News | 2009 | What Happens Next

I've long been an advocate of the shitty first draft. The no-holds-barred, go anywhere, say anything, freedom of writing whatever you damn well please with no editing or criticism allowed during the fragile time you're writing your ass off to get your story on paper for the first time. I believe it's one of the core tenets of crafting good creative writing. The trick, of course, is what to do next. How do you revise that big stinking heap you will never show anyone into something that's share-worthy?

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

Recently, I've just finished reading Syd Field's Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, and he's got a couple of suggestions for what to do after you've finished your first draft. Aside from backing up your story (so you never, ever have to go through the awful experience of losing an only draft), formatting it properly, and sending it out to two honest friends, Field suggests you write three essays after you've put your first draft away for a while and then read it again. I've never tried this before and I think it might be good advice.

All three essays are to be free association (just write them--don't 't over think things). For the first essay, try to capture what originally attracted you to your subject material. For the second, answer the question: What kind of [story] did you actually end up writing? And for the third essay, focus on making intention equal result: What do you have to do to change what you did write into what you wanted to write?

The third essay, can be misleading. Of course, you don't have to go back and get rid of all those new ideas that came to you while you wrote (and changed your story), but you do have to make the story work with whatever theme you end up supporting. Field's strongest advice here is that your intention must equal your results. If you like the new direction of your story--go with it--but make sure everything lines up. If you don't like the new direction, you have a clear map to the way back.

In any case, writing three essays when you're finished your first draft might be a very good next step in ordering your thoughts before you begin the fun of revision and turning your stinking heap into something you'll want to share.

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