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:
- Take a break
- Have people read your script
- Go back to basics
- Is my script big enough
- Read your script out loud
- Dialogue due diligence
- Be honest with yourself (Part 1)
- Be honest with yourself (Part 2)
- One final polish
- 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?