Frustrated by First Drafts
Stephen King has a chapter in his book On Writing that I think I should go back and re-read. It's called "Shitty First Drafts."
And boy, do I have one.
First drafts are supposed to be terrible. That's why you go back and revise them. It's also why I try not to read what I wrote until I'm done with the whole thing, or else I'll spend my time revising the same ten pages and never get anywhere.
But when you know something isn't working, is it worth stopping and not wasting time on pages you know you're going to completely throw out later?
I did stop, about forty pages into the script I'm working on, and rewrote almost everything that came before it. And reworked my outline for what comes afterward. The story didn't change too drastically, but I felt like I wasn't connecting with the characters at all. Their
dialogue was very expositional and on the nose. And there was too much of it. There wasn't a plot, so much as a series of conversations.
As I worked through the beginning again, a couple of weeks later, it was interesting how much faster each scene seemed to go. Even when I threw out 90% of what I had, just having something there made it easier to fit the new material in.
I'd like to tell you that I plowed through the rest of the story and came out with something I can work with in the end. But the same feeling came up around the end of Act III (of V). I had a long, talky scene, that I thought had gone pretty well, until I got to the end and realized it made absolutely no sense in the context of what happens next.
I considered stopping again, but I was so close to the end. (And I love endings.) So I kept going. The last thirty pages feel like an ending, but it isn't earned.[ref]I also have two endings that I think will work- which is very rare for me.[/ref]
I know what the problem is- too many ideas, poorly defined characters. I need to bring them back to fundamentals: What does she want? How does she try to get it? I'll make it better, I'm sure, and hopefully it'll be easier now that I have something.
Of course, this was a project that I assumed would be easy to write. The concept is straightforward, the characters all have built in conflicts that play off each other nicely. It just needs some massaging.
I've been diving through the archive of redditor u/yourpostasamovie, who takes photos that people upload and turns them into movie posters. I'm always impressed by how much of a story can be suggested by a picture, a title and a tagline. The one you see is a favorite of mine. This script was the same way- I could probably make a poster for it myself.
But that's not the whole story. You look at a movie poster for a few seconds. A movie is a much longer experience in time.