Writing is re-writing.
Nothing could be more true than that.
The easiest part of the writing process is coming up with the idea. There have been many times in my life when people have come to me with an idea expecting me to write the script. I simply offer to guide them on writing the first draft themselves and the discussions about their idea mysteriously screech to a halt.
Concept is easy. Execution is hard.
The most difficult part of the writing process is getting the first draft onto paper. It is equivalent, creatively speaking, to giving birth to a child. It takes months of work and an immense amount of concerted effort to take a moment of inspiration and cultivate it into a full blown, fully realized screenplay.
Pete writes out the original storyline.
And like children, the process doesn’t end there. The next step in the life of your script is re-writing… over and over and over again. Your baby needs to be raised, guided and continually formed. It needs to be tweaked and loved and, on occasion, disciplined.
The end result, hopefully, is a well rounded script with which the reader will embrace and appreciate and identify.
For the past few years I’ve been raising a feature screenplay currently titled Severed. I don’t really like the title much, but I don’t know what to change it to yet. Unlike children, you can change the title to match the story at the end of the process, not the beginning.
Dorothea documents our changes.
The difficulty in honing Severed into a final product has been its journey. The story started out as a secular action flick that mirrored and symbolized the United States’ efforts to combat terror. After Sonlight Pictures was created, we decided to take that secular script and retool it into a Christian action flick dealing with martyrdom and sacrifice.
And that’s where the re-writes have come into play. One after another after another. We’re on our eighth one right now.
One of the greater challenges in writing (and directing, for that matter) is editing… cutting the creative fat from your little tike. You have to be ruthless for the betterment of the story. You often have to remove something you really cherish, like a tender moment or a finely tuned suspense sequence. Like parenting, you sometimes have to stop being the scripts friend and simply be the parent, enforcing the right thing even though it’s uncomfortable.
So, last night, I spent some time with my intuitive and bright protégé, Dorothea, who also happens to be my daughter. We decided to look at Severed anew. We started by documenting the current storyline of both the good guys and bad guys. We highlighted important moments in the screenplay that we felt should remain if at all possible. Once we re-familiarized ourselves with the current storyline, we erased it and took a step back and focused on the real meat of the story… the faith journeys of the main characters.
Dorothea and Pete finalize the redefined faith journeys of the characters.
We were willing to reinvent, cut, change or redefine any part of the previous version of the screenplay to fit the new and effective faith journey of the main characters. This part of the process was very cleansing, in a way. It stripped away all of the previous chatter surrounding earlier versions of the story and redirected our efforts on where the story really happens, in the lives of the characters.
Normally, the writing process is not this difficult for me. And I’ve learned my lesson. Taking something secular and making it Christian is much more difficult than creating a story based on Christian beliefs from the onset. I guess its no different than taking a non-Christian in real life and converting them to the faith. You have to overcome all of their previous secular baggage and refocus their heart toward a higher and more holy goal.
The same goes with Severed. We’ve converted it… now we just need to make sure it gets to its holy destination… a rockin’, action-packed, moving Christian thriller.