Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 277 - A Shorter, Streamlined Script

Last night, I submitted a revised draft of my sci-fi spec to my writing partner. The past couple months have born witness to an incredible transformation in that script. By roughly mid-April, we had a really solid idea of the story we wanted to tell. From about mid-May through mid-July, my collaborator and I were going back and forth on the script with each other, as well as with our producer. A lot of notes passed from one mind to the other via email and phone calls, all with the goal of distilling the story down to its most streamlined, concise, and riveting version possible.

Just shy of a month ago, I sent my partner a 108 page draft, which was the culmination of edits driven by the aforementioned notes and discussions. He got back to me about a week later with another round of notes. He asked me to do a major dialogue and action pass through as I edited, looking for anywhere I could cut. I did him one better - I made my edits, and then I did the dialogue and action pass. After that, I did another dialogue only pass, reading for cohesiveness, redundancies, and consistency. I sent him back a 98 page draft.

Not long later, about a week and a half ago, my collaborator came back with more notes. For the most part, his suggestions this last time were cosmetic. He pointed out a few areas that could be further truncated, multiple scenes that could be collapsed into one, and lines of dialogue that could be shortened or cut entirely. Still, he had some larger thoughts. 

One character we meet right around the midpoint wasn't quite working, because he required a lot of back story that a) we didn't have the means to easily convey and b) really affected a lot of the other characters and necessitated a lot more to be directly stated about them and their histories. More so, his presence created a double beat with a pair of characters we meet later in the script (more about them anon). We came up with a smart and easily workable solution - the character remains necessary, but his story was malleable. So, we completely rewrote who he was in the world. He lost his affiliation and history with the others, which solved the back story hurdles, and because he became so different, we didn't have to worry about the double beat any more. In changing him, we crafted a much more interesting character unbound by lengthy exposition. 

As for the duo, we had to spice them up a bit and give them a reason for their current situation in life. With the double beat worry off the table, I was free to take a closer look at what role they had to serve in the story, and the solution I came up with also made them much more compelling and lamentable. 

My writing partner's astute observations for where to collapse scenes all proved right on. I did more edits, consolidating and merging and further streamlining dialogue, for an end result of an additional four pages chopped off, bringing the script to a lean and mean 94. The cuts and reworkings of the characters have worked together to make this the strongest draft of the script yet. Hopefully, my partner agrees that it is strong enough to show our agents next.