I hate draft one.
But I love the re-write.
Let me tell you about draft one:
I’m a writing tutor on-campus, and a freshman came in to tell me about his RealPolitik essay and lack thereof. “I’ve typed two words,” he tells me, “And I can’t type word three ‘cuz words one and two are too awful.”
I want to tell him,
“Four nights ago, Mr. Freshman, I set up with a notepad, a cup of tea, my laptop, and a script outline. Two hours later I had a doodle of a bunny, cold tea, and one page that said PAGE ONE: FADE IN. Bugger you, Mr. Freshman; I have a block of my own to write past.”
That advice would be completely unhelpful so I wrote my student a note on a sheet of paper: “Tape the note over your laptop when you write,” I told him.
The note said:
FIRST DRAFT IS AWFUL. WRITE IT QUICK TO GET IT OVER WITH.
THE WHITE PAGE IS YOUR ENEMY. FILL IT ANY WAY YOU CAN.
Then I went home and wrote identical notes for myself. They’re taped up over my laptop right now, and as of 9:00 PM the day after tutoring, I was 18 pages into a 64-page draft and my tea hadn’t even cooled down yet.
Page 18 said INT. CASTLE - NIGHT OH GAWD, OH GAWD, WHAT AWFUL SHIT I
WRITE, but I had it, typed up official-like, and could move off and on to page 19 and beyond.
That would be a Draft One problem, but Draft Two, darling, Draft Twos are much better.
In Draft Two, the words flow, and Poetry comes down from Heaven to nest in my fingertips as they fly across the keys, good god, everything feels easy, because-
- because Draft Two is when I clean up all the shite I shit on Draft One.
On Draft Two I think a thing like,
Eglantine has a cheesy line on Draft One page 12, wouldn’t it be funnier if we did-
“Our werewolf attack victim has more lines than the protagonist. Let’s beef up Eglantine with a soliloquy in Act Four.”
And it will work.
Draft One, I hated making it, but Draft One will show you what you can do in Draft Two.
And Draft Two will be better.
It won’t be perfect. It won’t be near perfect, yet, but you can tell where the pieces will go, how the puzzle will fit together. I can keep writing and re-writing until I get to draft five, and with draft five, I’m happy. I’m grinning when I read a joke, and pleased that the lead character gets a bit of subtlety in her big motivation speech, and it all makes sense to me at last.
With draft five I can write a note to my professor:
“Dear Mr. Norman Professor Steinberg sir, I have a draft ready
for your feedback...”
In fact I wrote that note earlier today and I e-mailed it with a copy of my script. I’m leaning back in my chair right now sipping my tea, vanilla chai, and I think the whole script is lovely, I just hope he likes it, really I do, because the script is my baby and I’ve given birth to it fetus, umbilical cord, placenta and all. I can’t do any more because it’s over and the drafts are done.
You know what? On page 39, the frog-turned-human loses a magical power by chance and it really ought to come from a character decision. Let me go back and retype four lines in Act II to set it up.
Okay. The draft is ready now.
By Steve Shon