When is the best time to rewrite?
A recent comment on another website (ShaulaEvans.com – seriously, go and sign up now if you haven’t already) got me thinking about rewriting and when is a good time to start rewriting a script?
Many gurus (and some of the PIXAR rules we will come to) allude to the best approach being to write your first draft and then let it lie and gestate while you work on something else. The reasoning behind this is that, after working on something so closely for so long and intensely, you are going to be struggling with script-blindness – you won’t be able to see the wood for the trees because you are so invested in that piece of work. You will not be able to be objective when reviewing scenes, characters and dialogue that you have just written and fallen in love with.
A couple of weeks after leaving your script, you can come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. The theory is that it will be like reading it afresh, allowing more objectivity and ruthlessness when considering scenes, characters and dialogue that could be changed or even cut.
There is no denying that, for me, this works. Coming back to a script with fresh eyes after working on it for weeks, even months can give me a very different view on my work. This enables me to work on it more effectively when deciding the best way to rewrite. However, I also find myself itching to get back into a script as soon as I have written it. As I write the first draft, I try to get it all down as quickly as I can. If I’ve done my research and have a clear treatment, then I can usually get it written rapidly. During this process I will pick up on new ideas that could feed into the script and improve it and make notes for later revisions. Once I finish the first draft, I like to dive back in to make some of those changes on a quick read through. I then leave it for a while, ready to come back for a full-on rewrite.
A rapid return helps me identify immediate “problems” and tweak the first draft, while waiting lets me deal with tougher issues with a fresh pair of eyes.
So, should YOU rewrite immediately or should you leave your screenplay alone for a while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes?
Well, like all screenwriting rules, this is up to you. Each approach, for me, has a different purpose and effect. It really is about finding out what works for you. Just because you’ve heard you SHOULD leave it, doesn’t mean you have to. But if you never have, why not try leaving your next one and seeing if that helps/hinders your process?
Like always, experimentation is key. Try different approaches and use the bits that work for you. Don’t discount something just because you are told to or have never tried it.
Do you rewrite immediately or do you leave your screenplay for a while before you review it?
Whatever you do, how does it help you rewrite effectively?
Feel free to comment below!