Friday, April 06, 2007

A Tribute to Lost Drafts, the Drafts of Drafts, and Other Such Variants

Last night I received a large helping of feedback on the first half of my current screenplay. I actually enjoy receiving feedback from a large number of people at once (eleven in this case) because it helps you determine what's working particularly well, and what, specifically, must be addressed. While I value individual criticism, it becomes much more valuable when two or three people share a common gripe. If red lights aren't going off by then, well, my stubbornness will be my downfall.

Unfortunately some of those common gripes regarded my protagonist. I knew when I sat down and started the actual script that I had failed to make some critical choices about his backstory, hoping that those things would become more clear as I progressed (things that would then be better addressed in a second draft); however, I hadn't as clear an idea that those vague impressions would lead to a lack of clarity regarding his objectives and stakes. Ouch.

Any screenwriter (...actually, any writer in general) would know that fixing that problem isn't terribly difficult. It simply requires me to make some concrete decisions, most of which I've already decided. The aforementioned "Ouch" comes into play, however, because the clarity that those decisions provides will ultimately change almost everything that I've already written.

Well, duh. Writing is a long process, one involving multiple rewrites - not polishes - and I am well aware of this. It's just that the pages I still have to write probably won't be the same either, and it's as though they're gone before I've even set them down.

I find something sad about the fate of drafts. In melodramatic fashion, I mourn the loss of scenes and moments that will never make it into important hands. I think fondly of the drafts of drafts - the pages and pages written before the actual pages became clear. Maybe it's laziness manifested in nostalgia, but how wonderful would it be if the ambition and excitement poured into that rough draft wasn't somehow dulled by the labor of subsequent revisions?

It's completely silly, I'll admit, but it's an odd feeling knowing that the pages I have yet to write have already lost a bit of their importance, even if it's due to the revelation of changes that will make the entire project that much better.

Write on...