Another fantastic workshop this past weekend. And another great question from a writer in class:
How do we know when our scripts are “done”?
Is it the number of drafts?
Is it adoring comments from readers?
Is it how it “feels”?
The answer is: All of the above. And more.
Readers of Save the Cat! know I am big into feedback. From the moment we have an idea and wonder if it’s any good, to when we write Fade Out, I believe in “call and response” — namely the importance of testing and getting impressions from strangers and friends who hear it all cold.
I also think of Save the Cat! as “permission screenwriting.”The ability to be clear isn’t a slam dunk. And while we writers know what we mean, do others? There’s only one way to find out: get permission to continue based on passing each test. The idea of these gated steps is vital to success:
Step One: Is it a good idea? Step Two: Can I say it easily? Step Three: Can we “beat out” this idea to deliver a basic story? Step Four: Do these 15 beats expand to 40 Key Scenes? At any stage of the game we can “drop the ball” too, and discover something in our story needs retooling, so it’s a process with checks and balances, too — if we’re open to them.
I’m your Green Screenwriting Helper: I believe in saving trees as well as cats.
I vote we take into account further steps that help bring an idea to life that makes a script stronger:
— Write a first draft then set it aside. Coming back “fresh” a week later is often a shock, but vital!
— Have not only a coterie of readers who understand, but ones that don’t. Like a pitch, it’s the strangers who know nothing of us, or the arc of our struggle to succeed, that often have much to tell us.
— And even when you have a draft that “feels” right, I suggest you take it one step further: Have a reading. Gather the thespians in your life and make a pot o’ spaghetti for an after-read treat. Bring a tape recorder, too, to catch the nuance of lines that work, and don’t work. And poll the actors afterward to get feedback on how they approached the character and either understood — or didn’t.
Little Miss Sunshine was 100 drafts to get to final shooting script, and even then, further changes were made on set; yet it was the first draft of The Verdict that was the basis of its greenlight, so the number of drafts isn’t always a guide. It’s good to know that whatever it takes, you’re ready for.
And if you want feedback, check out our Forum! We are 1000 strong! And we are big believers in our Cat! Groups, so check out Facebook for Cat! Groups in London, Los Angeles, Austin, and San Francisco.
We have one thing other readers might not: the burning desire to tell you the truth about your story, so that you can go forth and prosper! We know “There is plenty for everybody!” and want you to win!!