"I've finished my script. Now what?"Aug 03, 2022
Written by Melvin Tunstall III
Q: I’ve finished my script, now what?
I’m sorry, could you repeat the question? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of ovation from the theater gods, playwrights of yore, and your fellow theatermakers. Raise a glass with us, YOU DID IT!
Yes, the first thing you should do is celebrate. You have accomplished something many dream of doing- even dare to attempt- but never complete: the elusive first draft. So treat yourself! Whether it is ordering that take out instead of cooking at home, clicking the purchase button on that item waiting patiently in your Amazon cart, taking a nap, or simply yelling “I DID IT!” out of an open window- please celebrate yourself. You should be proud. I know I certainly am proud of you.
Are you ready? Are you sitting? You should sit for this. While you’re at it, go ahead and grab your computer and open that first draft.
Glorious isn’t it? Now, read carefully:
Start Draft #2.
“Melvin, can you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my dreams crashing.”
Wait, fellow theatermaker. Hear me out.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded by a Broadway producer that “scripts aren’t written, they are rewritten” and today I would like to pass that reminder along to you. No one gets it right the first time, so before jumping to any sort of reading phase (yes, even that no pressure, pizza-for-pay table read for just friends) my advice is to jump right into rewrites and editing.
To help you get to (and through) Draft #2, here are a few fun ideas!
1. THE PDF READ
I like to convert my first draft into a PDF and read the script without the ability to make edits. I keep a notepad and hand write notes to myself to go back to later. I used to make changes as I read, but found that it was too easy to get distracted and begin rewriting things instead of reading the full draft in its current state. I also like to read the PDF aloud and play the demos to get a good time stamp for each act. Yes, you basically have to be a one-person production team, but getting a feel for the flow and length of the show is invaluable.
2. THE SORKIN METHOD
Aaron Sorkin is one of the greats. His dialogue is instantly recognizable- he’s like the Fosse of writers in my opinion. When I was given his Masterclass as a gift, I devoured it immediately. My favorite method he shared was how he types his scripts from memory for his rewrites. Meaning, he sits at the blank page and retypes the entire script from memory- multiple times. What he remembers he considers good storytelling, and if he forgets something it means it wasn’t important or the writing isn’t strong enough yet. Full disclosure, I’ve only tried this twice, but it truly was an incredible way of figuring out the weaker moments in my script.
3. STEP AWAY
This won’t be easy, theatermaker. Yes, I’m telling you to take one final look at that first draft and CLOSE IT. Now, walk away and leave it for a minimum of three days. MINIMUM. Try for a week if the withdrawal symptoms aren’t giving you the DTs! Often, we spend so much time in our created worlds, we create blind spots in our work. Stepping away for a period of time will give you a fresh perspective. Seriously, the longer the better. I’m not advocating taking a break from writing completely- keep those daily writing habits- but change your focus and I guarantee when you return to that first draft, you will catch things that have slipped by before.
Are you ready to get back to work, new playwright? Yes, you can officially call yourself that now! Draft #1 comes with all sorts of perks. The sooner you get to Draft #2, the closer you will be to that first private table read- which I am all for! Call up those friends, order that pizza and get ready to get back to work!
Yep, Draft #3 will be waiting…as will drafts 4, 5, 6, and…you get the picture!
Rewritten. Scripts are rewritten.
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