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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Q. I sent my script to a dev exec for suggestions to improve it. She suggested a few changes.

The problem is I feel I stink at rewrites.

I fear I might create plot holes during the process of making the changes that she suggested to make my script better. How do I battle my fears and how I see that I don’t create plot holes in the process of rewrite?
Sometimes the best way to do a rewrite is to take the script back down to index cards, and then rebuild it.

Read through the script and write down each beat as succinctly as you can. Actually, it's even better if you don't go through the script, just write down each beat on an index card, from memory. I usually type my beats, print them out, and paste them onto cards.

Spread your index cards out on a table, and read the story through from the index cards. This is the stage at which you should be taking the notes you've been given. Any plot holes will be obvious: you won't see how the story gets from one index card to another.

This is also where, if you were brave and wrote your index cards down from memory, any beats that you forgot to write down will show up again: you'll remember oh, that scene where they argue about the pants goes there. If you don't remember a beat when you write down the cards, and you don't realize it at the card stage, then you have successfully cut an unnecessary story beat.

Now you write your cards back into the computer. You now have a revised beat sheet for your rewrite.

Then dump the beat sheet back into your script program (Final Draft or Screenwriter or Celtx or what have you).

Then start rewriting. If you have a scene that doesn't need to change, you can cut and paste it from your script. Most scenes will change a little. I usually rewrite them in the script, and then cut and paste them. Some scenes you'll have to write from scratch. Some scenes you'll just erase from the script because you don't need them any more.

When you're finished, voilà, you have a new script. And there won't be any plot holes, because you took an afternoon to rework the bones of the story on index cards.



Hi Alex, great write-up. There's one point where it isn't clear to me how the process works: "This is the stage at which you should be taking the notes you've been given."

Could you unpack that advice, expand on it a little?

By Blogger hix, at 7:20 PM  

this is really useful, i've been stuck trying to finish a 30 ROCK spec, so I did the index card thing and it became instantly clear what was required.

By Blogger sean, at 8:47 PM  

@Hix: In other words, if the note is, "Make your hero a girl," then do that at the index cards stage first. If the note is "up the stakes," then do that in the card where the stakes are set up. If it's "we need more of a clock," then put in an index card which creates a clock, then put in a couple of cards where the clock is ticking down or time starts running out even faster. Etc.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:24 AM  

Cheers, Alex.

By Blogger hix, at 10:16 PM  

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