One did not have to be a screenwriter to see how participating in a teleconference session such as I did today helps one’s overall writing skills, since clearly there are overlapping principles which benefit you in almost any type of written communication.
It’s similar to the influential behaviours in presentation skills, be it speaking in a Toastmasters club or performing on a professional stage.
The first major point raised was the importance of rewriting: 80% of screenwriter success is based on the ability to rewrite. I daresay that for any professional writer of substance, this would be true. As an example of proof coming from the opposite side of the coin, look at the writings of sportswriters; often their need to meet tight deadlines takes a toll on the quality, sometimes even grammatical accuracy, of their published output. Or consider special bulletin reports, where it often seems the quality of expression takes a back seat to expressing it quickly.
However, the professional writer will inevitably encounter some degree of ‘the need for speed’. The context of today’s session provided a roadmap for how to apply the ever-present desire to strive for a better script through rewriting when deadlines are an issue.
As with an athlete who goes through preparation for a big event, the further away from when the script is due the more the emphasis is on the larger, more routine elements of structure. As the time approaches for the athlete to perform or the writer to submit his work, the more subtle, polishing elements are the final steps to address.
The scenario backdrop for this teleconference was how to direct one’s focus depending on how close to the project deadline, given a laddering of eight levels structuring the successful product of rewriting:
- The story, with its structure, plot, theme, and concept
- The characters, who should be interesting and fit the story
- The situations that characters face
- The actions which transpire
- The characters’ dialogue
- The words used
- The story subtext, i.e. what is perceived beneath the surface
- The story is truly interesting
In part two, I’ll review how the time frame to script submission affects how the rewrite should focus.