22 pages in. Things are starting to gel. But I’d be surprised if more than 50% of what I’ve got down makes it through untouched. But that’s normal. As you go along you start to get a feel for the story’s voice. Each pass through after that you tweak and tweak and tweak until it finally feels just right.
When I write a scene or sequence the first time I really concentrate on getting the major blocking down. Get the scene identified. Some sort of description. The characters where they need to be. A general conversation that hits on the main elements I need it to. Then I’ll go back through it and make sure that it A, moves the story forward, or B, reveals something about the characters. If I can do A and B at the same time, great. If it doesn’t hit A or B, I’ll cut it or work on it some more.
This might seem a bit harsh at this point… but remember, I’ve got a really good grasp of the scenes I need to write, and what’s going to be in them, BEFORE I start screenwriting. Each of my high level beats typically will have a deep dive for it. So I know what points and character development I’m trying to hit. The question is whether or not I’m managing to accomplish that. Sometimes you have a great idea in your head on how you want something to come across. But when you actually get down to writing it, and you read it over, you realize it didn’t work at all. That’s when I’ll cut it or work on it again.
The reality is that I don’t hit this sort of snag too much. Usually I’ll notice it on a scene that I put in because it felt right. Or I just had the urge to write it and it’s a fun scene and maybe has a cool beat or joke. But when you look at it critically it doesn’t really add anything to the story. So it gets cut. Maybe pros don’t run into this… I don’t know, but I find I do, and I’m getting better at spotting them and dropping them.
But most of the time when I’m going over something I wrote, I’m working on the dialog. My first run through is to get the basic conversation down. My second is to make sure the characters are talking like they normally would. Third, look for on the nose dialog and try to freshen it up. And fourth, see if I can work in some subtext… which will ALWAYS be a work in progress for me.
How and when I do this will vary. Sometimes I’ll wait until the entire act is done. Sometimes I’ll do it right after a scene is complete. Usually I just trust my instincts. If if doesn’t feel right, I’ll go back. If it feels good enough, I’ll wait until later. You can over manage revising a scene, and I’m very conscious of that. I’m try not to spend too much time editing because I think you need to move forward. But when I write I find I need the momentum of my last scene or sequence to move me forward. And if it doesn’t feel right, I don’t have that momentum, and I end up having a problem transitioning to the next beat. I’m sure a few of you out there can understand where I’m coming from with this.
I don’t know if this kind of stuff changes or improves as you write more. I’m certainly no expert. But I’m not really a rookie anymore either. Maybe this is just the way I write, my creative process. Will it matter ten screenplays down the line? Are the end results the only thing worth worrying about? When does style and methodology come into play? Hopefully one day I’ll get to answer these questions. But until then I’ll just keep writing in a way that feels right.
Until next time, keep writing!