Getting Dirty

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Getting Dirty

Think of your first draft as a lump of clay: malleable, flexible raw material. To mold it into a solid screenplay, you need to feel totally free to add, subtract, rearrange, destroy, and reshape material. Jump in, get dirty up to the elbows, allow yourself to feel the grit under your fingernails. Rewriting isn't a job for sissies.

The biggest mistake you could make in the rewriting phase is to get too precious with your first draft. Don't be afraid of losing material you like. If it doesn't fit the story, be disciplined enough to throw it out. This is known as "killing your darlings," and it's an essential skill to develop. As screenwriter Andrew Bennett put it, "Great writers aren't great first-drafters. They're great rewriters."

You may be head over heels in love with your first draft, and maybe it even deserves all that affection. But once you have rewritten a script several times, take your final draft and compare it with the first one. Most writers will admit that their brilliant first draft now appears terribly flawed and downright unlovable.

So save a copy of your current draft in a read-only file if it makes you feel better. Then roll up your sleeves and let the mudslinging begin.



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