WHEN DO I KNOW I’M FINISHED? PART TWO

April 16, 2012

You have completed the script/novel checklist from Part One.  You have polished it more than your mother’s good silverware.  You are finally ready to let it go out into the world.

BUT… 

It is still not fit to send to agents, producers, managers, publishers, and studio people.

It’s not ready?  I’ve done all the work.  It’s a great story. The dialogue is crackling.  Why can’t I launch it into the world now?

So far only your eyes have been made contact with your novel/script.   You need another pair of eyes to read it. You want to send out your absolute best effort.  You don’t get a second chance.

  • Story points you think are clear are incomprehensive to another pair of eyes.
  • The great speech you wrote reads like a long boring lecture to another reader.
  • What you thought is a great twist ending is telegraphed on page twenty.
  • You used “your” when you meant “you’re” like fifty times.  You used the word “like” in an annoying way one thousand times.

Whom do you let read it?

  • Friends?  Only if you want them to say, “It’s great I can’t wait to see it up on the big screen.  Or, I don’t know what to wear to your first book signing.”   Hmm, no real feedback there.
  • Family?  Only if you want them to ask, “Is this what you’ve been working on instead of doing more important things around the house?”  Not much help there either.

Here’s whom you should let read it:

  • Your trusted fellow screenwriters or script/novel consultants.  They are familiar with the techniques of writing screenplays or novels; story, structure and format.  They know how to give proper criticism, “Here’s where it wasn’t working for meThe main character never changesThis should be an O.S. not a V.OThe second act drags.  What does your main character really want?

If you’re getting feedback from more than one source, look for consistent notes and criticisms.  They are most likely true.  Make those changes.  Read it again.  It’s ready for your final polish.  Read it again.

It’s ready to be sent out but I can’t let it go!

More excuses: “There’s just one more adjustment I need to make.  I don’t think my opening and closing images work.  The All Is Lost moment needs to be stronger.  I think it will be better if her best friend is French.”  

Question:  What is holding you back?  Answer: FEAR.   “What if no one likes it?”  “If I don’t get any positive responses I’ve been wasting my time.”

All writers have those fears.  You’ve done the work.  It is ready.  It is the best you could do.  It has your unique voice, originality and story. Yes, it’s finally time to send your precious baby off.  You’ve put all you could into bringing it up; nurturing it, letting it mature into a good honest full rounded script/novel.

YOU ARE FINISHED!  SEND IT OUT!……   And start the next project immediately. Good luck!

Any excuses you like to share?  Leave a comment below or email me at: Stephen@rewritedr.com.


When do I know when I’m finished?

April 12, 2012

You’ve worked on your script/novel for months or even years with dozens of rewrites.  You’ve had all the time in the world to complete it.  You want this baby of yours to be perfect; rejection proof, before sending it out into the judgmental world of agents, managers, production companies, publishers.

So when do I know I’m truly finished ?

Have you completed this screenplay/manuscript checklist?

  • Did you read your script/novel straight through at one sitting?
  • Did you specifically look for emotional turning points, three act structure, and clear plot points.  Are they working?  Are they strong?  Contain big emotional moments?  Does the story slow down at any point?
  • Did your characters have arcs, uniqueness and consistency?
  • Did you read your dialogue out loud?  Is it on-the-nose dialogue or more complex by using subtext?  If it’s a script, have you had a reading of it with actors or friends?
  • Is your prose clear and clean and in tone with the story?  If it’s a script, are the action/description lines short but powerful and add great visuals?
  • Do your scenes or chapters flow?  Does each one move the story forward?  Can some be cut or combined?  Is there complexity to them?
  • If it’s a screenplay, can you make it more cinematic, or add set-up/payoffs or interesting transitions?
  • If you feel you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ve earned the right to put it in a drawer for a day or two.  After a short time away, re-read it again.  Still working for you?  Good.
  • Do your first polish draft.  Look at each word and each sentence. Are there misspellings or wrong punctuation? Did you vary your word choices? Have you replaced the “to be” verbs with more powerful action verbs?  Is the script/manuscript in the correct format?

After all that, if you feel like you want to tweak it more –   STOP!!!  DON’T MOVE!   TAKE YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD!

Writers that still want to fiddle with it, tell me: “I think I’m almost there but I still have to find that perfect ending” OR “I just have to nail a killer opening and then I’m done” OR “If I just punch up my dialogue a little more, then it’s ready.”

You are afraid to finish.  You’ve worked on this dream project and now it will be judged.  It will be out of your hands and you are about to find out if someone else likes it.  You are staring in the face of rejection. That’s scary. But if you’ve followed the above checklist it is almost ready.

What do you mean, “almost”?  There’s more?  But I thought you said I was done.  

You are, almost.

Click on Part Two to see Part Two.

Part Two of WHEN DO I KNOW WHEN I’M FINISHED will delve into getting feedback and from whom before you finally send it out.


ReWriteDr’s favorite books on screenwriting.

July 15, 2011

There are plenty of screenwriting books out there.  Everyone one has their favorites.   Certain books seem to speak to you just at the right time.  However, over the years the following four books are the ones I’ve gone back to again and again.

1.  Syd Field’s – SCREENPLAY is still the holy book when it comes to structure.  It’s been around forever but it’s still relevant today.  It should be the first book any new writer reads.

2.  Linder Seager’s – HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT is excellent with character development and the rewriting process.

3.  Blake Synder’s – SAVE THE CAT, (The last screenwriting book you’ll ever need), isn’t quite that but written in a  causal conversational manner, it reinvents the Beat Sheet.  Plus it renames 10 different genres according to what they need to accomplish and how your script should fall into one of them.  It’s a new way of thinking about screenwriting.

4.  Lastly, William M. Aker’s – YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS! – is a great checklist after you’re done a draft and before you send it out, besides being just a fun read.

What are your favorites?