There’s no better feeling than completing the first draft of your new idea. Unfortunately, that’s often quickly followed by the realisation that you are about to begin the redrafting process. Picking apart your script can be a long and laborious task, but it’s also crucial to making your script ready for your readers.
Redrafting your script can be just as exciting as writing it in the first instance, as you begin to see the effect you’re having. So if you are still sat there wondering how you will get through the next few drafts, read on for some helpful tips to get you started.
Read your work
This may sound obvious, but it’s also vital. Despite the tireless amount of effort you’ve already put into the planning and structuring of your screenplay, there may come a time during the writing of your first draft that you get writer’s block. Whether you’re on page 3, or page 60, go back and read your script.
Read it aloud, put on their accents, ask someone to read it with you or for you. Not only will it help you to reconnect with the story you are telling, it will also help you to cut out or edit anything that doesn’t sound quite right. Do you find yourself getting bored? Have you missed something out? Do you trip over your words?
This is especially useful when you get towards the end of your script. Have you missed an opportunity to subtly hint at what is about to come? Is there a point for you to develop a character which will foreshadow how they react at another point in your script? It doesn’t matter how many times you revert back to the start, it will all help your future goal of a creating perfectly crafted script.
Don’t be precious
As in life, sometimes things change. Whilst writing, often your creativity and current inspiration can change the tone, the characters, even perhaps the meaning of your original idea. What’s important is that you recognise that and embrace it.
You may have already written an absolutely hilarious line for one of your characters, but perhaps on reflection, it doesn’t quite fit the character’s personality. If your character wouldn’t say that by the time you’ve finished your script, then trust your judgement and go back and change it.
This isn’t to say that you have to completely let go of a piece of writing you love. Cut and paste it into some notes and save it for your next project. It may even inspire a whole new character or plot in the future, so don’t let it spoil your current one.
Getting used to feedback, no matter how critical, is an important part of becoming a writer. It’s never easy, after weeks, months, even years of creating your script, to hear that it isn’t as perfect as you’d hoped.
So switch your mindset. Every time someone comments on your work, they’re giving you the opportunity to form your script into something better than you alone could imagine. If you have friends who write, excellent, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. Send your script to your mum, your partner, your grandma – whoever! Everyone will perceive your work in a different way and give you insights different to your own.
Consider what you want to know, then ask the questions which will help you. What did the reader think the story was about? What tone did they feel the script was written in? What did they think of the characters and their motivations?
Remember though, that the script is still yours, and if you can justify your decisions then don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. Consider all the feedback and decide whether it’s right for the direction your work is going in.
Cut, cut and cut again
It can be easy to get carried away with your dialogue, writing as much as you can to show off your writing ability. That’s great, but not always as effective as you first thought.
Go through your writing with a fine tooth comb. Try cutting out words and sentences to create short, realistic dialogue. It isn’t often that we speak to people we know in long, chunky paragraphs. Natural dialogue is fast changing and often interrupted.
Consider if you’ve written the same thing twice. Does your character say one thing within four sentences? Cut it down to one sentence, or even a word. Does your character even need to say anything? Make sure you aren’t giving too much away or speaking too literally. People rarely say exactly what they mean and creating subtle context is much more interesting for a reader than a step by step account of what they really mean.
When you write your initial draft, you’re writing a story, with a plot and usually multiple characters. But have you thought about what each character is really saying?
Read each character individually. Do they have their own quirks, sayings and voice? If all of your characters sound the same and use the same terminology, you’ve missed a trick. Thinking about the way people speak in real life can help you to differentiate between your characters.
Is your character consistent throughout the script? Of course, your characters should change in some ways from the beginning to the end, otherwise, they may not be fully developed. But, consider whether your character’s decisions, emotions and actions are fully justified through their journey.
The most important aspect of writing a script is sticking to the point.
Read through your script. Does it make sense? For each sentence, ask yourself, what’s the point? Dialogue should be written to emphasise the plot, themes and purpose of your idea. Stage directions are often overlooked by a reader, they can be skipped because they’re “boring” and the reader just wants to get to the good stuff!
Try reading your script whilst missing out all stage directions. Is the character’s dialogue strong enough without them? This will help the reader to visualise your idea and ultimately help you to gain support for your screenplay.
The script redrafting process can be difficult, but focussing your redrafting strategies can help you to uncover a winning script which always lay underneath.
Kitty completed her BA Hons degree in Drama and went on to do the Everyman & Playhouse young writer’s course. She continued her studies with short courses at Liverpool University and writes for The National Student. Kitty continues to write creatively, recently getting longlisted for the BBC Comedy Script Room submissions.