The early drafts of my western spec all clocked in at 132 pages. “Way too long!” I was told.
Tips and suggestions on how to tighten things up were provided and implemented. 126 pages. “Still too long! Cut more!” they demanded.
Sleeves were rolled up. Knuckles were cracked. The pounding of computer keys continued. 122. “Keep going!” was the response.
I slaved, toiled and labored until I couldn’t take it any more. 117. “Almost there!”
Feeling rather drained, I took the most effective step of all: I printed out those 117 pages, armed myself with the almighty red pen and got to work.
For some inexplicable reason, when I edit a script on paper, it’s much more effective than working with a digital copy. Lines of text I’d always ignored would suddenly pop as something to cut, modify or move around.
I’ll scribble out an alternative line of dialogue. Try out an impromptu reorganizing of the scene. Cross something out, then change my mind and write ‘keep’ over it. Use my finger to literally block out a line to figure out if the scene still works without it.
Just the other day I cut out half the dialogue in a scene with no significant impact. Would I have been able to do that if I wasn’t working with actual pages? Hard to say, but I’m inclined to believe “probably not.”
As I worked my way through the script, I found more and more opportunities to cut or edit. Of these 117 pages, there’s at least one red mark on just about every page, which includes the plentiful use of red lines through words and/or sentences, and lots of circles and arrows (as in “move THIS to HERE”).
Exhausting as it was, the red pen portion of the process is now complete.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to digitally apply these edits for a couple of days. The US is currently in the middle of a big holiday weekend, which means extra work shifts for me. Love the holiday overtime, but it’s also less writing time.
I’m not concerned. It’ll happen soon, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the new page total will end up being, as well as the subsequent responses.
It goes without saying that “Yes!” would be ideal.