Three Reasons for a Rewrite

RewriteA new screenwriter falls in love with his first draft because he labors over it with heart. The story resonates within the writer’s soul because of the connection made with the characters he creates. Sometimes the writer feels like he is on a roll, elevating the work to a divine level, which he thinks should never again be touched once reduced to writing.

These feelings are prevalent among first time writers, which makes it difficult for them to scrap the first draft and dive in for a second time, creating a more universally acceptable and impactful story.

If the writer is like me, he has a problem getting every important element of the story out of his head and onto the page. I sometimes find my mind filling in the gaps of missing character elements when I read the script, rather than realizing the information never made it to the page. The rewrite process helps me to cover for those missing elements.

There are three key reasons for a rewrite:

Fulfill the Vision

The rewrite process allows the writer to compare his pages to the original concept or logline. This brings the story back from possible rabbit trails and refocuses it onto the original motivation. Professional writers keep the logline or concept by their side to regularly check their work against the vision.

Solve the Problems

Scripts tend to meander when screenwriters shift from character to character, especially if he has a favorite that isn’t the protagonist. This creates a structural problem in the story that must be corrected at the base level, rather than at the dialog level. By checking the structure, theme and over all story concepts, the writer is able to fix the problems by cutting what doesn’t work.

Elevate the Quality

To elevate the quality of the screenplay, the writer must tweak the screenplay from the most important elements down to the least important. The below list is in order of importance:

  1. Story (Verify and clarify the concept, structure, plot, and theme)
  2. Character (Make lead characters special and interesting)
  3. Situation (Turn talking head scenes into interesting situations)
  4. Action (Make entertaining scenes with movement)
  5. Subtext (Create a layer of subtext)
  6. Dialog (Write character based dialog)
  7. Wordsmithing (Consolidate and tighten words used in the script)

The above elements of 1-5 give the greatest bang for the buck in achieving a great story. Elements 6 & 7 make the least amount of impact, even though most writers prefer spending their time in that arena.

By putting a workflow together that includes an analysis of the important elements, the writer is able to improve his script with every rewrite. This avoids the feeling based tangents that typically cause him to reject the needed rewrites, leaving him with a script that won’t sell or succeed financially.


© 2013 by CJ Powers


4 thoughts on “Three Reasons for a Rewrite

    • As I understand its history, Sylvester Stallone wrote the 89 page “Rocky” story in three and a half days, but only 10% of the original script ended up in the movie.

  1. I think rewriting is one of the hardest but most necessary parts of writing, and advice on exactly how to do it is often in short supply. These are some solid tips on how to improve one’s story.

  2. 3 & 4 are especially true from the actors perspective, words are just that, but with something attached to them, situation, actions, they become powerful. Too often (less experienced) writers seem to forget that film is visual and the writer tries speak all the pertinent details, rather than show or infer them.

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