Writing is one of those things that can be painful to do, but it makes you feel great after. It's like going to the gym for your brain. Working out any story sucks, and when you're done draft one, you should reward yourself for the accomplishment.

But once the dust settles and you're able to see the forest through the trees, it becomes time to rewrite.

Screenwriting is a craft that demands creativity, perseverance, and a deep understanding of storytelling. After pouring your heart and soul into your first draft, the next step is often the most challenging: the rewriting process.

This article aims to provide you with 10 innovative strategies to help you master the art of screenplay rewriting.

Let's get started.

1. The Journey Is Worth the Struggle

Hobbits ready for battle, 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

Credit: New Line Cinema

You did it! You finished a draft of your screenplay and you're so excited. After typing "Fade Out," take a week or two off and just relax. Bask in your accomplishments.

Then, it's time to come back to reality.

The journey is far from over. In fact, some of the most successful screenwriters, such as Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), are known for their meticulous rewriting processes.

Your first draft is just the beginning of your trek. There's further to go.

Rewriting is not merely about tweaking a few words here and there. Instead, it requires a comprehensive reevaluation of the script, often involving significant changes to character arcs, plot structure, dialogue, and more.

Don't half-ass it. Embrace the arduous journey.

2. Seek Feedback

Charlie and Donald Kaufman, both played by Nicolas Cage, reading in a dining room, 'Adaptation''Adaptation'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Maybe the biggest component of rewriting, aside form actually writing, is feedback. You need to know what people are bumping on. What don't they understand or embrace about the things you're making.

You can pay for feedback, but be care of hucksters.

Consider seeking feedback from trusted sources. Ask your friends and peers. Trade scripts with someone to get another opinion.

Constructive criticism can provide invaluable insights into areas of your screenplay that might require revision, from plot inconsistencies to weak character development.

3. Read Your Work with Fresh Eyes

A close up of an eyeball

'Requiem for a Dream'

Credit: Lionsgate

We told you to take a break, but eventually, come back to your work. This time of allows you to start again with a fresh mind. Coming back to your screenplay after a break can help you view your work objectively.

As you read through your script, pay close attention to the flow of the story, the authenticity of the dialogue, and the depth of your characters. Consider whether each scene, character, and dialogue contributes to the overall story, and make notes of areas that require improvement.

4. Analyze Each Scene Individually

Detective Rustin "Rust" Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, inspecting a woman's body tied to a tree, 'True Detective'

'True Detective'

Credit: HBO

When it comes to rewriting, you got to be ruthless. Each scene in your screenplay should serve a purpose, driving the plot forward and developing your characters.

As part of your rewriting process, analyze each scene for its impact on the overall narrative. Consider whether the scene contributes to the story's progression, whether it reveals important character traits, and whether it heightens the story's conflict or tension.

If a scene doesn't fulfill these criteria, it may need to be revised or cut out completely.

Kill your darlings.

5. Deepen Your Characters

A diver at the bottom of the ocean, 'The Abyss'

'The Abyss'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

It all comes back to character. Development and arcs are why we go to the movies and watch TV.

Characters are the heart of your screenplay. They should be complex, believable, and engaging, with clear motivations and conflicts.

If your characters seem flat or underdeveloped, it may be time to delve deeper into their backgrounds, personalities, and relationships. Consider their goals, fears, strengths, and weaknesses, and how these traits influence their actions and decisions throughout the story.

Create characters that the actors will want to play.

6. Refine Your Dialogue Until it Sings

Dorothy Vallens, played by Isabella Rossellini, singing on stage, 'Blue Velvet'

'Blue Velvet'

Credit: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Refine dialogue again and again. Don't settle for a good line when a great one is out there. If a line is not necessary, cut it.

Dialogue plays a crucial role in revealing character traits, advancing the plot, and engaging the audience. During your rewriting process, scrutinize your dialogue for authenticity, clarity, and impact.

Avoid unnecessary exposition and aim for dialogue that reveals character, conveys information subtly, and heightens conflict. Remember, less is often more when it comes to dialogue, and what characters don't say can be just as revealing as what they do say.

7. Your Plot Could Be Stronger

The Hulk

'The Incredible Hulk'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Is your plot doing enough lifting? Could it be structured in a way that carries more weight?

A compelling plot is essential to a successful screenplay. It should be clear, coherent, and engaging, while escalating conflict and a satisfying resolution.

If your plot seems weak or convoluted, consider revising the story structure, eliminating unnecessary subplots, and ensuring that each plot point contributes to the overall narrative arc. Remember, every element of your screenplay should serve the story and engage the audience.

If it doesn't do that, cut it out.

8. Cut As Much As You Can and Then Cut Some More

Edward, played by Johnny Depp, looking at the blood on his scissor hands, 'Edward Scissorharnds''Edward Scissorhands'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The goal of any rewrite aside from clarity is to cut. You want to only leave the good parts behind. Even if it takes you under 80 pages, keep cutting. Get the excess on the cutting room floor.

This will help your pace and storytelling.

Keep descriptions concise and relevant, and avoid overloading your script with excessive detail or backstory. Remember, every word in your screenplay should serve a purpose.

9. If You Think You're Done, Go Back and Polish Your Script

Four men siting on the couch, 'Snatch''Snatch'

Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

You are never really done until you see the movie or TV show on the screen. There will always be more notes and ideas.

Once you've made substantial revisions to your screenplay, it's time for the final polish. This involves checking your script for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, ensuring your formatting adheres to industry standards, and fine-tuning your dialogue, descriptions, and scene transitions.

A good rule is to always do one last polish before you email it. I always send emails in the morning. That way I get fresh eyes on it.

10. Know When to Stop

Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta, reading on the toilet, 'Pulp Ficiton''Pulp Fiction'

Credit: Miramax

Do not go on forever.

Rewriting a screenplay can be a seemingly never-ending process. However, it's important to recognize when your script has reached its potential.

My rule is that I don't work on the same idea for over a year. I'm always trying to have something new and ready to go out in the world.

If you get stuck, consider seeking professional feedback or submitting your screenplay to competitions or production companies. Or it might be time to begin sending out those query letters.

Or, you should just start something new.

Summing Up 10 Ways to Tackle Rewriting a Screenplay

Rewriting a screenplay is a challenging but necessary part of the screenwriting process. It involves reviewing your work with a critical eye, making substantial revisions, and refining your script until it shines.

By embracing these 10 strategies, you can transform your first draft into a polished screenplay that captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impression.

Now, get back to writing.