Put It Away | Script Revolution

Put It Away

Introduction: 

Some of us a pre-writers and some of us are re-writers. If you're the latter, you have most likely heard the phrase "re-writing is writing" at some point and have that constantly in your mind. In this article by Rockstar Member Chris Lutzow, he makes a convincing (and scientifically backed) argument for doing the last thing many of us want to do but can often be for the best for our material - to stop writing and walk away from the script - CJ

Screenwriting is, ultimately, a sub-genre of literature writing. Yeah, I know- they get hundreds of pages to tell a story with supreme nuance. They can describe in detail the feelings, smells, and thoughts of their world. We get about a hundred and twenty pages, and we better have white space! We have to be visual. We can be too expository. There are RULES, dammit!

Sure, this is all true. But there are things that we can take away from our more long-winded brethren. One of them is advocated by one of the more long-winded (and successful) authors of modern times: Stephen King. That one idea is to put your screenplay away. Stick it in a drawer and forget about it. Move on to something else.

Right now, at least one person reading this is saying to themselves- or screaming at the screen: “Nuh-uh”.

Bear with me for a moment, because we all love our stories. The characters we created the world they inhabit, their very words. We pour ourselves into them. I can picture my protagonists and antagonists, their homes, friends, that coffee shop they sat across from at the end of act two. And I’ll wager, you can picture yours as well (maybe not that particular coffee shop).

When we are that close to our stories, we lose objectivity. We’re too close to the story. So, put it aside. Not for an afternoon. Not for a day, or a week. Long enough to forget details-long enough for it to be fresh. Think I’m full of it? Consider this example:

Mr. S. King advocates for not looking at a piece for six months. I say that’s too long. But, I went into WriterDuet (my preferred software, but to each their own) and opened a screenplay I hadn’t looked at in about five months. I had outlined it, first-drafted it, reviewed it, re-wrote it, re-wrote it, and re-wrote it. Polished and happy, I received from positive peer feedback and moved on.

Not too long ago, I opened it back up after five months. My plot, themes, characters and dialogue were all still good. But, there were things that I saw. Scene descriptions that could be tweaked and improved, action lines that could be cleaned up a bit, and dialogue that worked, but could be tightened. Why didn’t I see this during any of my writes and re-writes?

In Kathryn Schultz’s book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, she discusses that the human mind ‘autocorrects’ sensory input to be in line with what it expects. This is why we may miss verbiage, syntax, and spelling issues in our works. If autocorrect and grammar checks miss the error, and we’ve been reading the same material over and over, our minds likely will not recognize the error. By getting the work away from us for a period of time, we can come back anew and find new ways to improve a work.

Now, a caveat: if you’re writing for a paycheck and have a firm deadline, arguing with your producer that you need to ignore your work for six months probably won’t fly. But, as most of us are learners who are striving to improve our craft in order to eventually write for a paycheck, why not do what works to improve your spec?

So go ahead and brainstorm, outline, write a first draft, re-write, re-write, and re-write. Then, work on something else for a few months. Don’t be stagnant- keep honing your craft. But, give this particular spec a break. Come back to it, see it with fresh eyes, and re-write it into something even stronger.

And, if you’re saying: “But what about PAGE, Austin, Nicholls, etc. They have a deadline coming up. I HAVE to finish this to get it in”. I say: why? The competition will be there next year if you really want to enter. And, shouldn’t you enter to win? Wait, and do your best with your best.

Good luck to us all. I’m rooting for you.

About The Author

Chris Lutzow's picture
Real name: 

As a veteran, former Deputy Sheriff, and current high school teacher, Chris has a varied background.  Harnessing that background, he strives for unique and realistic takes on characters in the horror and thriller genre.  Read more

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Comments

Gary Piazza's picture

Good words of wisdom, Chris. I have done this before and it does work!

John Hunter's picture

I've outlined, made beat sheets, and my favorite, written shorts so some of ideas didn't get lost in the shuffle. But in truth, many of these didn't need to be developed any further.