Nov 4

Doing that rewrite – version 2

It is never to late to mix up how you do things, to try different methods and find better ways. So I thought I would share a change in how I am handling script notes at the moment. Will this method stick? No idea – check back with me on that one.

I have written about handling notes before. Essentially what it boils down to is this: don’t react instantly. Read the notes, then forget about them for 24 hours or more. Let them sink in. Then evaluate them. Try to identify the core problems being addressed in the notes (like an illness, sometimes a symptom can mask a different problem). From there, you make your fixes as required while always aiming to improve, tighten and clarify as you go.

But my approach has changed for the last few scripts I have completed. Here is what I have done instead:

Don’t even consider the notes. Just go ahead and make the changes exactly as suggested without worrying about the real causes or the bigger picture. Then wait that 24 hours or more. Now read through your story and make a note any time something feels wrong. If you can tighten, do it. If you can cut, do it. Tweak until until it feels right.

The first method, my traditional system, is careful and considered. The second is not, at least not at the start. The risk in the second method is that the changes made may miss the underlying issues that led to the notes in the first place. But the huge positive is that it doesn’t allow for any rejection of the ideas in the notes based on little more than ‘I had it this way before’. When you actually start to evaluate the story with consideration, the changes are already in place and you have moved on from that earlier draft. You are now evaluating a new version of that script and, because you went straight ahead and made those changes and they aren’t from your own gut, it allows a touch more objectivity.

So if the first method has worked for me, why change?

What prompted the trial was writing on a show this year from creatives who have an incredibly strong sense of what the show is – every note without fail made the episodes better exactly as described (I have to be honest, that is not always the case). I realised several episodes in that their notes came with a safety net. And I also noticed that, as a result of that, I would tend to find my own fixes and tweaks around those notes because I wasn’t worried about tackling their notes. It meant we all caught more and the scripts got better easier. I also think it could be more efficient from a time perspective and my workload has been particularly heavy this year.

I have a feeling that the best method will vary from project to project, from notes to notes and especially from writer to writer. But if you are a writer and find you have trouble tackling notes, from separating yourself from those early drafts, try this second method and see if it helps.

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