I’m still in Fire Island, and this past week is the first time it’s been warm enough to swim. Climate change? Who knows. But the important thing to remember is that we can no longer use the past to predict the future.
Post pandemic life feels somewhat normal, but I’m permanently insecure and will never take anything for granted. With that thought in mind, I had the hard choice of deciding whether to spend this time at the beach or at my computer on my beautiful outdoor deck. I chose writing.
I completed a rewrite of the book yesterday and will rest a day and then use the techniques that I teach to check my revision. Because this is a second draft, the routine I included in two recent newsletters helped get me here. To complete it, I’ll employ some other tricks that I use, but first, a recap of the tips from the June 25th and July 9th newsletters.
Here is the helpful procedure for rewriting from the June 25th newsletter.
1. Put it away until you feel detached. A day or two usually works for me.
2. Print a hard copy.
3. Reread it with a pencil, making notes, not stopping until you reach the end.
4. Create a scene-by-scene outline with page numbers. Hand-written or typed, the key is a one to a two-line description of the basic action in the scene.
5. Write a one-paragraph description, like the ones you find on the back of a book. This will allow you to confirm that the structure is correct.
6. Reread and correct repetitions of information.
7. Reread for word choice.
8. Reread for description.
9. Now, make a copy and go to work, keeping your outline as your guide.
10. Rinse and repeat until you’re happy.
11. Have several people read it, and only make changes if three or more people have a comment.
Then in the next newsletter, I gave these tips for effective scene revision:
The goal of any scene is to reveal character and advance the plot through conflict. If there’s no conflict in a scene, what is it doing in your script? And if there is conflict, can you answer this question:
What are my characters fighting for?
I’ve found that if I create any scene with this question in mind, my work is better right away. I also use The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting as a quick check-in. A scene is easily separated into these four parts. For example, when you ask what your character’s dream is, it’s probably the first line of dialog.
I also use the 4MQS after the fact as a diagnostic tool. If the scene is lacking in conflict, asking the four questions will reveal the scene’s weakness.
An effective solution requires asking these questions in addition to the 4MQS:
1. Are the character’s wants specific enough?
2. What is the goal of each character in the scene?
3. Are they working hard enough?
4. How does winning or losing affect the overall script?
Answering will allow you much greater clarity. Having a system saves time and allows you to remain objective about your work.
This coming week allows me to use an even sharper set of tools some of which are repeated from these past newsletters. I will use the following advanced procedure, and please note that I’m not reading my work on this pass so that I don’t get lost in the details.
1. Revise and update my current outline. I’ll work in increments using the Mythic Journey Map® in my book How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks.
2. As I create the outline, I reread each scene for conflict and note it on the outline itself.
3. I’ll notice what words seem to repeat and use the “Find” function in Word to see if I have used a word too often. Sometimes it’s a way to check on the thematic progression of the story?
4. A dear colleague, Dani Shapiro, wrote a book called, Still Writing. In it, she describes discovering that she used a word so frequently that she realized that she needed to check the book’s theme. That information informed how she completed the work.
5. I’ll rest the book after this revision and then read it and through it one more time before sending it to trusted readers.
I’ve set a month’s deadline for this final rewrite.
I hope this helps and encourages you to push towards any finish lines you haven’t yet reached.
The most critical item is to set a reasonable deadline and meet it!
Click below and enjoy the 81st episode of Joke on a Stick! Need more laughs? Head over to the site for more episodes and clips!
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz