Screenwriting : What is your biggest challenge after you finish your first draft? by Annie Mac

Annie Mac

What is your biggest challenge after you finish your first draft?

You had a brilliant idea, you share it with friends, peers, family. They all say it would make a fantastic movie. You spend the last frantic weeks, months, years, eating, drinking, dreaming, writing and rewriting your screenplay. Then miracle of miracles, you finally type FADE OUT -- THE END. This is the beginning of new challenges. What do I do now?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Pray

Annie Mac

Is this really what you do, Steven and Lynn?

Annie Mac

Steven what are you planning to do with your Hope saves Manhattan?

Annie Mac

CONGRATS for your Sort of Homecoming's success! What project are you working on now?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Make it a movie.

Annie Mac

Wow! you mean direct it yourself?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Yep. Worked for Woody after his "Whats New Pussycat" fiasco. "Film Directing Fundamentals" -second edition by Nicholas T. Proferes.

Dave McCrea

Get HONEST no holds barred feedback. Not just from pros but from laypeople. Pitch it to random people verbally and watch their reaction. And figure out what the main issues are and rewrite. But one thing I believe in very much is that you should also decide whether it is worth rewriting - it may not be. Some scripts are so fundamentally flawed that rewriting is counter-productive. When you send it around, you might get notes like the characters could be more sympathetic or the dialogue is not good or "Act 1 is too long". However, you'll rarely get notes like 'why would anyone pay $10 to see that?' which can sting but this is the kind of feedback you actually want (not saying that this applies to your script necessarily, it may be fantastic). Because a good script should not only be good writing on a per-page basis, it should also be a good story, easy to communicate and with an obvious dramatic conflict at its core. So that's why you should get honest feedback. If you have a movie with no conflict, making the dialogue better is not going to do anything for you, for example. First you have to verify that the script "works", then if it works, you figure out how to make it better, starting with the bigger issues and working your way down to smaller issues.

Joseph Chastain

I work on another project, putting that one away for awhile. Then I go back to it again and rewrite it a couple times, at least twice THEN I get feedback. No sense in wasting someone's time with a first or second draft. Never let anyone read a first or second draft.

Annie Mac

Dave, those are golden words! I agree about honesty, I also believe a lot of screenplays are written to master the craft, and the writers deserve your time of day, until they're hit by that brilliant, solid, dramatic idea.

Annie Mac

Patricia, what are you working on right now?

Annie Mac

Joseph! I like your spirit, what are you working on right now?

Annie Mac

Best of luck, Steven. I'd love to read the first 3 pages of Hope Saves Manhattan. Is there a possibility?

Terri Viani

After the first draft is done I let it percolate for two days, read it again this time aloud to see how the words will sound in my actors's mouths, make changes off that, and then it goes off to my first round reader, AKA my producing partner. Once I get her notes we debate things back and forth, then more changes, and then it goes to my two second round readers - I'm beginning to sound like a screenplay contest lol - and take in their notes. I don't know that anything is ever really done but once it's done I begin the up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege (name the film!) of moving it into the world.I always have another project waiting behind the one that's done (this has nothing to do with me being Super Writer and everything to do with me being Super Neurotic Writer =D ). Sometimes it's just in notebook, thoughts-jotted-down form, but it's there, ready to be worked on, and that then gets picked up while I'm pushing the completed script.

William Martell

Writing the next script while that first script is on a shelf, so that when I go back to rewrite it I can see the script with fresh eyes. And replenishing all of the snack foods I have eaten while writing that first script.

Dawn Murrell

I am dealing with this exact question now. I finished a romantic comedy and I think I love it. I thought it was good and funny and all that, but now I am reading it like, "Meh, it's okay". I put it away and started working on other screenplays because I am now doubting the work I loved just a couple days ago and thought I was ready to pitch to the world. Do I rewrite AGAIN? Is it time for me to get coverage or a harsh critic to read it? I hate doubting myself. Let me know what helps you, Annie. :)

Dan Guardino

It sounds like this is your first script. If that is the case get feedback from someone that has more experience and you trust will give you honest feedback.

Annie Mac

@ Dawn, amazing what good and wise advice you get on this link! What helps me is precisely having several people with experience read my script and offer genuine feedback. This is why I started a company with my partner that offers personalized services at affordable prices. If you're curious to sample what we do free of charge, send your logline and the first 3 pages of your script to cinemannie@gmail.com. Be glad to help.

David Levy

I write, put it away, start another script, then go back to the one I shelved and reevaluate it, then rewrite. After I do my few rewrites, I generally like honest, no holds barred feedback. My issue is I always find peers with little to no industry experience to read my work who don't know how to give feedback. I always get a few sentences of critique like "script looks good" or "you're a talented writer". Only when paying for coverage or a clas on S32 with script critique do I get quality feedback to improve my craft of TV pilot writing. This hinders me from reacing out to peers because the quality feedback hasn't been there. Even the former showrunner I was taught TV writing by doesn't get back to me. He's sat on two scripts I rewrotes he said he would review. So most of the time I sit on a script and just work on the next one until I can afford to pay for coverage. Seems that is the only place I have been able to get feedback to improve my work. Have yet to network with any peers at a specific level of experience to provide quality, honest feedback on TV writing that is just a peer and not someone charging for a service to help you improve. I am not a quitter so I move on and learn the best I can.

D.W. Lynch

The first draft is always terrible. Reading it all the way through is a kick in the gut and for at least a couple days after I'm somewhat despondent with regards to writing. Then I come through the other side and actually breakdown what's not working and start coming up with a plan of attack for the next draft. THAT is actually the most exhilarating part of the whole process for me. The challenge however is getting through those first couple of days of darkness.

Annie Mac

@DAVID, I agree 100% about feedback from peers. We all need feedback from people with solid experience in the business, who can offer not only subjective thoughts and suggestions, but are able to guide you firmly to the next level. All the best!

Annie Mac

Yes, courage and grit are part of the tool kit, D.W. Cheers!

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

What elevates humanity above its origins is our courage.

Terri Viani

I love the word "grit." There's a TED talk about grit and how it's the one thing we actually need to achieve our goals. Certainly in this biz it helps! :)

John Garrett

Annie, I set it down and work on something else for awhile. Usually at least a couple weeks. Then I come back with "fresh eyes" and rewrite. If you ever write the perfect screenplay in one pass, you have just experienced a miracle. When I am happy with what I have rewritten, 2, 3, 204 rewrites later, I go make it. Well, I did that with the first short. I haven't started making features yet. But I am making my shorts to learn the lessons and be able to make the features. It is my humble opinion that for most people that call themselves writers, they will have to become filmmakers to get their stories told initially. That is just my opinion.

Annie Mac

Absolutely, John! I taught screenwriting and film aesthetics for years, but I realized it was not until students wrote and made their own films, that they became truly film literate. Hands on is invaluable. Congrats John on discovering this for yourself. I also wrote and directed several shorts, before writing features, they made it to festivals all over the world and I knew I was on the right track. Best of luck to you!

Annie Mac

TERRI, grit and the old-fashioned gumption are some of my fav. words and practice ;-)

Joseph Chastain

Annie--i just finished a first draft of a drama that is like Magnolia or Crash where the characters are effected by mental illness and am cowriting a horror musical. I always am working on something!

Annie Mac

Wow, JOSEPH, you are busy! A Magnolia type draft? That sounds ambitious, what is the TITLE and what is your main challenge?

Chris Neumann

With my current one, I'm still learning and realizing all this complicated stuff about the subject matter after the draft is done. While it's interesting and could be fun to tackle, I have to realize I can't integrate it all because then it would convolute what's supposed to be a simple little story! New nuances just keep popping up and I feel a responsibility to address them, but if I keep doing that, this thing will never be done!

Joseph Chastain

The title is "Shattered Windows" I'm not sure if you mean challenge of the characters of my challenge in writing so I'll answer both. For the characters it's a combination of accepting themselves and being accepted by others. For myself it's not making the dialogue to one the nose. I don't think dialogue has to ALL not be on the nose like some screenwriters think, sometimes real people and characters DO say what they feel, even in the best scripts ever, but doing it too much has always been a challenge of mine. In my real life I'm pretty direct, so my characters tend to be too.

Dawn Murrell

It sounds like some good work being done there Joseph and Chris! @Annie I would be very interested in seeing the work that you do on coverage thank you very much! :) How cute and genius is the name Cinemannie?! I love that and I am so grateful you posted this thread!

Annie Mac

@ Dawn, Thank you for your enthusiasm! If you would like to sample our work, send the first 5 pages in Final draft, or pdf format of a screenplay you're currently working on, or just finished. Let us know how long you've been working on it, add a logline or short synopsis, and the results you expect from this free consultation. Cheers!

Annie Mac

JOSEPH, I meant challenge with your script. I'm very familiar with the charge of "on the nose" dialogue from consultants and readers. The trouble is that it's almost impossible for the writer to see it, especially if you are a direct and straight-forward communicator. Usually it means that whatever is said could be conveyed with more subtlety, or more visually, or with a layer of subtext. I believe a good consultant would offer alternatives. Best of luck!

Tim Steele

I find it hard editing taking stuff out that you want to keep in.

Annie Mac

I know, but it's imperative to do it, clear the clutter, get help with that, another pair of experienced eyes will suggest where - once you do it, you'll be able to feel the improvement in your bones -- you can always go back to the original if you wish. It's all a matter of choice. Courage, Tim. try it and let me know :o)

Annie Mac

Good advice, Victor! And Tim, absolutely only trust someone who tells you WHY specifically something needs to be shortened or cut altogether - if they are worthy of your attention, they will even do a small edit to demonstrate how it works. I'm willing to do it free of charge for 3 script pages. So if you're curious email at - cinemannie@gmail.com - 10 pages of your script for context, in Final draft, but pdf will do. Include a log line if you wish. In any case, all the best!

Annie Mac

Victor, seems you've had lots of negative experiences with feedback. This is a whole other thread we could start, that's why it's a good idea and practice to ask for a sample feedback, before engaging your whole precious work in a whole script evaluation. Take care.

Jody Ellis

My normal routine is I set the screenplay aside for a week. Then I go back and do a round of revisions. After that, I pass it off to my significant other, who is also a writer and incredibly smart and talented. I trust him 100 percent. He will read and give me feedback, tell me what I need to change. Once I've done those things I forward it to my agent, enter it in a few contests and cross my fingers that someone likes it! In all this is constant rewriting and editing of course.

Annie Mac

Victor, before asking someone for feedback, it's good practice to read their professional credentials and read what other people say about them. Then, ask for samples of their work and judge for yourself. I do hope you get positive and specific results. You deserve it!

Annie Mac

Thanks, Jody! Your routine sounds a lot like mine. I'm happy to report some success with 2 Festivals, cross fingers and I wish you all the very best with your submissions.

Dan Guardino

I turn mine over to my agent and sometimes she will make suggestions and sometime she doesn't.

Aray Brown

Firstly, I don't send my script out EVEN to family until I'm confident. Secondly, I would go over it, get rid of any typos, and read it out loud to see if it flows or if there's things you need to change right away (if a certain scene isn't working or the dialogue is lacking) Then after the rewrite I'd seek professional help and send it to friends and family although, friends and family rarely give you the feedback you need.

Joyce Davidson

Writers' group? Even professionals don't always have your vision. I record an oral version of my novels and may do that with my screenplays. Imagine the voices of the actors you visualized when you wrote. They all have distinct patterns. Think of Hugh Grant, for instance. Also, your request for feedback must be absolutely guided, so that the reader will address what you want him to focus on.

Annie Mac

Joyce, I agree 100%. it's important to request for very specific feedback! Are you writing that screenplay that will tug at the emotions, have a laugh or two and will bring Baby Boomers into the theater?

Joyce Davidson

Absolutely, Annie! That is my main goal. I'm over the hill past baby boomers. The seniors will be glad to go to movies that don't make them seasick from jiggling the camera. Dramedy is my brand.

Annie Mac

You peeked my curiosity. At what stage are you of your dramedy, and what is the title?

Joyce Davidson

"Stalking Alex" is a widow's revenge plot to kill the man who accidentally crushed her husband's car. The stage is a couple of months to the final draft. Low budget, easy locations, good character arc, wide audience 25+, several tasty parts, and a tug at a prejudice.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

A lot of good comments, A lot of good advice. In addition to my earlier comment "pray" . I would add a more valid suggestion. Script swaping with a fellow Stage 32 member that you are comfortable with. And of course if you have the $$ as others have stated Joey Tuccios script coverage here on Stage 32. This might have been touched on by other "Happy Writers" above me. But, just thought I'd add my two cents.

Joyce Davidson

Well, it isn't a true story, and I left out much, of course. It's my ScreenwritingU script.

Annie Mac

Steven. Thanks for the tip. Victor, good policy. Joyce, I love the premise - SCREENWRITING U should be a great resource. May the screenwriter's gods be with you ;o)

Joyce Davidson

Thanks for your encouragement. I have a daughter-in-law who wrote a produced film, a daughter who wrote spec t. v. scripts, and a daughter who has far-out, amazing concepts,so I'm taking the courses to get them on the ball.

Annie Mac

You are surrounded by talented people, by getting them on the ball, what do you mean, Joyce?

Joyce Davidson

They have day jobs and I'm retired, an author, and I see their talent, so I encourage them to learn the skills. They don't have the incomes for that. I am taking courses, not only for myself but to guide them. It's not enough to critique by saying, "I like it" or "I think it won't sell". The jargon is important. Why is it good? Why won't it sell? Get to the core of it and learn about the industry. Everyone's job is on the line with great amounts of money betting on a story line. I don't want my adult children and grandchildren to send out something that isn't super, and I don't want to do that myself. It's no good to be naive, lazy, arrogant, or uninformed and expect plaudits.

Annie Mac

Thanks. I did that too for my students and kids after I retired from teaching to dedicate myself to my first passion.

Joyce Davidson

You are wise and good-hearted.

Regina Lee

"What do you do now?" It depends on what your goal is and what your resources are. The path for a studio feature is so very different from the path for an indie feature. The path for a writer/director is different from the path of a writer. The path for someone whose college roommate is married to a talent agent is different from the path for someone who's taking an online class at UCLA. Etc. In any case, break a leg!!

Annie Mac

Thanks for asking, Regina? In a nutshell, I write with a passion and I seek to keep improving my skills. At the moment I write spec screenplays. I submit them to competitions. So far, two moved, to semi-finalist and quarter-finalist. I rewrite when I'm convinced that the time will come for this or that particular script. Meantime I formed a small consulting company with a unique feature HE SAID -SHE SAID. If you like can go to my Stage 32 profile or to my links and see more.

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