If you’re new to the Scriptshadow Script Challenge, here are all the previous posts…
Okay, this past week was all about identifying the main problems in your screenplay, coming up with solutions, then placing those solutions into your SECOND DRAFT OUTLINE.
For example, if one of your big problems was that your hero was boring, part of the solution may have been to give him a more powerful opening scene. Therefore you’d go into your second draft outline, find your hero’s opening scene (let’s say it was the second scene in the script) and write in a detailed synopsis of the scene you planned to write.
You’d then do that for every problem and solution. Some of these solutions may have required changing one scene. Some of them may have required changing entire sequences. And some of them may have meant changing multiple scenes across three acts.
The reason you outline all of this ahead of time is so you can a) see how the script looks zoomed out. And b) do all the dirty work of placing everything where it needs to go so you can make the changes linearly when you go to write the draft.
And that’s the plan here. You’ve got your 2nd Draft Outline all laid out. All you have to do is go down the list, from Scene 1 to Scene 60, and replace the scenes that you decided to change in the problem-solving process.
Now some people don’t like to be this organized. Their approach is more general. They have some ideas on what changes they need to make. They may even write them down in a document. This is perfectly acceptable. But I’ve found that the less organized you are going into a rewrite, the harder it is to wrestle the rewrite into shape.
And rewriting is one of the hardest things there is to do. Cause unlike first drafts, where you’re writing in a somewhat linear manner, rewrites require more bouncing around. You’ll write a new scene, realize it requires you to change something 60 pages earlier, go back to make the necessary changes in that scene, realize that the secondary character in that scene doesn’t work anymore because of the tonal change, requiring you to go back to your problem-solving document, figure out how to approach that character, and so on and so forth.
So the more you can mitigate that haphazard process, the better.
Simon Kinberg, who runs like five of the biggest franchises in Hollywood at the moment, says that he spends way more time on his outline than he does writing the script. He wants to be confident in the direction of the script before he writes it and he can only do that if he’s mapped out as much of the story as possible ahead of time.
Now before you jump in and start writing, I want to make sure you’ve got the proper rewrite mindset. The biggest problem with first drafts is that they’re messy. They don’t make a lot of sense. So in addition to fixing all these problems, you’re going to want to clean the script up as much as you can. You won’t be able to do it all in one draft. But you definitely want everything as cohesive as you can make it. To achieve this, you’ll be doing three things.
Simplify – One of the biggest mistakes screenwriters make is overcomplicating their plot. Movies have deceptively simple plots. If something is not moving your plot forward, you’ll want to get rid of it. Whatever your hero or heroes are attempting to do, only write scenes where people are pushing towards that. Simplifying is the difference between the original Hunger Games and Hunger Games 4. In Hunger Games, it was about kids getting ready for and competing in a death match (simple to understand!). In Hunger Games 4, it was about half-a-dozen things, none of which were very clear. Not surprisingly, that over-complication doomed the movie.
Streamline – In rewriting, you need to become a ruthless editor who’s willing to get rid of ANYTHING that doesn’t work. If a character is average and they’re not integral to the story, GET RID OF THEM! If you have a subplot about an investigator who researches where a unique bullet came from and it doesn’t affect your main plot? GET RID OF IT! If you have two characters who are both funny best friends of your main character, consider combining them. Think of each draft as a company. Figure out where all the excess spending is happening and cut it out. I want your second draft to be as lean and mean as possible. 110, AT MOST, pages unless you’re writing an epic period piece.
Focus – Movies are not places to explore a dozen different ideas. They work best when they’re exploring 1 or 2 ideas. These ideas often boil down to your theme and your main character’s flaw. And in most cases, those two things will be the same. So if your main character’s flaw is that she doesn’t believe in herself. Focus a lot of her scenes on exploring that flaw. If your theme is “Seize the day,” ask yourself if the scene you’re writing explores that theme (whether it be in a positive or negative way). A lot of scripts go south when the writer starts following every thought that pops into their head, regardless if Thought A and Thought B are natural extensions of each other. I remember an amateur script I read once where the female hero was an airline stewardess mired in an airline strike and also the story of her as an up-and-coming MMA fighter. There was no thematic overlap between these storylines on any level and when I asked her what she was thinking when she wrote it, she said, simply, she was inspired by Tarantino movies. Needless to say, this approach leads to hacky scripts that become unfocused and never recover.
So, you’re going to move quickly here. Every week, you’re going to be covering 25-30 pages. Now all of those pages won’t need to be rewritten. You may only need to rewrite three scenes in a particular act. So don’t freak out. But if we’re going to finish a second draft in a month, we need to get through a quarter of the script each week.
Rewrite Goal (Week 10): End of first act! (pages 25-30)