What is the REAL first draft of your screenplay? A big mistake a lot of new screenwriters make is thinking the first draft is actually the final draft. It sounds silly, but many first time writers make it to 90 or 120 pages and say to themselves: “It’s ready to show to the world!” And that’s a big mistake.
While screenwriting is different for everyone, over the course of writing 20 plus screenplays, I’ve been able to refine a three step process that may help you. The first step is to write to get to the end, no matter what it takes. Even if the story doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter. Feel free to add characters that don’t make sense, plot points that don’t add up, or you reference scenes that towards the end that never existed in the story. All of this is fine…
From Screenplay First Draft To Sellable Screenplay
Your screenplay first draft is what I call a “Garbage Draft.” Because it’s really a piece of garbage that doesn’t make any sense. Think of it this way, when a someone decides to sculpt a statue, they start with a big stone. To the outside world, the stone just looks like a stone. But then the sculptor starts chipping away… And this is where things start to take shape.
The second step in the process is your “Rewrite Draft.” If you’re making a sculpture, the equivalent of the rewrite draft would be that you’re making a face… And you’re making the bust. You can sort of see it taking shape, but it’s not yet clear. So you get to the end of this draft of the screenplay, and it’s still not your first draft. It’s still really rough. But you’re getting there…
Now it’s time to go back a third time… This the third step! And you do what’s called a “Polish Draft.” Let’s bring it back to that sculpture again. This is when you start to define the little pieces: the eyes, the nose, the mouth. Once you have that done… congrats. This is officially your screenplay first draft!
To recap, you first complete three passes before you have a screenplay first draft. This means you never show the garbage draft or rewrite draft to anyone. This is because most industry executives are busy. And if you show someone an early draft, they might think all your writing is terrible. And you want to make sure you’re always presenting yourself as a film industry professional.