Sunday, January 11, 2015

A skill that can be learned: editing your scripts.

There are a lot of critical skills involved with writing that in my opinion simply cannot be learned. If you don't have a superior sense of drama or if you don't have the ability to read characters and people better than most, you can't become a great writer.

This of course doesn't mean that there aren't any skills in writing that can't be learned through hard work. In fact, one of the more important skills that you have to learn - well, at least you should learn - is the ability to edit your scripts.

There are are a lot of things that are included in 'editing' your script: for example finding typos in your scripts that need to be fixed, adding words, dialogue and paragraphs, cutting and deleting stuff that doesn't really work. Sometimes you need to edit your script's structure too.

One might think that editing mistakes would be pretty easy. After all, most programs have spell-checkers, so correcting those typos shouldn't be that hard. Other problems should be easy to detect too - because "only thing you need to do is to read through your script".

Yet, from my own experience I can safely say that editing your script is much trickier than one might think. Even though writing the script is the hardest part, that still leaves us with the part of figuring out what you wrote and what possibly went wrong.

What makes it so hard? One of the things that makes it usually so difficult to correct some of these mistakes is the fact that when we write stuff, we usually get too involved with the script. We can't see the forest for the trees and get too bogged down in the details.

We cannot see the typos (especially if English isn't your first language), we can't see that we went on a tangent and lost the plot, we thought that certain useless paragraphs were crucial, we didn't figure out that there was a lot of dialogue that needed to be cut - and so on.

These are mistakes that just about every single writer makes pretty much all the time at least to some extent. No matter who you are, no matter how much you have written and no matter how respected you are, you will still make these errors.

So how to approach this problem then? After all, it takes usually time to find out what the problems are and where. It's almost impossible to fix your script right away. No matter how much you'll try you probably won't be able to solve the problems with your script immediately.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, usually the best way to give yourself a chance to fix these mistakes is to shelve your script for a while after you have written it. If only it's possible to not read it and think about it for some days - or better yet - for a week or two, do that.

It is after the break that you start to see the big picture. "What was I thinking there?", "I'm screwed", "so much work to do". It all might look so hopeless, until you notice that most of what you wrote is relatively okay and usually you just need patience to make the script work.

In any case, the upside to this all is that the more you write, the more you will likely become aware of the challenges involved. You know that you will make mistakes - but in the end almost every problem with the script is a problem that can be solved.


  1. Great post once again :) I love reading your stuff and thought I'd chime in. I like what you wrote and it's very truthful, but I feel like you're just skimming the surface. It would be like saying "Feeling stressed out from work? Take a break!". I think that the reason writers (or anybody for that matter) make more headway after a hiatus is because it gives your mind a chance to stew on the subject, especially subconsciously.

    Let's say someone comes up to you and starts asking you all these challenging questions and demands that you answer on the spot. You're most likely going to spit out an obligatory answer with less consistency and accuracy than if you took a moment to sit on it and organize your thoughts. I feel that the same applies to writing.

    As a college student I've seen this especially hold true. The students who just dumped out their thoughts on paper and then try to polish it later tend to get lesser grades (or even dump their entire assignment and start all over again) than the people who created a framework and allowed the progressive growth and natural thought process of the human mind.

    It's strange, it's almost like we're compensating for our own shortcomings as a species in a way, understanding the limitations of the human brain, then accommodating how it works and absorbs information haha. Anyways, I thought I would add a little note to your post. I really do love your writing, let's see you break 45 in 2015 yea? ;)

  2. Thanks so much for replying.

    Hopefully I'll manage to write here as much as I wrote last year. I can't promise anything - but I do get a kick out of writing and making those mistakes again and again and again...