(Third) First Drafts Always Suck
These past two weeks, Corinne and I have been making a big sprint to get through a rewrite of our feature script, Spaceboat. It’s a super fun project that I’m incredibly excited about. That being said, writing the new draft has been a humbling reminder of just how hard this work is. Aside from all the focus and self-doubt issues I’ve posted about in the past, it’s just so damn hard to write a first draft.
This is technically a third draft, but it’s a complete page one rewrite, so it FEELS more like writing a first draft. After our last pass, we realized that we needed to make some big changes. So, we went all the way back to index cards. We completely shifted who the protagonist was and built an entirely new first act, with those changes rippling out through the entire story. I think in some ways, it feels harder doing the rewrite now than it did during the actual first draft, even though the story is in WAY stronger shape overall and we know our characters so much better. It’s frustrating to feel feel like we’ve done this work already. I WANT to just copy/paste from an old draft. But we can’t. And it’s agonizing. It’s annoying that a totally new scene isn’t instantly perfect. It’s hard to let go of really funny jokes from previous drafts that no longer fit the characters. It just feels like it should be easier.
But it’s never easy.
We did, however, make it to the two most beautiful words for any screenwriter: THE END. It’s a relief, frankly. Because even though the script still needs a lot of work, at least it exists (again… but better!). It’s always so much easier to build on what’s already there. To pretend that some other dummy wrote that draft and we can just sweep in to ruthlessly make all the obvious fixes. (CUT TO: My inevitable next post about how hard editing is.)
I find myself thinking about something I heard Alex Blumberg say recently in a podcast from Gimlet Media (it was actually a branded podcast that played at the end of the main show I was listening to), which was essentially just that first drafts always suck. I think this is true whether it’s a real first draft or a third first draft. Anytime you’re taking your first stab at creating something from scratch, it’s gonna suck. (Luckily, I think our new rewrite sucks a lot less than the last time we did this. Progress!) He also said something great that he learned from Ira Glass about how projects always want to be bad.” Our job is to fend off the bad things and try to keep it good.” So, onto our next task: make Spaceboat good!
If you want to hear the podcast I’m referencing (it’s only a few minutes long), you can listen to it here.
In other news, I’m honored to share that I’ve been selected for the 2019 From Script to Pre-Production lab through NYWIFT with my project Scattering Jake. This lab focuses on helping women writer/directors prepare to make their first feature film. It’s a very impressive group of women with an interesting range of scripts. We already had our first weekly session, which was great, and our next session is tonight. I’m looking forward to seeing how the lab progresses over the next five months.
Hope you're enduring winter. Check back for more soon!