Seeing the Wood, despite the Trees

The way through the woods revisited by *Psyche Delia*, on Flickr
The way through the woods revisited” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by  *Psyche Delia*

About a month ago I talked about a New Start and New Year’s Resolutions in relation to writing. In that post, I mentioned my plans to rewrite some screenplays from the past with an eye on getting them ready for feedback/competition/submissions etc.

Well, this week I embarked on the first of these rewrites. I was finishing another draft until the week before, by the way, so I haven’t been sitting on my hands since Christmas! Just in case you are checking.

I picked one of my first ideas. Not the first I have written, but an idea that I came up with in 1996/7 while invigilating an exam back in college. This was around the time of my first, yet stalled, attempt to dedicate time to writing which resulted in the short screenplay that is the subject of this post and a Sci-Fi Spec that is so awful and derivative, it will never see the light of day. To be honest, I am not even sure I have the file anymore… but that is another story.

The short script was an idea that had been knocking around in my head for years and, after cutting my teeth on another spec, I decided to go back to it. After so long, and with more experience, the short script was pretty horrible… lot’s of “we see” and camera directions all over the place – it wasn’t good.

It was still a story I wanted to tell though, and the time away had given me the opportunity to think the story over, think about what worked and about what didn’t and to think about the things I could do to it to improve it. Perhaps 15 years was a bit long to wait, but I rewrote the short screenplay into a 100 page draft in 2012. A couple of quick rewrites followed and, since then, it has sat on my laptop gathering virtual dust.

Until now.

I sat down with a nice, crisp print-out on Monday morning and started to read.

It didn’t stay crisp, or white, for very long.

There was still a lot wrong with it. But, and I am obviously bias, there was also a lot that worked and I enjoyed reading it and exploring the script anew. And that is key. It had been so long, it was like reading something for (almost) the first time. I have picked up issues with it that I had never thought of previously – that I probably couldn’t have picked up previously because I was so invested in the project when I was writing it for the first time.

I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

I have also had time to think about other elements of the script and have started to work those into it, as well as taking sections out, moving them around and, hopefully, making it all work a lot better than it did before.

I even culled the second scene which involved someone waking up and going about their daily routine!

(Hey, I was young and foolish!)

So what is the point of all this?

Take. Time. Out.

I heard a lot of this when I was reading up on writing and speaking to peers on forums and social media. At first I didn’t see the point. If I had written something, I wanted to edit and fiddle as soon as it was finished to make it better. In actuality, all that happened was a bit of editing for space and proof-reading for grammar and spelling – the story, as a whole, didn’t really change. That approach, for me, did not result in proper re-writing.

So now I do try to take time away from a project so I can come back to it freshly. And the advantage of doing so has never been more evident than when sitting down to read my old script on Monday.

In doing this, the rewrite I am working on has taken on a fresh appeal. There were bits of the story I had forgotten about, or sections that made me wince they were so bad. But I can take this on board and deal with it more effectively as I have taken that step back from being so invested in the project when I finished the last draft.

The draft I just finished? I will spend a couple of months on rewrites at least before I go back to that one, to give myself time to get it “out of my system” and come back again with fresh eyes.

It’s a much more efficient way of working for me.

How about you? Do you wait, or do you like to get stuck in asap?

Feel free to share your experience below.

Other Reading:


Posted on February 10, 2016, in Learning, Reading, rewriting, Uncategorized, Writing Rules and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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