Nearly everyone has a story to tell, and I know for sure everyone in Hollywood is a secret screen or book writer. It’s easy to tell someone you are a writer or an author if you are in the process of writing, but until you sit down and do a rewrite, there is no real story.
Many of us who write have heard that the best part of writing is rewriting.
Well, I don’t know if it is the best part, but it certainly ads an extra dimension to your work.
It is extremely rare that a story can come out 100% flawless from the first draft... even though we might – in our humble opinion - think it is. “Even when we think we are done, we are not.”
Talking to a crowded room at The Writer’s Bookstore in Westwood, Paul Chitlik, a writer for numerous television shows, film studios and now published in book form with the new tome "Rewrite", informed us that even when we want very much to be done as professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our stories and our readers to do eight more passes. Eight more!!
Yup. In fact, many major movies go through 25 or 20 rewrites. Often those rewrites are written into the contract, but sometimes it becomes hard to do the rewrite yourself and you just have to let it go and see how someone else can stretch the box.
Finished procrastinating? Ok then, let’s get started.
First you must determine if there is conflict in every scene and if the plot points fall where they should. The end of act one should propel the central character to take action. Does yours?
At midpoint, his goal changes from outward to inward – like with Bruce Willis getting his family back in Die Hard. 2/3 of the way through, you have the gloom and doom where you think that he will never succeed, and then the final challenge before all loose ends are tied up and you return to normal.
You make a pass to make sure your description is terse, clear and clean, and then another one for the protagonist to have his own voice. Another pass for the antagonist, a third pass for the distinctive supporting characters. You check for punctuation and grammar, too. You can be the best writer in the world but the reader won’t get past page ten if they find mistakes. One last pass for page length since the scripts these days tend to be between 90-110 at optimum, so you must look where you can cut.
One young student at the Writer’s Store said that the book not only helped her with rewriting, but helped her to write her first draft better. I can see how that can be, since his advice is down to earth and very useful for any writer, whether they're doing books or films.
I know that I do at least five drafts on all my work just because I am trying to constantly tighten it and make it zing better, faster and with more emotion.
Paul’s website is open to all, and under Ask a Mentor, he will answer any film writing question to the best of his ability, but you just might want to take one of his courses. He will also do personal 1:1 instruction and write you a report on your script and what needs to be done to polish it, then talk you through the beginning of it.
The Loyola Marymount/UCLA instructor also has given master classes at University of Barcelona’s film school. It helps that he’s fluent in Spanish. Chitlik will often assist foreign language students in translating their wonderful scripts into English. But if you don’t happen to live in Los Angeles, New York or Spain, you can still learn to rewrite your material.
"Rewrite" can be purchased at The Writer's Store, Amazon or any major book store.
Twice a year, he holds a European quest where you not only learn the basics of rewriting, but you also get to see beautiful countryside. The one coming up to Tuscany is filled, but there is a waiting list and other trips occur on a regular basis. For two weeks in June, Paul will take 6-8 special students for a sojourn in writing at Italian villa Michelangelo. www.aboutfilm.com/michelangelo/course.htm
Do you have what it takes to bring your writing to the next level? Face facts, no script is ready after just one draft... so, pencils sharpened…
The book is called REWRITE (by Paul Chitlik, Michael Wiese Productions $16.95) because that is what we have to do.