After finally finishing that first screenplay and typing FADE OUT it’s great to feel a sense of accomplishment! But the real work is about to begin. Now, I hate revising. I lovingly call it torture. I’d rather munch on broken glass. However, I know it needs to be done. It is the nature of writing. So what’s the best way to tackle revising? Here are some things that I’ve found helpful:
1. Read your script out loud.
Yes, it really does work. It makes you pay attention to what is being said. It also shows you how hard some of it is to say! Need an example? “Mr. Cotton. Do you have the courage and fortitude to follow orders and stay true in the face of danger and almost certain death?” – Jack Sparrow, The Pirates of the Caribbean. If you watch the outtakes, you’ll find out how much Johnny Depp wanted to shoot the writers. So, if you stumble over the line, the actor will too. Don’t think “they can just deal with it.” Your job is to get the story out there and to ensure that the actor can do so.
2. Don’t be afraid to act out moments.
Do it while you’re reading out loud. Those simple gestures you make while you’re acting out a scene can convey the real mood of the scene. Now, granted, some scenes might be a little difficult to act out. Just don’t get yourself hospitalized.
3. Mood setters.
Lights, time of day, food, whips, to do list, trip to a remote location… whatever gets you there. Mine is music. I have a soundtrack for each script. Sound silly? Why? Music and movies have gone together for ages. They inspire and complement each other. If you have a something that defines your characters and clicks your mind into their world, getting into revision mode will be a lot easier! (Honestly, I’m groovin’ right now!)
4. Trustworthy second set of eyes.
There is an assumption that writing is a loner’s sport. Again, no. You may consider a friend, a teacher… and if you want to pay someone, of course that’s fine. (But buyer beware! Do your research!) I’ve taken classes at one of the local colleges and have gained a wonderful colleague who isn’t afraid to tell me when one of my scenes sucks. This also means you need to be susceptible to others’ opinions. It may not be “the truth,” after all opinions are like, well you know.
These are my tips on what NOT to do:
1. Do not avoid it.
It must be done. It won’t go away. It’s your story. It needs tending to just like a garden. It will not supply you with anything if you do not take care of it! Now there is a difference between avoiding and taking a break. You do need to walk away sometimes, because if you stare at something long enough you go blind to the problems. Just don’t use that as an excuse not to do it at all!
2. Do not expect someone else to do it all for you.
Want to become a better writer? You need to revise. Yes! I know! When you learn from your own mistakes, you can see and fix those issues sooner. Then when you write another one, it’ll go smoother. If you don’t do it yourself, you’ll miss out and continue to make all the same mistakes.
3. Do not force it.
“Writing something awful is better than writing nothing at all.” I’ve seen that quote all over Facebook. This doesn’t always work well with revisions. You can make something bad even worse. This is when taking a break is a sanity saver!
4. Do not expect it to be fast.
Fine wine, people! Writing improves over time. The more you do, or the more classes you take, or the more feedback you get, can make it a better story all around! That’s the goal, right?
5. And do not expect it to take just one draft.
I have lost count of how many revisions I’ve gone through with my scripts. You cannot catch everything the first time. If you do, well, you may be a better writer than I, or just a little naïve. It is truly like any other part of creativity. If you love your story enough, that will get you through the rough patches. Good luck to you! Enjoy the torture! Now I need to return to my mine.