Monday, July 20, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 81 - My Script Isn't Perfect (And Neither is Yours)

Every script has kinks. That's just something we have to accept as writers. Evey draft we turn in (to our writers groups, to agents, to producers, to studios) will have some shortcoming or issue. Those issues can (and will) be resolved. While we should all strive for perfection, I think that it's important to realize that perfection isn't probably. This will help more down the line than in the immediate. (This also doesn't mean that you should settle for writing a crappy script.) I'll explain.

First drafts are bound to be rocky. It goes without saying that your plot is liable to change, your characters will develop (or disappear), and the story will smooth itself out. The whole point of that first draft is to lay the foundation and realize what else you need and what you can scrap. Later down the line, though, if your scripts has taken that next step to getting produced (you've landed representation or had it optioned), you'll want to remember that it's still not perfect - at least, you will if you're like me.

With the initial excitement about attracting representation came an unwanted (though luckily short-lived) feeling of assumed untouchable quality of my spec. Someone wants to rep me and send my script out? I'm on top of the world, and the script is a killer. Come down off that high horse quickly, though, because that excitement the rep/producer shows will be quickly accompanied by notes. Lots of notes. (You already know how I had to change my intro, second act, and title.) If you want to play ball and get as much mileage out of that first big potential opportunity as possible, then accept that your script needs work. Truth be told, I'm a bit surprised by how quickly I bought into the idea that my spec needed work; then again, I had a nagging feeling that I'd get one more note that shook all the pieces into place even before I started querying.

Bottom line: be proud of your work and don't send it out until you know it's strong. At the same time, keep an open mind about changes you'll be asked to make, and just figure out a way to incorporate them in a way that suits you (or know when to fight against them). The ink dried on my option in large part because I was so upfront about my willingness to rework my script. After all, it wasn't perfect.

1 comment:

Megs said...

Hey Zach--

This is some great insight on perfectionism. I think it's also important to remember that your script doesn't need to be perfect. The reality is that no matter how amazing and perfect your draft is, there is an almost zero chance that, if it gets made, it will end up on the screen unchanged. There are just too many variables. Between the director, actors, DPs, producers, studios, etc, things are going to have to change to accommodate changing needs. Studios buy scripts knowing that they are not perfect. Does that mean one should send out a draft without spell-checking it first? Def not, but frequently scripts are bought simply on the strength of their premise and their potential.

I think that is a really liberating realization to have. If you get bogged down going over and over scenes and sequences for months or years trying to get it *perfect* before it enters into the world, chances are you're going to end up having done that work for nothing, and missing some big opportunities in the process.

In my experience, being flexible with your script, open to rewrites, notes, and changes, will only make the script stronger and make you a better writer.