Monday, December 14, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 102 - What are you Trying to Accomplish with your Re-Write?

Last week at this time, I was working on my revised first act, and it was a struggle. What I was grappling with, but perhaps hadn't really realized at the time, was that I was being asked to fix something that wasn't broken. At least not in the traditional sense.

One of the two major notes that I got from the Production Company I'm working with was that they wanted me to push the Armageddon events in my post-Apocalyptic spec up in the world's time-line. Whereas the draft they first read has an unwritten yet implied time frame and the story starts about five years after the earth was rocked by devastating events, the new draft takes place only a year or six months out. While this might not at first seem like a major change (though, there were some natural and sociological effects on the planet that I was worried would be lost), it was in fact quite a major rewrite.

I'll be honest in saying that I didn't at first see how much would be different, probably because the re-writes would all be in the details. I was free from having to make any substantial structural changes; in fact, my producer agreed that the structure would basically go untouched. What would change, though, would be almost every line of dialogue and detail within the scenes. The ways in which people would respond and think about their situation would be completely different. It was hard for me to accept that the re-writing (for once) meant not altering structure, but rather the look and feel of each scene. Like a house whose interior is being completely redesigned, but all the walls and fixtures left exactly in place, I had to go through and re-imagine everything.

When my producer called me on Wednesday after reading the first round of "fixes" on Act One, she wasn't thrilled with the work. The changes, she rightly said, felt more like they were tacked on to an existing script, rather than integrated naturally into a new one. Her comments sunk in the next day, and I was able to give her a new 11 pages that felt much more organic, and she took to them. We agreed to go forward in that fashion, and my plan is to send her the rest of the act tonight. Sometimes, I guess, it helps the writing when you're knocked down a peg and have to figure out what you're really trying to accomplish with your revisions.