Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today's Secret Word is Rewrite

Pee-wee: You all remember what to do whenever anybody says the secret word right? 
All: Scream! 
Pee-wee: That's right. For the rest of the day, whenever anybody says the secret word, scream real loud. Ready? Let's try it. 


I spent the majority of last week cranking out a hefty stack of pages for the new script I'm working on. Loglines, premises, in-depth character bios, and a lengthy treatment. These are all things we're taught to do before the screenplay itself is even started, with the idea being that once you figure out the plot, what you're personal stance is on the topic, and who the characters are, writing the screenplay is just a matter of letting these carefully planned out ideas come together in the most interesting and entertaining way possible.

 I'm proud to say that I went to town on these bad boys. I was expecting it to be a chore, but was pleasantly surprised that in some mysterious way not only had I met the weekly page requirement, I had doubled it.

Working deep into the night all week was totally satisfying. I honestly didn't mind finally tucking into bed at 4:30am because I had just brain vomited out a long first draft of my treatment. It might not have been good, but the mere act of getting it done felt like much needed mental therapy.

I know, I should have expected it. It was almost too easy. It was a lesson I had already learned, but was the farthest thing from my mind after running the gauntlet... Ben, these characters are fantastic and totally work, but this treatment is no good -- throw it out. Rewrite.


I'm not mad, really. This word of the day, whether I like it or not, will prove to be the word of my life. It's a lesson I am thankful to be reminded of over and over because it is simply an undeniable truth. I really love those...

To rewrite (AHHHHHH!) is to improve. I used to take it personally and get pissed when I first started out doing this and the professor would tell me that something wasn't working, try again. Even if I don't like to admit it, this took a while to sink in. You don't just sit down, flip the on switch, and let pure gold flow from your fingertips.

I know that now. This time around it's no longer a hard pill to swallow. I have no beef with throwing out a stack of pages. In fact I'm confident they will soon be joined by even more work that I poured my heart into and lost sleep over. It's nothing personal and doing it will make me better.

It's okay. The earth still spins, and even twenty, thirty years from now, I will still rewrite.


1 comment:

  1. I was a lot older than you when I finally came to understand that "writing IS re-writing." Before this enlightenment, I too thought every first draft was carved into stone with a diamond-tipped chisel, and couldn't possibly be improved.

    My own hubris at the keyboard faded with time and experience, thanks to a few very patient readers who were (and remain) a lot smarter than I'll ever be. Although I feel a lingering chagrin at my youthful obliviousness back then, I can also see that it was an essential part of the process. The energy generated by all that youthful enthusiasm can take you a long way down the path you've chosen to walk, so don't shut down those booster rockets just yet. Enjoy the ride... but always be prepared to re-write.