I don't think that anyone could have convinced me of the amount of re-writing work I'd have to do once I began writing my post-Apocalyptic spec. Even I can't believe it sometimes.
For over two years now, I've been working on this same script (off and on). At first, though I was writing it with the hopes of selling it and breaking into the film industry with it, I was also writing it just for the hell of it. I had never tried an end of the world script before, so it was sort of an experiment for me. Sure, I'd had to create new worlds and settings before, but I'd never tried transforming the familiar (major U.S. cities and landmarks) into something different and unknown. All of my previous scripts had taken place in fictional cities with fictional laws, all of which I created. This, though, basing something in reality, was also new to me. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with it beyond the Armageddon scenario that I'd come up with (couldn't it maybe be enough to just explore this new reality and work a story into that setting?), but I knew I wanted to use it.
Over the past year and eight months, though, the script has really evolved. I'd say it "changed," but I don't think that implies either a positive or negative difference, whereas "evolved" does. At least to a degree.
The script is better now. I think I can securely say that. There are certainly fewer plot holes, and everything on the page makes a lot more sense and is unquestionably earned now. In the earlier drafts, I was clearly having fun with my characters and world, but sometimes to the detriment of the story. Things click into place much more clearly now. That said, I've also been doing consistent rewrites since June, and it's hard to avoid feeling like I've moved away from that original, ill-formed idea of what I wanted the script to be. Yes, it's about something now. Yes, the plot is tighter. Yes, we care more about everyone we meet. That doesn't mean that it's exactly what I originally set out to write.
Disclaimer: I don't want to sound like the above is a complaint. It's certainly not. Rather, it's an observation on how far the script has come. It's also an honest confession. I was thinking about notes I'd gotten on it the other day, sitting on my bed, trying to figure out how to address a big question that had come up in the pages, when something hit me. My original intent with this project was so far behind me, so far "missed" that I didn't remember it. At first, the script was more sci-fi, creepy people doing creepy things. Now, it's much more firmly grounded in reality. (After seeing both THE ROAD and BOOK OF ELI recently, I think it was wise to move away from the more eccentric behavior.) It was just an odd thought - that this was incredibly different from what I first planned on doing.
Now, after all of that is said and done, there's one final thing to consider. The other day, my mother asked me which draft I was most pleased with. Isn't this the crux of the matter? I answered honestly when I told her that, if I could sell any incarnation of it, it would be the current one. It's the strongest. And, though it's different from what I first set out to write, because of the years of unexpected re-writes, it's also better.
I hope you find that re-writes do the same thing for your script - just be sure you don't get so far from the original idea that it stops feeling like yours. Throughout all of this, I still feel like the script it mine. Different. But still mine.