Typing Faster

August 17, 2009

Writing is Rewriting

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 10:50 am

This is a bit of a maxim amongst professional writers. See, the hard part of any project isn’t busting out that first draft. The hard part is tearing that first draft apart to fix all the crap that’s not working.

And believe me, there’s going to be crap that’s not working.

Writing, like most things in life, is a constant struggle for perfection. We can just ignore the fact that perfection’s unattainable. There’s always going to be something that’s not quite right, or that could be a bit better.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Rewriting is a pain in the ass though, or at least it is for me. The excitement of “finishing,” even if it’s only a first draft, fades pretty quickly once you start the incessant tinkering.

If you’re lucky, the tinkering will be limited to a few scenes or sequences. This way you can go in and do a tactical rewrite, just focusing on those elements that are giving a bit of trouble and ignoring the rest.

If the problems are more extensive then you have to go back and do a page one. If you have to take out huge swathes of the story, then it might be an idea to go all the way back to the outline stage and work it up again from there.

At least completely tearing apart an outline is less intimidating than completely tearing apart a script.

For a pilot that you’re writing on spec, you’re probably looking at three or four drafts, at the very least, to get it where you need it to be. Once you’re working on staff those timelines are going to shrink dramatically, if only for the reason that there’s never enough time to endlessly rewrite a scene, no matter how much you may want to.

The hardest part about rewriting a spec is knowing when it’s done, knowing when to set it aside. I’m a believer that every script is probably rewritten one or two drafts past its best. Just like Murphy’s Law, it’s one of those incontrovertible rules of the universe. The quicker you learn how to distinguish a script that’s as good as you can get it, the better off your final products are going to be.

All this rambling is my way of putting off the inevitable. I’m in the midst of a rewrite on one of my scripts, a rewrite with a firm deadline.

And I hate rewriting.

Suck it up buttercup. Time to get back to work.

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