This would be that "career" thing I've heard so much about...

Thursday, September 30, 2004

How To Humiliate Yourself On An Epic Scale (Or: Why I Always Do At Least One Rewrite Before Letting Anyone Read My Scripts)

I finished the V script this morning! There was a very brief, very happy moment. Let's call this moment the "Completion Buzz." I've noticed as I've written more and more scripts, this Buzz lasts less and less time. This morning I felt the Buzz for all of 5 minutes. My warm fuzzy happy feeling was almost immediately replaced by a terrified anticipation I've come to think of as "The Test."

The Test is silly. It is stupid. And (as T$ pointed out recently) it is unfair. However, I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm sitting for an exam. What is it? The first time I sit down to read the first draft of any script The Test is this: if I'm a good writer, this draft won't suck. I always fail The Test. I hate reading first drafts. I always come off of writing with the desperate hope that this time I've really got something. I've got something, all right. You just wouldn't want it sitting on your front lawn.

I'm paranoid about first drafts. Not because of the above, but because the first time I wrote a first draft of a screenplay (ever in my life, this was back in 1997, mind you) I thought "this is a script! It's meant to be read aloud. Instead of rereading it, I'll have all my actor friends come over and we'll read it out loud. Hey! Maybe if it's good enough, we can make it!" This was one of the "less good" ideas I've ever had. It leans to the "more bad" side of the idea scale, actually.

These people were friends of mine, many of them talented actors, a few of them talented writers. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I sent out that email inviting them all to come and have a table reading of my very first (and I mean raw, never been read by anyone including me) script.

I knew I was in trouble about 5 minutes in when we stumbled over a typo that changed the meaning of a line. Ten minutes in I wanted to call a halt to the proceedings but was too chicken. And as it spiraled down from there a valuable lesson was seared into the delicate flesh of my memory with the equivalent of a cattle-brand: NEVER LET ANYONE READ A FIRST DRAFT. EVER. The most unpleasant thing about first drafts is you always learn something about yourself you didn't want to know. Perhaps you writers know what I'm talking about.

So. I get to read my V script tonight. I'm scared. But at least I'm the only one reading it.


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