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I'm currently working on the first draft of a screenplay, and it's not very good right now.

It's little things; some parts go too quickly or slowly, other dialogue exchanges need improvement, and the word choice could be better.

This isn't surprising, since first drafts tend not to be great, but I'm worried that I may be lingering too long on parts my first draft, when it isn't even finished.

I'm thinking that it may be a better idea to just get my first draft completed, then worry about the details during a second run through it. At least then I have a better picture of the overall plot. Would that be a good idea?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's an excellent idea.

Your considerations are quite correct - a first draft can be absolutely terrible; most of its value is in fleshing out general details, structure and plot. It gives you a skeleton framework which you can the edit the heck out of. Therefore, there's no reason to worry if some parts are not all they could be. You know what improvement they need (if they remain as-is); you don't know what'll be needed for the parts you haven't written yet. So first, finish the draft.

Or look at it this way: there's no point in tightening up a dialogue and polishing it to perfection if next week you decide that your one-legged ballet dancer should actually be a tap-dancing robot. If you spend your time making the current scenes marvelous, that's effort that'll be wasted if you need to change just about anything - and you most assuredly will. So, yes, having a complete first draft will give you a much firmer foundation to build (and edit) around.

(Of course, every author has their own creative process; not everybody uses a first draft in this particular fashion. But my understanding is that this view of a first draft is exceedingly common and highly recommended - plus, it sounds like you're leaning in the same direction anyway :P )

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It all depends on how you write. I can see that spending a lot of time on a first draft so that it is a correct first draft is important. It may be, if you are not really happy with it currently, it may be that there are some core issues that you need to resolve in this draft.

The danger is that you continue to build on a first draft, spend a lot of time on it, and only by the 3rd or 4th do you realise that there is a crucial flaw ( or someone else reading it points this out ).

So don't work on it being perfect, but do make sure that the core work is there and right. Working a long time to get that right is very worth while. then everything else is straightforward.

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Personally I view writing as art, you don't have the masterpiece on the first brush stroke.

I do the following 1st draft - pretty much a brain dump, I write without regardless to grammar, subplots, and details so in the end it looks like this

Jack ran around the big vampire to snatch the grey keystone The vampire falls dead from Jack's sister as she calmly remarks on Jack's lack of planning

2nd draft is plot, location details and character details

As the full moon rose behind Jack, he stared at the cyprt intentely. "This must be the place" he muttered shoving the map back into his pocket. "Damm I wished I remenbered to get the garlic. Oh well DartLing knows I am onto him and will move the keystone"

Jack dodge to avoid the crashing blow of the heavy stone as DartLing was on him faster than he could blink "Give me the stone human and I promise your death will be quick". DartLing was about to speak but the words would forever remain un-spoken as a razor sharp yew stake pieced his black heart.

"Thanks Sis, althought I had him" Julie snorted as she rolled DartLing over with her foot aiming her huge crossbow at the smoking corspe just to make sure. "Yea you had him like the time you tried to see the Macaw Cystral and forgot your wire cutters".

3rd draft - Grammar, spelling and flow

4rd draft - I give it to someone else to read and comment on it (not the whole thing just a few choice chapters)

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