Thursday, March 31, 2011

How To Write A Screenplay in 30 Easy Steps, Part Five: The Second Draft

The Grand Finale…

24. Get Over the Disappointment

If you’ve got good friends, they’ll be honest and break your heart. They hate the characters you love. They don’t understand the ending. They just don’t get it. Your story seems pointless. This is okay. This is the proper response to a first draft. The problem is probably not in what your story is but in how you told it. Because you didn’t know how people would react until you wrote it. Now you know. So fix it.

25. Identify the New Holes

This is a repeat of step 14... Sort the notes you got into three types: plot holes, sympathy holes, and motivation holes. Yes, you thought you had identified these before, but you always miss a lot. One thing I like to do is call that friend who never wrote me back with any notes. I tell him that it’s okay, but I just need to know one thing: on what page did he stop reading the screenplay. This is the most valuable information of all. That page number is where you’ll find the biggest motivation hole.

26. Brainstorm New Solutions

Once again, makes a list of every problem and five possible solutions to each. Find a new solution that satisfies every problem without creating new ones.

27. Write the Second Draft

Take those scenes that aren’t working and cut them out entirely. Re-write those scenes from scratch. Force yourself to change as much as possible. Arbitrarily change the setting of the scene just to give yourself a new perspective. Keep it fresh. The second draft should be shorter, with a more linear plot, stronger motivation and a bigger emotional punch. This is the draft that should make you cry as you’re typing.

28. Another Visit from Mister Hawking

Have the computer read the script back to you again. By now, it’s starting to sound totally meaningless to your ear. This is inevitable. Power through it. Fix typos. Cut out fat. Pick better words. Perfect it.

29. Resist the Urge for More Outside Input

By now you should be out of friends anyway. Never ask the same person to read two subsequent drafts of the same script. Not enough of the script will have changed yet, and they’ll be pissed about whatever notes they gave you that you didn’t take. Besides, you’re totally blotto by this point. Additional notes will do you no good.

30. Send It Out

If you have reps, send it to them. If you don’t, send it to a contest. Get it read. Get it sold. Once it sells, you’ll get the real notes and you’ll have to tear it apart all over again, but always save a copy of that perfect second draft that was just the way you wanted it to be.


Crystal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crystal said...

Matt, I LOVE your blog. In fact, I'm addicted to it (and I'm not the biggest blog fan) - you post relevant, enlightening, broadening, deepening info ALL THE TIME. I loved that you ask the non-repliers for the page at which they stopped reading. Brilliant!!!

Anonymous said...

Once again this series aims high and hits it out of the park. Thanks for sharing your hard-won experience with us all. Once again I'll say that your blog is better than 99.9% of the books I've ever read about writing. And I hope one day you'll compile a good portion of it into book form.

Matt Bird said...

Thanks, guys! I'm glad people were actually reading the big block of posts I put up before we left.

And yes, I would certainly love to convert this into a book some time soon. That's one reason I've been doing more "how to" style posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this information.