Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 247 - Revising Act One

I normally try to refrain from revising pages in the middle of a draft. It disrupts momentum, slows progress, and perhaps most draining, opens the door for me to get caught up in the minutiae, rather than laying a proper foundation for a second draft. Draft one is all about getting the thoughts down on the page (hopefully successfully) and seeing what works and what doesn't. Ideally, you're working off of an outline and have already been able to piece your story together, instead of writing blindly, but it can be tough to gauge the effectiveness of the structure you're plotted until you see (and read) it in screenplay format. For all these reasons, when I bang out a first draft, I really do try to push it through as quickly, yet intelligently, as possible. I want a draft that I can print first and then edit and evaluate later. 

Last month, I submitted the first draft of act one of my sci-fi script to my writing partner, W.A. He got back to me with notes - three scenes that needed a heavier rewrite and an overall tone adjustment. Neither of us wanted the notes to inhibit continued progress in any major way. For the most part, we both felt the script was by and large on track, especially given that it was just a first draft. Still, the discussion the endued was a valuable one and a timely one. Given that W.A. had thoughts on the tone, I decided to implement that note going forward. I didn't have to redress all tone and dialogue in act one there and then, but the next 75% of the script would be more on par with what he's imagining. Once draft one is done, I will only have one act in which I need to tweak dialogue and descriptors for the tonal adjustment, rather than an entire script. As for the three big scenes, however, I wanted to go back and rewrite them then, rather than after the script's first draft is completed.

I knew that some of the changes were going to have a larger impact on the subsequent, as of yet unwritten pages. What I didn't anticipate, though, was how long they would take to implement. I targeted the second beat first, since it was the smallest. Yet while revising the scene - a fairly expositional one between the protagonist and a character who dies shortly thereafter - I began to realize a lot of things about those characters' relationship, as well as about the protagonist and his motivators. Those realizations then fed the first sequence I needed to revisit, which tie into the antagonist's goals and desires. And the third targeted sequence, well that was the most complex. I changed one thing, which raised questions about the new goals that the antagonist and protagonist had, eliminated the need for a major action piece that was necessary in terms of keeping the pace moving, and fed a lot of information into act one that was intended to come in act two. 

The two day revision became a five day revision; the result, though, is a much stronger first act. The threat, though, is that now I'm in revisionist mode, I need to either tear myself away and move forward (that's the plan) or become mired in minor edits and tweaks that I normally don't get involved in until after the draft is done. In the interest of seeing this draft through, though, I am just going to move forward and hopefully get W.A. the first half of the script within a week.

A final bit of news - my producers on my post-Apocalyptic spec have gone out with that script again, and we're being read at a few places. I have a good feeling about this round, but we'll see what happens with these latest submissions.