Rewriting Your Script, Part 10: Final Edit

January 18th, 2013 by

Since dozens of writers used Go On Your Own Quest to pound out a first draft of their original screenplay, I decided to start off the New Year with a week-long series on rewriting, to honor their commitment and effort, and to encourage them [and everyone else] on their creative journey.

We’ve all heard the adage, “Writing is rewriting,” right? Perhaps nowhere is that more true than screenwriting. Aspiring screenwriters know this because of the number of drafts they go through to whip their script into readable shape. Professional screenwriters understand this because of the multiple drafts they do on any project, whether on spec or assignment.

Rewriting is just the nature of the screenwriting beast.

But that begs the question: How? What are some keys to the rewriting process? Instead of wandering around in the dark not knowing if you’re improving the story or not, is there a coherent approach to rewriting your scripts?

First off, the same thing applies to rewriting as to writing: There is no right way to write. There is no right way to rewrite. Every writer is different. Every story is different. And every rewrite is different.

That said, this week I will lay out some keys to the process. If they help you, great. Use them with my blessing. If they don’t help you, feel free to chuck them.

Part 10: Final Edit

For many writers, myself included, editing can be one of the most enjoyable experiences in the script-writing process. You know your story is basically done and that all the major elements work. Now all you are doing is putting on the finishing touches, a worthy way of topping off all your hard work.

Here are some tips on how to do a final edit of your screenplay:

Character dialogue check: Print out all the dialogue of each character so you can read every side of an individual character back to back (Final Draft and Movie Magic should allow you to do this). This way you can: (1) Check to see if you have any redundant sides. (2) Get a sense of that character’s verbal rhythm and idioms. Screenwriters often say you should be able to white out all the character names in a script and be able to identify who is saying what based solely on the specific tone and style of each side, reflecting that individual character’s personality and voice. If after reading all of your dialogue you don’t sense much difference, dig a bit deeper into your characters, paying attention to how their individual persona might affect the way they speak.

Character introduction check: Read through the introductions of all your characters, especially your primary ones. Remember: Whenever you introduce a character into a story, you have the right to editorialize about them, describing some key aspect of their persona. For example “Shrempf is a guy who has never gotten up on the right side of the bed” gives the reader some sense of the character’s personality right from the get-go. This helps a reader distinguish individuals from one another and provides a lens through which they can interpret the characters.

Highlight verbs: One of the best ways you can make scene description come alive is by using active verbs. Therefore go through your draft with a highlighter and mark every single verb, then see if you can come up with better, stronger verbs.

Trimming Tricks of the Trade: You may very well discover that your script is too long [at least that happens to me all the time]. There are some trimming tricks I have learned over the years that enable a writer to cut pages without cutting substance. I have posted about this on my blog and here are those links: Lose the orphans; Minimize parentheticals; Drop transitions; Pseudo-sluglines. An added benefit: Less black ink, more white space which makes pages read more cleanly.

Spellcheck and beyond: Obviously you should do a spellcheck, but there are word uses that a computerized program will not catch. For example: Their / They’re / There, and It’s / Its. This is fundamentally about proofreading. If you have become so familiar with the content of your script that your eyes simply don’t catch these type of mistakes, here is where you can enlist a friend or loved one to help you out.

Read your script aloud: The very final step is to go through the entire script where you read it aloud. Any line of scene description or dialogue that causes you to stumble, consider: Is there a better, more readable way of writing it? Screenplays put a premium on lean, tight writing. A final read-through can help to achieve that end.

Now you are ready to send your precious screenplay out into the world.

If you have spent the time coming up with a great story concept…

If you have immersed yourself in the life of your characters…

If you have brainstormed your story and really dug into its narrative possibilities…

If you have devoted sufficient focus on prep-writing…

If you have cracked your story’s structure…

If you have tapped into your story’s soul…

If you have pounded out a first draft that caught up the story’s energy…

If you have rewritten the script paying attention to characters, theme, structure, pace…

If you have rewritten the script multiple times, making it better and better…

If you have done a final revision so that it all clicks…

If you have edited the script so it’s a clean, professional read…

Then you have put yourself in the best possible position to succeed as a screenwriter.

And now after you celebrate completing this script…

It’s time to write another screenplay!

The more you write, the better you get.

The more you write, the better your chances of selling a script.

Good luck!

Part 1: Set It Aside

Part 2: A Clean Read

Part 3: Characters

Part 4: Themes

Part 5: Structure

Part 6: Pace

Part 7: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown

Part 8: Revision Outline

Part 9: Polish

FYI: Tom Benedek will be teaching the next session of Pages II: Rewriting Your Script through Screenwriting Master Class beginning February 18.

Be sure to check out the free Go On Your Own Quest Forum, an online writing community and extension of this blog.

4 thoughts on “Rewriting Your Script, Part 10: Final Edit

  1. “This if fundamentally about proofreading.” LOL. Intentional joke, or ironic typo?

  2. “This if fundamentally about proofreading.” LOL. Intentional joke or ironic typo?

  3. […] Oops, did I write that? About fiction editor Advisory stubborn. Write fiction is hard enough. Well,…s become more demanding in writing. […]

Leave a Reply