October 8, 2012

When is Your Script Truly Done? 10 Things to Consider Before Locking Down Your Screenplay

For some people, the hardest part of screenwriting is muscling through that first draft. For others, the dreaded editing and rewriting phase, which can last for days, weeks, or even years, is the most difficult. As a writer, at some point in the process, you will have to ask the question: when is it time to lock the script and finally get it out to those who need to read it (whether that be buyers or producers)? To help answer the question, Scott Myers over at Go Into The Story has put together a list of 10 things to consider before locking a script.

Thanks to Scott for putting this list together:

  1. Take a break
  2. Have people read your script
  3. Go back to basics
  4. Is my script big enough
  5. Read your script out loud
  6. Dialogue due diligence
  7. Be honest with yourself (Part 1)
  8. Be honest with yourself (Part 2)
  9. One final polish
  10. Let it go

These have been the two most helpful in my own writing:

1. Take a break: Whenever you finish a draft, you should set the script aside for at least week (with a first draft, I recommend at least two weeks). You need that time to get away from the project and develop a fresh set of eyes. It’s amazing how perfect we can think a script is when we just finish writing a draft, then how many issues we see when we come back to it a few weeks later.

10. Let it go: You can not have any chance of achieving success as a writer unless you actually submit your script to potential reps or buyers. So at some point, just let it go. If it sells, great. If it doesn’t, that isn’t the end of the world. You may get representation off that script. The script becomes an asset in your library, something you can dust off down the road, and try to sell again or adapt. Put it out there. All you need is the right set of eyeballs to read your script (assuming it’s good).

Once you get through that first draft, taking a break is usually one of the best ways to get fresh eyes on your writing (unless you actually do get fresh eyes reading the screenplay -- as in another set besides your own). First drafts always seem to work in my head, but on further inspection most of it just sounds terrible and overwritten. The subsequent editing phase can be difficult without first taking a break, especially when you find that you can't see the forest for the trees.

Letting a script go has usually come when I need to shoot the movie I'm writing. Often my writing/rewriting happens right up until production (and even some rewrites during production), but there comes a point where the major details can't be changed, and your story is your story. Of course, in the excerpt above, Scott is talking about selling the script, and in that case, the situation is a little different -- especially since there are no rewrites once you've sent it out to be read.

You should head on over to Go Into The Story to read the rest of the descriptions accompanying the list, as he goes into much greater detail.

What do you guys think? What has helped you locking down a script? Does it differ from any of the items on the list above?

Link: Reader Question: Are there any rules of thumb to “locking down” your script? -- Go Into The Story

Your Comment

13 Comments

Some really nice information there. Thanks for posting :-)

October 8, 2012

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Moore

that's exactly what the filmmakers should care about .....the story ..

October 8, 2012

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visualmed

October 9, 2012

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Dirk, I appreciate your efforts in making a movie but you're doing yourself no favors randomly posting it here on a story that your film has zero connection to. It's the equivalent of spam and shows a lack of professionalism as well as disrespect to the readers of this site. Time and a place buddy and this was neither.

That said, I tried to watch your film anyway but only got a few minutes in - there's a difference between low key, high contrast lighting for a dark tone and just bad exposure. Why on earth was the film so dim? Kind of ironic given the title of the film

October 9, 2012

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Neil

what trash. get a real job, talentless prick spamming a good blog.

October 9, 2012

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shakezoolah

it certainly isn't trash, but it is inappropriate obviously. If everyone were trying to promote themselves on these threads, their incredible value would be polluted. Your film isn't trash however. There are some good elements; quality acting, a number of well arranged frames, good color pallet. It is underexposed and the sound is a bit over the top, but otherwise its a decent story.

October 9, 2012

1
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filip

i actually really liked the short and shows lots of promise. looked great as well. good job. i dont mind the spam if its quality =)

October 10, 2012

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Joy

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to watch your short film. I enjoyed it. Keep at it, that's how you learn. I'll bet you're a famous filmmaker some day.

October 11, 2012

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wind2058

My favorite part is "let it go." It reminds of the saying that there are three movies you're making:

1. The one you write.
2. The one you end up shooting
3. The one you have to edit.

Letting the film go and live its own life at the end of each stage is so important in order to make a film that is truly fresh and exciting.

October 9, 2012

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Demetrius

Talking about taking a break - I just read my second draft of a noir-sci feature that I wrote, after six months! Talk about a fresh set of eyes. It was scary at first, because you never really know what you wrote till you read it after such a long break (and even then: you still don't really know what you wrote). I was delighted to find out that it wasn't sh*t.

October 9, 2012

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Hello Joe,

What do you mean by Dialogue due diligence?

January 14, 2013

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Gary

This is taken from Go Into The Story, so the rest of the list is in more detail on that site. But here it is:

6. Dialogue due diligence: A variation on #5 is to print out all the dialogue of each character separately and read them aloud, one by one. So every side your Protagonist says, print them out and read them out loud, one after the other. Every side of your Nemesis, same thing. Attractor, Mentor, Trickster, ditto. Even secondary characters. The main thing is to check and see if each character has a distinctive feel or lilt to their language — how they talk, what they say, how they say it. Also, as above, look for clunky sides and revise them to make them read better.

January 14, 2013

-1
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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

tumi トゥミ

August 19, 2013