I know I posted a piece on this subject last fall, but I think it’s worth repeating when it comes to the rewriting process…
Without question, the most formidable hurdle for most writers (including myself) is freeing themselves from words already written.
You can repeat the phrase “words are cheap” a thousand times, but when it comes down to tossing out a scene, a page, or even a single line of dialogue, a protective wall will often rise up and a threatening voice will say: “Don’t you dare touch this!” or “This is clearly an essential part of the script!” or “This was written with great pain and suffering and it stays!”
What’s important to remember as you start going back into a first draft script is to not allow your mix of words to harden too quickly. And struggle to not fall in love with anything in that initial draft. Keep telling yourself this is very much a work in progress and don’t be afraid to try things that your first pass through your story is giving you clues about. You can always go back to where you were if a new insight doesn’t pan out. Just don’t let anything set too early. Stay limber with your pages and don’t hold on too tight.
I have a long-time client that I admire precisely because of his ability to stay loose and flexible. He never hesitates to throw out scenes and rewrite and rearrange material to make his script stronger. And his work definitely improves with each subsequent pass through, to the tune of several scripts receiving professional productions throughout the country and abroad and getting several published by Samuel French.
The implied warning here is to not become your own worst enemy and insist on keeping material that weakens your evolving play or screenplay. The tyranny of the written can easily dim the potential brilliance of any script-in-the-making.
I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright’s Process. You can follow me on Twitter @eitherorfilms or @mfastagescreen. I’m also on Facebook at buzzmclaughlinscriptconsulting.