You’ve completed your first draft, now what?
You’ve been working on your story of a couple of months (okay, maybe longer… a lot longer) and you’ve finally finished it. Now it’s time to submit it to producers, agents, and managers, right? No! “No? So I can submit it to competitions, right?” No! Technically no one should ever read that first draft. Your “first draft” should always be free of typos and grammatical errors. Now is the time for rewrites. There is a process for rewrites.
In order to save time, the process of correcting grammatical errors and typos should be the last step. It consumes too much time for you to check for and fix these errors with each draft, so just save it for the final step. The first step should be to make sure that your story fits a proper structure. If it’s a feature film, does it follow the hero’s journey? If it’s a television show, does it have the proper act structure? If not, figure out what adjustments need to be made in order to make it work. Make sure that you have characters that fill Campbell’s character archetypes.
Once you fixed all of those errors and filled all of these missing pieces, the next step is to make sure that every scene is pertinent to your story. If a scene does not advance your story and add to character development, then it doesn’t need to be in your script. The best way to ensure this is to write a reverse outline. Every scene must have a setting: where is the scene taking place? Every scene must have a protagonist or antagonist: the character that the scene is about. Every scene must have conflict: an obstacle that stands in the way of your protagonist’s/antagonist’s goal. Every scene must have a turning point: the reason the scene exists. If nothing in the scene changes, then there is no reason for the scene to be in your script. The turning point is the action that moves the scene forward to the next scene.
Next you’ll need to re-read your story to check for any obvious plot holes that you may have overlooked. This may require you to step away from the story for a few days and come back to it with fresh eyes. This is also where you’ll make sure that there are no typos or grammatical errors. Read your story aloud to yourself. This is the easiest way to catch those mistakes. Often times when reading quietly in your head, your brain will fill in those missing words and typos can be easily missed. No, it’s still not time to submit to producers or agents.
There is another step that should be taken before you do this. Have someone else read over your work, preferably someone with experience in the craft of storytelling, but anyone will do. It’s good to belong to some sort of writer’s group, but often times you’ll just get pats on the back. It’s rare that you get significant feedback. The best way to get good feedback from experienced professionals is to submit your story to a script consultant. You can also submit your script to contests at this point and often times you can get a discounted price on feedback.
After you’ve taken all of these steps and made corrections based on the feedback that you’ve received, then you are ready to submit to producers and agents. Remember, keep writing. Once you’ve completed one script, move on to the next. Don’t ever remain idle. Keep a notepad (I use Evernote. It’s compatible with all devices) to keep track of story ideas. Write them down whenever they enter your head. Most of them will be horrible, but you never know when it will spark something good. Until next week, happy writing.