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Lesson: Rewriting

Table of Contents

When it comes to rewriting, we can approach it through three stages:

  • Feedback
  • Assess the damage
  • Rewrite

So let's go through it.


Evaluation from others

  • Get a professional—like Linda Seger to give you script notes.
  • Get several people to read your work. (First readers)
  • Ask for honest criticism—"nice" or half-hearted feedback doesn't help.
  • Develop focused questions to ask your readers. Make sure they aren't yes/no questions but ones that require a sentence answer.
  • There is a difference between criticizing and criticism
  • Develop a brain trust.
  • Criticism sucks, but it makes you a better writer.

Personal evaluation

  • Take time away from it. Then pick it up and read it.
  • Did you like it? Did it make you laugh? Cry? Feel any emotion? If it didn't, why not? What is it missing?
  • Or does it make you cringe? Do you need more time away from it? If it's been a while, do you need to move on?
  • Can you trust your own opinion? Should you trust your own opinion? The more you write and tear apart your work, the better you call B.S. on yourself.
  • Make a story that you enjoy first—but understand your market.

Assess the damage

What level requires your attention?

  • Concept
  • Structure
  • Scene
  • Action and Response
  • Diction
  • Character

And what needs to be done?

  • Add
  • Subtract
  • Rearrange or remix


Keep Going or Put it Aside or Toss it


  • Break the story into beats.
  • Visualize the story. What is the physical presence of it?
  • Reveals balance, tone, pace, dead scenes, dead acts, and lack of tension.
  • Is the plot overwhelming your characters? Seek a balance.
  • If you are short, why are you short? What are you missing? If you are long, why are you long?



Options for outlining your structure.


  • Why is the scene there? Are you willing to fight for it?
  • Is it dramatic? Think WOARO. Does the want start right away?
  • Scenes should have conflict, move the plot, reveal character, and develop the setting.
  • Scenes create a rhythm, a pulse of the story. Revisit the visual exercise of drawing it out.


  • Exposition - cut whatever you can
  • Is there a natural rise to the story? Do action and response have a clean build to an outcome?
  • Is the scene static?
  • Is it jumping or skipping over important beats?
  • Does the scene show movement or progression? Is your character in a different place at the end of the scene?

Language and Diction

  • Cut, cut, cut
  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation
  • Get rid of repetition.
  • Don't over-describe scenes, actions, or objects. Trust your crew.
  • Keep a consistent format.
  • What are your words doing?
  • Show. Don't tell. Visualize the story and tension on the page.
  • Get rid of on-the-nose dialogue—heavy with exposition and plot.
  • Reread it. Out loud. To other people. Forwards and backwards.


  • Have you done a proper description of all your characters: Intro in CAPS, age, character essence (not always a physical description.)
  • Read each character out loud, with no description or other dialogue. Does it all sound like the same character?
  • Do each of your characters have a want? Can you defend their every action and word?
  • Do they remain decisive in their actions? Are they lost? Are they reflecting on your confusion about their action?
  • What is the obstacle? What stands in the way? Is it real?
  • Do their actions and words reflect who they are?

My Path to Rewriting

  1. Start with a strong base. Take the time to build a solid outline.
  2. Get the story on paper. Stick to the plan. Don't spend time rewriting.
  3. Take a rest.
  4. Reread it. Fix what makes you cringe, spelling and grammar, things that make you stumble.
  5. Take time off.
  6. Reread it again. You may know its weaknesses. Get it closer to good or great. Also, make sure you enjoy it.
  7. Keep taking time off and reading it until it flows.
  8. Hand it to readers. Readers of story. Editors (that you pay) that will call out all of its problems.
  9. Never have an ego. Listen to those who want the best version of your story.
  10. Take all the notes and fix all of them.
  11. Reread it again and correct mistakes. Every edit is a fracture point.
  12. Reread it again or give it to others.
  13. Sell it to the world.

Final Notes:

  1. Delete all the crap that doesn't need to be there.
  2. Repeat Step 1.
  3. White space—lots of it.
  4. Most often, you need to cut 10% of the story, act, scene, paragraphs, and sentences.
  5. Is WOARO working? If it isn't, then you have no story.
  6. Build and iterate. Evaluate, consider, and rewrite. Practice, practice, practice


This is a chance to make your work perfect!

Choose one of your scripts from Week 1 to 5 and rewrite it.

Ideally, choose one that has a lower mark. However, don’t take one that requires so much work in rebuilding it that you’ll get bogged down and lost.

The 2-3 page limit remains. Pay special attention to the criteria.

Marking Criteria:

  • Written in the active, present tense.
  • Proper screenplay format (including sluglines; parenthesis, and ALL CAPS on the introduction of characters).
  • Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Proper use of descriptions.
  • Includes a title page that uses the proper format.
  • Only 3 errors are allowed per script.

This assignment is due: Sunday, November 20 at midnight. ( Saskatchewan time ).