Getting to Draft No. 4

 No. 1

Write this for no one for yourself, put in all the whims and angles that delight you, and keep you deeply curious. 

The first draft is exciting, bewildering and fresh. - John August

Draft No. 2 is cleaning up and selecting what interests you the most. 

For the second draft, you have all sorts of brilliant new ideas and suggestions to try out, so that keeps it interesting.

Draft No. 3—you should begin to consider that what you wrote may be shared.

The third draft is generally damage-control from the second draft, where many of those good ideas ended up not working.

Try to be inspired by just another script’s writing style. Just one screenplay that you read over and over again and dissect how they do it in their own way, so that you can do it in your own way.

As you are examining that successful screenplay, you are also very slightly opening the door to consider what makes sense to you, versus what makes sense to your audience.

Here you are beginning to consider asking someone you trust to read. But before that, make sure the third draft has the emotional resonance(transmission) you want. 

If people don’t know emotionally what it’s about, they will intuitively without even realizing they’re doing it, project in what they think it is or what emotionally help them or what they would emote if they were the writer, what they would make it. And so now you’re getting notes that they might be great ideas, but is it your movie? - Meg LeFauve podcast

The work here is to understand how other people take in information, and basically, anthropology. 

I have a trick for doing justice to an uncongenial work: “What would I like about this if I liked it?” I may come around; I may not. Failing that, I wonder, What must the people who like this be like? Anthropology. I assess art by quality and significance. The latter is most decisive for my choice of subjects, because I’m a journalist. There’s art I adore that I won’t write about, because I can’t imagine it mattering enough to general readers. It pertains to my private experience as a person, without which my activity as a critic would wither but which falls outside my critical mandate. -  Peter Schjeldahl 

Demand that the first person who reads your screenplay must call you up on the phone after reading, do not let them give you line edits!! This is a test to see how effectively you have transmitted your vision. 

For the fourth draft, you are focused on demush-ifying the script, aka hashing out the irritating details you ignored in the beginning. You are learning new craft tactics. You need to revisit what you intended to come across in the first draft. Make sure that deep truth you had wanted to explore for yourself is still in there. 

The fourth draft, well… The fourth draft sucks. By this point, the intractable problems of your script are readily apparent, and you’re faced with either (a) writing around them, or (b) trying to tackle them head on. In my experience, while you should choose (b), you generally choose (a). 

It all boils down to two related questions: What script did you sit down to write, and what script did you end up writing? At this fourth draft stage, you have to really decide between Great in Theory and what Actually Works. If you approach it this way, you can sometimes gain fresh eyes on your script. Read it as if some other, lamer screenwriter wrote it. What would you do differently?

After, get all the readers that you trust at this stage as possible. This may be a small number of people, as they must be people who 1) know how to give feedback, 2) you trust their taste 3) you’ve discussed what you want to do with the script and they’re onboard. 

Ask them if they feel something is missing, or if they didn’t understand some part. Adjust. 


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