The Screenplay Rewrite Road Map
10 REWRITE APPROACHES GUARANTEED TO NOT MAKE YOUR SCREENPLAY WORSE!
Effective rewriting is a difficult skill to master. It takes practice and most of all, it takes an enormous amount of dedication. You have to love every moment enough to perfect them all. As I gathered resources for The Ultimate Screenwriting Rewrite Guide, I discovered many helpful tips but I found individual ‘rewrite passes’ the most helpful. Below you’ll find a 10 step road map to help you take your FIRST DRAFT to the next level.
STEP 1: THE 1ST ENTERTAINMENT PASS
Is this screenplay entertaining? It’s hard to expect others to enjoy reading your screenplay if you don’t. It’s crucial for you to be honest with yourself. The answer may be no but that’s why the rewrite process is vital! The first entertainment pass is all about raising the stakes and ensuring your characters & themes are well established and interesting.
STEP 2: THE WHAT-IF PASS
What if…? Ask yourself this question as often as possible. You have the freedom to make everything more unique and original. Think outside the box. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
STEP 3: THE CHARACTER PASS
This step in itself is probably a 15-20 step process. Read your screenplay as many times as necessary in order to focus on one character at a time.
Is every character interesting? Believable? Do they have clear goals? Is their arc clearly defined? Are your supporting characters useful? Memorable? Are the relationships strong? Does the villain pose a credible threat? Does every character have a unique voice?
Can you make each character better? More interesting?
STEP 4: THE PACING VS FLOW PASS
This is a critical step because it involves substance AND format. For starters, do not underestimate the power of white space. Avoid ‘boring’ pages by rewriting and separating long blocks of description. Readers like screenplays that read fast.
While you make each page beautiful, you must also pay close attention to the overall pace of your story. Does each scene flow into the next? Are there setups and payoffs? Do moments build on each other? Is the action too close together? Is there too much exposition? Does your script fizzle in the end? Is there a beginning middle and end?
STEP 5: THE ‘CAN I MAKE THIS BETTER’ PASS
Can I make this moment better? Can I make this character better? Can I choose a better location? Can I make this scene better? Can I make this – INSERT ELEMENT HERE – better? Get the idea?
Much like step 2, this is your chance to really flex your creative muscles. At this point, the main plot points and characters should be more or less locked in. Your new mission is to refine and enhance EVERYTHING.
STEP 6: THE 2ND ENTERTAINMENT PASS
Is this screenplay entertaining? Now is the time to ask yourself if your vision is clearly expressed on the page. Have you communicated your story/themes well enough? Will readers be able to follow along? At this stage, you might want to pass your story along to trusted readers for feedback.
STEP 7: THE STORY PASS
This step can also be described as the ‘logic’ pass. Ask yourself logical questions. Your job is to plug every plot hole and character misstep you can find. Everything has to make sense. Do your research. You never want to pass a script along to a reader who points out a crippling plot hole that breaks your story. It’s up to you to break your story first and then fix it before readers get that chance.
STEP 8: THE LANGUAGE PASS
You must never forget that every word matters. Writing a screenplay should showcase your unique voice. Show the reader you can write! Analyze your words and improve them. The language you choose matters. Make every sentence a joy to read.
STEP 9: THE SPELLING & GRAMMAR PASS
This step is self explanatory. Find every typo, spelling mistake & grammatical error. There are no excuses here. You have to take the time to eliminate the theoretical stains on every page. (Note: I apologize in advance if you find any mistakes on this blog.)
STEP 10: THE FINAL ENTERTAINMENT PASS
Is your screenplay entertaining? Repeat these 10 steps until the you just know.
Successful completion of the 10 steps above will result in a solid second draft. Take a step back and be proud. Then ask yourself one final question:
IS THIS SCREENPLAY READY FOR THE WORLD?
Do you have any rewrite tips? Comment below!