes dialogue a lot more realistic. Enjoy the rewriting process, it gives you the chance to craft something spectacular out of something you created! :)

Jason Dennis

I just use a pen right now, when I print it out. I think I am going to steal Jen's idea and use highlighters. Also... print it out. You tend to try to preserve things if you don't. You need to have a mentality that NOTHING is not expendable.

Shane M Wheeler

All depends on the roughness of the first draft. While I personally have a pretty good idea of characters, story, etc. outlined before I write, and will tend to refine and focus rather than utterly gut and rebuild, the process varies from script to script. Also, good job on waiting two months. Usually it takes a bit to get yourself detached. View it like someone else wrote it and be as ruthless as you need to be.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

If you are having difficulties with 2 characters, and if you feel the script has merit overall --- and yet you are stumped -- get some professional feedback. Find a reliable person and pay him or her a fee. It is so worth it. In the past I have received free feedback. It is, almost without exception, useless.

Dave McCrea

Since you've waited a whopping 2 months, when you read it, you will be very close to reading it as if you didn't write it yourself, which is good. Just read the whole thing as if you went to go see it at the movies - what was cool, what wasn't cool. you will probably also notice entire chunks that can just be deleted. The delete button should be your friend.

Robert Leslie Fisher

I would first ask myself what did I write in my outline? Did I follow my outline or deviate from it in some significant way? Perhaps you have gotten some feedback from a friendly critic (I hope she or he is friendly) and they really liked something you wrote that was not a significant part of the first draft. If that is starting to talk to you as a story then start outlining the new story. But simply because you have put your work aside for two months should not cause you to feel that your work has no merit. It may need nothing more than some tightening and other small changes. Still, those small changes can add up to a very big change once you finish with the editing. Good luck!

Christopher Binder

The first draft you write with your heart. The second draft you write with your head.

Jonathan Jordan

I usually try to do a 2nd draft as soon as I finish the first so that I can go ahead and catch any immediate plot holes or inconsistencies while it's still fresh. Then I like to let it sit for 3-6 months before revisiting for the 3rd draft. Then I read it aloud with someone I trust, like my wife, to create the 4th draft. Then I let it sit some more and revisit for a 5th. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint!

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