Recently, I gave notes to a friend of mine on her script. The larger notes called for a major overhaul of the story, and she said she had been getting the same note from others.
My friend expressed severe fatigue at the thought of rewriting her script from page 1, and exasperatingly wondered if it would be a waste of time. Here is my (edited) response:
Dear Jane Doe Screenwriter Friend,
I completely understand your frustration. When my whole being revolts at the idea of rewriting a project, I find that’s a good time to take a break and come back in a few weeks. In On Writing, Stephen King says when he finishes the first draft on a novel, he puts it in a drawer, and doesn’t open that drawer for a month.
While we may not all have spare drawers to store our scripts, setting your work aside for a while really helps. You get to revisit it with fresh eyes. You get to remember what you love about it. You might even impress yourself.
As for whether this is a waste of time if the screenplay doesn’t sell…
My most recent script is my thirteenth script. Of those thirteen, one was sold and made into a feature, and another proved a good writing sample that got me meetings across town, but I have since ended that writing partnership.
So that makes eleven.
Of those eleven, four need work, but I think with some time and energy, I can whip them into shape.
The remaining seven? I have either burned out on them or just don’t think there’s anything there.
Did I waste my time on those? Nah. It’s all part of the process. I get better every time. Learning new things as I go.
Also, I count myself lucky. As a fan of movies, I consider the scripts I write a chance to watch films that no one else does. As long as you enjoy writing them/watching that movie, then keep writing that screenplay.
So, shelving this one for now might be the best plan if rewriting seems like torture. Meanwhile, why not start your next project?
Of course, there’s always the chance that we’re all wrong, and you’ll find that person who loves the script the way it is and wants to make it.
If so, forget everything I just said and remember me in the “Special Thanks.”