Friday, February 01, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 257 - Reading with Fresh Eyes

The draft is done! Sci-fi spec, draft two, complete and out to my writing partner as of Monday night. And then, to kick off my edit phase, I something I've never thought to take the time to do before. I decided to read the script.

Say what? Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Of course, I read the script after I finish it. I check for typos and grammatical errors and redundant dialogue. But I don't really read it for content. Not really. Sure, I look to see if I can make any cuts or streamline and dialogue, but it struck me that when I revise a draft, I don't really look at the content, just the format. My edits become more minor than they should be. I'll tweak a line here or there or shorten a sentence of dialogue or description so as to cut a hanging line on the script and shorten it, but the trade-off is that I subconsciously commit to what I've written. I fail to read the thing from the point of view of someone who is unfamiliar with the script (or as close to that as I can get) and therefore don't look for story problems. I became most aware of this during my rewrites this go-around, when I read some dialogue from draft one and thought, "This is HORRIBLE." Same for certain beats. They just didn't make sense. How could I willingly submit that to my partner?

This time, however, I decided to put the pen away as much as possible and just read the script in one sitting. No looking for edits. No streamlining line by line. Just read it for the feel and flow of the story, and do the particular edits later. Sure, I found a few glaring things - missing period at the end of a sentence or a missing line of dialogue - that I flagged as I read, but I would have picked up on those if it wasn't my own material anyway. And you know what happened?

I liked the script. I mean, I really liked it. To be honest, I think it's some of the best writing I've done in a very long time. Very little seemed gratuitous. All the beats that needed to be there were. The characters had arcs and motivations. And Act One was the tightest, most refined that I have produced in a long time. Granted, I found some things that should go, but on the whole, I was incredibly pleased. I'm not trying to make the argument that this is because I did the read-through without edits - the two really aren't connected beyond the fact that I would likely not have seen this had I gone straight to line by line edits - but the product results were hard to ignore. I'm really jazzed by this draft, and I think my partner is, too.

Even if the draft was unsuccessful, or even just less successful, I truly feel that sitting down and simply reading the script before really editing it was the way to go. I absolutely plan to do that with every project I have going forward. It just doesn't make sense to me not to, and I can't believe I hadn't adopted that practice sooner. Getting mired in the nitty-gritty of an editing process is great, but it's important not to miss the forest for the trees. I was super guilty of that in the past. Plus, it's always fun to read a script, no?