A Realistic Guide to Rewrites

You've had some time to digest the fact that your script sucks and you've come back for more advice. Good for you. This puts you ahead of 90% of writers who chose to blow their brains out rather than acknowledge that their baby is anything less than perfect. You just might have what it takes.

I'm glad to see that you don't intend to be like a parent who won't admit that junior picks their nose and eats it, or worse, the one's who give it labels like cute or adorable or genius. Your script may be beautiful and perfect in every way to you, but to the outside world, it's just a dirty kid with boogers.

Criticism sucks. It's hard to hear, and takes a strong stomach to digest, but if you've got writing bowels of steel, what comes out the other end might just be gold.

So now that we're all on the same 'your script sucks donkey balls' page, let's talk about the rewrite process.

Step 1 - Toss that sucker out and start over.

Step 2 - Have a massive anxiety attack and spend some quality time with your therapist.

Step 3 - Fish that sucker out of the recycle bin and peel off the eggshells and rotting vegetable debris.

Step 4 - Read it from front to back.

Step 5 - Spend some more quality time with your therapist.

Step 6 - Cut everything and anything that absolutely doesn't work and/or doesn't move the story forward.

Step 7 - If there is anything salvageable after the previous step, go through the sucker scene by scene and make sure each starts as late as possible and gets out as soon as it can, flows into the next scene and...

Step 8 - Suck back some single malt.

Step 9 - Go through the pages again focusing on each major character individually. Make sure each character's arc works and resolves, and that they are actually necessary for the story. Once you've cut a dozen or so unnecessary characters, amp up the dialogue of the remaining ones. Ask yourself if these people are interesting. If they remind you of anyone you actually know, they're not.

Step 10 - Now it's time for a massive junk food binge. I recommend cheesecake, but anything bad for you will do in a pinch.

Step 11 - Check your setups and payoffs. Fix the fifty or so loose ends.

Step 12 - Cultivate a new vice. This will take your mind off of how much your script still sucks and make you a more interesting person.

Step 13 - Throw it out again. It still sucks.

Step 14 - Spend a long sleepless night beating what's left of your ego into something resembling roadkill.

Step 15 - Drunk dial an ex or two. Say something obnoxious and have a huge fight. Work yourself into a rage before hanging up, then fish your script out of the trash yet again, fueled by the overwhelming need to show THEM.

Step 16 - Cut descriptive paragraphs down by at least 80% and make sure that they are visual.

Step 17 - Take a cold shower to ward off double vision.

Step 18 - Reread and realize that it's actually not as bad as you first thought.

Step 19 - Spend some time polishing your Oscar speech.

Step 20 - Have a flash of inspiration, then soil your pants when you realize that the first 42 pages need to be cut.

Step 21 - Go through it again making sure that every plot point is strong and the structure is solid.

Step 22 - Curse every screenwriting guru you've ever read and console yourself with the knowledge that you're smarter.

Step 23 - Dig out every guru book you've ever purchased and follow them word for word.

Step 24 - Put your therapist on speed dial.

Step 25 - Go through all of the above steps five or six more times.

Step 26 - Spell check and thesaurus the hell out of that sucker (yes, I'm using thesaurus as a verb).

Step 27 - Offer up a human sacrifice to the screenwriting gods.

Congratulations. Your script sucks a lot less. It may actually be mildly fit for human consumption. If the above didn't kill you or land you in rehab, it's onward to the polishing phase.

appropriate image by kharied