A Screenwriter’s Job Is Never Done

rewritesIt’s time for a quick Screenwriting update, Modern Philosophers.

I have been busy all weekend working on an edit/rewrite of the first draft of my new screenplay.  This is always an intriguing process given that I write without an outline.

I inevitably come up with something in the latter half of a screenplay that I really like, but hasn’t been set up earlier in the script.  So, I have to make sure that I go back and plant the seeds when I take my next pass.

A quick example of that in this screenplay is that it suddenly became very important to the ending that the protagonist hated his job.  All weekend, I’ve been looking for the perfect place to add a line of dialogue where he talks about loathing his job.

On a deeper scale, certain themes became apparent as I was writing the second act, and now I have to set up those themes in the opening act.  This can be a lot more complicated than it sounds, and it has to be done subtly without setting off a chain reaction that forces further changes throughout the screenplay.

editIt took me a few months to complete the first draft, so when I go back now to read the script, a lot of it is foreign to me.  Some things are just downright ridiculous and have to be cut.  Dialogue that seemed witty and necessary months ago, now sounds stupid or redundant.

I had completely forgotten about a little thing I did in the opening scene about the American flag, so now I have to make sure I sprinkle in references to this as I move through the second draft.  If I cannot find places to do that, I’ll have to go back and remove the flag bit from the first scene.

The most important thing I’m looking for is that the story makes sense from the “FADE IN:” to the “FADE TO BLACK.”  I sometimes forget that what is obvious to me in my head, might not have actually made it onto the page.  For example, just because I know the character has a problem with intimacy because of a traumatic first date, doesn’t mean the reader/viewer will have any idea of that if I don’t put it on the page.

So, I’m constantly having to make sure that key pieces of character background and information haven’t been left out of the screenplay.

The worst part of it all is that I have no idea if what I’ve written is any good.  I’ve lived with these characters and this story for months, first in my mind and then on the page.  By the time I’ve typed “THE END”, I have lost the ability to find any entertainment in their tale.  The jokes have no effect on me because I’ve rewritten them so many times to make them perfect.  The twists and turns don’t surprise me because I’ve plotted them out.  The characters are like annoying friends who overstayed their welcome.

keep wrtingI just stare at these 112 pages and have no clue if I wasted several months of my time, or if I have something very special.

Does any of this make sense, Modern Philosophers?

All I know for sure is that I love writing, and screenwriting is my favorite form of that activity.  I’m just going to keep writing and hoping that people enjoy my stories and want to turn them into movies.

Enough rambling.  Time to get back to work.  Hopefully, all this hard work is turned into a feature film that you can all go to the theater and see someday…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to A Screenwriter’s Job Is Never Done

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I can barely get through coming up with 100 words of flash fiction, so this process is pretty fascinating. And yes, it does make sense. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. It makes sense to me. I’ve written memoirs and a short story or two. After a time, I got “tunnel vision.” I was blinded to awkward wordings, characters, place names.

  3. floridaborne says:

    I have to agree with other replies–it makes perfect sense.

  4. JED says:

    It makes a lot of sense. Quick question for you. Where did you learn writing screenplays? Is it possible to write one without formal training/classes as in can I teach myself and be any good? I’ve had a couple story ideas in my head that are more than the short story variety and I weighed in on creating a screenplay, even bought Screenwriting software before realizing I wasn’t even close to knowing what I was doing.

    • Austin says:

      I went to NYU Film, so I learned the basics of screenwriting there. There are plenty of books on formatting and techniques, though.

      If you’re serious about it, I suggest investing in the software. I use Final Draft. It takes care of the pesky formatting issues for you.

      I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have…

      • JED says:

        Thank you. I have Final Draft version 8 and started one of my stories a few months ago I did a little research and think I was doing most things correctly but having a few answers would be great. Once I get to a point I feel comfortable with asking and sharing I may hit you up for some info. Again, thank you.

      • Austin says:

        No problem. 🙂

  5. D. Parker says:

    That is how I write as well, I don’t know many that do, but I find the going back and planting the seeds difficult. Keep writing and we will keep reading!!! 🙂

  6. markbialczak says:

    I know how you feel on a smaller scale from Sunday magazine feature story newspaper writing days, Austin. I’d turn my piece in when I’d get the cover story, and it could be a six- or seven-page piece inside the book. The editors would want the story plenty in advance but would inevitably wait wait until the last minute to do their thing. They’d ask me questions out of the blue and I’d have to say, wait a second, I have to go back to my notes and look at the story, it’s been more than a week since I wrote that!

    Reading your description of your work flow and the final process, here’s what I think: You’re at the point where your screenplay needs a set of fresh eyes to judge your characters and story anew and let you know what they see.

  7. pamtanzey says:

    I’m looking forward to it!

  8. emtag2 says:

    “The first draft of everything is shit.” This quote by Ernest Hemingway is one of my favourites, and it seems to apply to how you might be feeling. Enjoy the editing process…going back and discovering original, ridiculous thoughts is one of the best parts of writing!

  9. orangejade5 says:

    hi Austin. I have managed to read some of your ‘past’ blogs. OMG where do you find time. It seems that you post at least twice in one day. Anyway I love your thoughts and styles. I think all of us who do write are a bit bi polar. well i know i am. b cos we get so creative then wham writers block or don’t care for that piece , off we go to look at another topic.
    Like others I managed, in deep depressive episode , bang out 2 80. 000 word novels. but were rejected due to ‘too many like that genre’ out there. ”
    Personally i think screenwriting is a talent. keep it up . maybe one day you may write your own”Australia” ha ha ha gawd hope you don’t.. Anything Baz Luhrman is laughed at here in oz. 🙂

  10. orangejade5 says:

    how do you keep up with all your followers?

  11. ksbeth says:

    i am so happy you are back doing something you love so much –

  12. bwal2014 says:

    I totally agree with the characters feeling as though they have overstayed their welcome. As far as the jokes not being funny and the twists no longer entertaining. Yes, and holy cow yes.
    Maybe giving the manuscript to someone else for some editing feedback would give you fresh eyes. It’s nerve wracking but necessary.
    I enjoy the insight. Always good for writers to make their loneliness a communal topic of discussion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s