Do the Big Stuff FIRST! Fix the Pages Before the Phrases!

I have had to fight hard to be in a position to tell you this, and I am feeling pretty good about it too.

When you’ve finally got a draft, solve the story problems and the character problems and the structure woes before you go in and massage the prose.

Fix the pages before the phrases!

I like making the sentences sing. I like to fix this word and that word in my endless quest to find the PERFECT word. It’s fun for me. Perhaps I’m psychotic, but so it goes.

This can turn out into a giant waste of time, which I fervently have to avoid because I’m 97 and probably don’t have that much time left to get stuff out there. What you don’t want to do is spend fifteen minutes getting a paragraph jussst riiight, and later, while you’re working on structure, cutting the whole shebang. What a pain!

It’s difficult for me to do all that restructuring stuff because it’s no fun. Trimming sentences until they’re so tight they squeak is fun. Solving character problems (that I generated in the first place) is hard work. It’s painful. Figuring out what the story problems are is brutally difficult. Figuring out how to solve those story problems is agonizing and takes tons of time.

What I think I have finally learned is to force myself not to go in with the red pen and repair sentences before I get the story working. Why waste time fixing prose when there’s a chance you might cut that whole section?

But, wow, it’s hard to do.


Filed under Bad Writing, Good Writing, Rewriting, Screenwriting, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Do the Big Stuff FIRST! Fix the Pages Before the Phrases!

  1. William FitzPatrick

    I would also add that its best to fix the big things before you work on dialogue that you risk getting too attached to.

    Its much easier to cut something if you haven’t spent a half hour nursing it like a baby.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      NO KIDDING! Great image.
      Hard to toss a baby on the ash heap.

      Fixing the big stuff first has been very hard for me to learn, but in the end, it saves a massive amount of time.

  2. Miguel Cruz

    Yep. Because in the end, “He starts to run” isn’t going to make a good movie terrible and “He runs” isn’t going to make a bad movie good.

    • yourscreenplaysucks


      Absolutely right.
      If you have a metric ton of little dings, though, finally it’s going to add up and be noticed and they may lose confidence… I don’t really know. This is what I feel based on years of doing it and conversations with development folks.
      Better to be as well written as you can, as you please.
      If you tell a KILLER story with AMAZING dialogue and STELLAR characters, nothing’s going to stop them from writing a big check.

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