Doth it suck? Yea, verily

Because "Dude. Yorick. Bummer." just doesn't have the same panache
Because “Dude. Yorick. Bummer.” just doesn’t have the same panache

Oh, first draft. You teasing vixen.

I go over the story ideas in my head, everything coalesces and plays out like a well-oiled machine.

But try to transfer them onto the page, and it all discombobulates into a tangled mess on par with the cord on a pair of earbuds carelessly tossed into a gym bag.

Experienced writers know what I mean.

Although it took a while, I finally reached the end of Act Two in the revamping of the outline of the pulpy adventure spec. On one hand, I’m thrilled to have gotten here. On the other, I want to shrug my shoulders and mutter “eh, good enough” about the scenes and sequences that led up to this point.

They’re definitely far from perfect, and without a doubt will be totally different as future drafts come into play.

Let’s pause to consider the phrase “future drafts.” As in “there will be more”, emphasis on “will”. Not “might”. “Will”.

I recently connected with another writer on a networking site, and they ended our introductory correspondence by letting me know they had first drafts of their scripts available to read.

I sincerely hope not.

Unless you’re looking for feedback, don’t show your first draft to anyone. Ever.

The first draft is the attempt to put all your ideas into some kind of order. Know going in that it won’t be pretty, and will most likely be a big mess requiring a ton of fixes. Not a bunch of little edits, but huge, drastic steps. The end result should look totally different from what you started with.

Don’t regard rewriting as a chore or a slog. It’s something you have to do on a regular basis. It makes the script better and helps you become a better writer.

Consider the last script you wrote. How many drafts did it require to get to the point where you finally said it was done? And wasn’t each successive draft a little better, until the final draft turned out significantly improved compared to the very first one?

That’s what you should be going for. Every single time.

4 thoughts on “Doth it suck? Yea, verily

  1. “they ended our introductory correspondence by letting me know they had first drafts of their scripts available to read.

    I sincerely hope not.”

    Ha. Yes! I sincerely hope not too. First drafts should never be seen by anyone other than the writer. And, maybe the fire pit.

  2. Where does your outline help in making your first draft closer to what you envision?

    For me, the outline is a huge help. That’s where I can get everything on paper and organized (I go into a ton of detail in outlines, including bits of dialogue I don’t want to forget). Now and then I need to make along the way because either what I outlined won’t work or I think of something better. By the time I’m done, I can more often than not say it’s ready for my editor.

    With an outline I find that if something isn’t working, I can toss it after a few days, instead of a few months like a manuscript. When I was starting out, I didn’t outline and just made it up as I went with only a small idea of where I was going, which caused many the headache you describe.

  3. Early in my screenwriting education, I grew to hate outlines. It wasn’t until much later that I realized why I hated outlines. I feel I was taught it wrong. To elaborate, the outline was a document we had to create early on in a very short period of time. Subsequently, the vast majority of time was focused on writing the story that had been outlined. I think this is a dead wrong approach. (At least, for me.)

    I think it negated the importance of “breaking a story” in preparation. Some might call it “cracking a story” or something else, but I’ve grown to love “breaking a story” because in those preparation stages, I literally want to try to break the story. I want to run it through the wringer for logic flaws, story flaws, whatever. This, to me, is all pre-outline. It might correspond somewhat to what Brian says above about outlining and re-outlining.

    But, either way, I think most of the time in creating a great screenplay should go towards prep. This doesn’t mean you’re not writing scenes. You are. I am. It’s just… well… the outline of my last screenplay didn’t occur until at least half way through my entire process. And, I really hate the term outline, probably because I think my initial education surrounding it was wrong. (At least, for me, in my process, that I’ve found through too much trial and error.)

    Also, outline in my head seems to imply this rigid document that you’r going to stick to. That should not be the case. There needs to be room for flexibility. Never should someone be forced to create an outline in a week or two and then forced to adhere to it for the subsequent two to three months of writing the screenplay. That’s my opinion, at least.

  4. What a totally flawed approach. Rushing through putting an outline together is 100% counterproductive. The more time you can spend on it is more time to find and fix any number of problems.

    As I’ve written before, I don’t even think about starting on pages until I consider the outline as bulletproof as it’s going to get.

    That being said, there will also always be some fixes to be made as/after the pages are written, but they tend to not be too much of a problem, and a lot of the hard stuff has already been taken care of.

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