So I finally completed the first draft of my screenplay. There was no fanfare, no cheering, just a profound sense of relief. I may even have cried a little. I took a shower, walked along the river and spent the day in a profound and pleasurable silence. It was done.
Or was it? I sent it bravely to my gifted script editor for comments. ‘Don’t hurry,’ I said, ‘I could do with a few days off anyway.’ The notes came back the same day (I told you she was gifted). And the work begins again.
So what is a first draft?
1. It’s an emotional template for your story.
It maps out the terrain of your character’s journey. Some of the paths may still be dirt tracks but the general direction is clear. You know where you’re heading.
2. It’s your signature draft.
You know it’s all going to change and many eyes and hands will pass over it, but right now it’s yours and yours alone. It has your personality stamped through it like a stick of rock. Hold onto that.
3. It’s an exploration of problems to be solved.
The first draft throws up issues and questions for you and your readers – Why did she do this? How did they get there? Who are you writing this for and what will they expect? Does it start one way and end the other? Stop already, you’re depressing me! But it’s all vital stuff for moving forward.
4. It’s personal.
Maybe the most personal draft you’ll write. If you’ve taken the time to dig deep this is your heart on the line. And that emotional core is what you have to find again, through all the rewrites and heartaches of development.
5. It’s still all to play for.
What’s satisfying is what’s there on the page. What’s interesting is what’s not. ‘What have you begun?’ is the most enticing question of all if you have the nerve to answer it.
It’s no wonder you love that first draft like the new-born baby it most certainly is.
So what will the second draft be? It may be messy, sprawling, a giant toddler gorged on too much milk. It may reject you as it gets older, or be rejected in its turn. It may be beautiful and serene and much loved. It sure won’t be the last. But you will love it just as much as your first because, in the end, they all come from you.
What makes you proud of your first draft? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @emlin32. Happy Writing!