Screenwriting : How Many Drafts Are Enough by Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

How Many Drafts Are Enough

I recently wrote a feature script in two weeks, did some editing and then had some writer friends offer notes and check for any typos and omitted words. I just watched a William Goldman interview this week and he wrote one of his features in three weeks, which didn't surprise me. He added that he would typically do three drafts. I've only done multiple drafts, usually three, for optioned scripts where producers requested changes or additions. However, I often revisit older scripts and do revisions before I send them out. My standard is higher now than it was a few years ago. But I never labor over the same script for months. I think it boils down to having a clear picture of where you're going before you begin typing. 

What say you? 

How many drafts do you typically write? 

Is there a magic number that works for you? 

Doug Nelson

I don't count how many drafts I rewrite because every time I open a script on my computer I always find a word or two that can better or a little dialog that can be shined up. To me, these are not 'drafts' - just a little polishing here & there. I've been known to totally rewrite a complete story occasionally and to my way of thinking - those are complete new drafts. Frankly there is no magic number for me. I just keep polishing them until someone jerks 'em away from me.

Stephen Floyd

I usually make it to three drafts before I feel like I’m done. Draft no.1 is normally rife with issues, so I don’t even show the script to someone else until I’ve done some basic revisions myself. So the first draft anyone else sees is no. 2. After incorporating feedback from peers, that leaves me at draft no. 3, which usually is when the script resembles a finished product.

Craig D Griffiths

I have stopped using screenplay format until I have the story as solid as a rock. I found I was editing for editing sake. Now I do dot points, docs in my iPad and when there is nothing more explore. I go to writerduet and start the formatting. This is when I start making ready for the reader.

I manipulate white space to get the pace the way I want. I’ll start looking and repeating phrase for rhythm.

That was the stuff that (for me) got in the way of story.

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy


That sounds like a creative, interesting idea. Good thinking!

Pete Whiting

I will do 3 before I show it to anyone or get coverage. Then weigh up further changes (small edits or wholesale and fix typos etc.) upon the coverage feedback.

Anthony Moore

Three is my magic number because if I couldn't get the story told by then Its best to abandon it for a while. Possibly coming back to it months or even years later.

Ally Shina

I do three drafts mostly but the 3rd draft is usually a "better safe than sorry" kind of situation... I like to edit and proofread a lot during the writing process so by the 2nd draft my scripts are almost polished.

Phil Clarke

I don't believe there is an arbitrary magic number of drafts. Life doesn't work like that and neither does art. I've written scripts where a small number has sufficed, others where they have gone into double figures. It all depends on the development of the script and story. Some you nail much earlier than others, some you struggle a little more to elevate the story to where it needs to be.

Karen Stark

Multiple drafts occur when the first draft wasn't ready to be written.

CJ Walley

One draft with lots of pre-writing and a final polish here. I'd rather get the sketching right first than repaint over and over.

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