I just finished Draft 14 of a script that is currently in pre-production. Some of the drafts have been minor rewrites, and others have featured sweeping changes, including the elimination of several characters and plot threads.
In some cases, newer drafts have featured reversion to original scenes. The current opening page is virtually identical to the opening I typed raw and unfiltered into the blank page of the word processor during Draft 1 a couple years ago. But, this latest draft features a series of dramatic changes to the backstory and the political context.
What I’ve learned is that you have to be flexible and willing to try suggestions during development. If you have trust and a good working relationship with the production team, then you should be able to compare two drafts side by side and all agree which is stronger. This isn’t compromising, but rather collaboration.
I’ve heard the term “development hell” tossed about frequently. I’m sure that can happen, and it can become especially onerous if a project is stalled and killed because parties can’t agree. And often this is a result of factors far beyond a writer’s control, such as key actors pulling out at the last moment, or a switch of directors.
But I’ve also heard the term applied to the extreme length of the process and the sheer number of rewrites often required. But I’m finding that this continuous rewriting is not only beneficial, but exhilirating. It’s amazing when an offhand comment in a meeting becomes a key part of the script. Or when a margin note becomes one of the best lines of dialog in the whole film.
So here I am at Draft 14 of this project. I’m hoping this will be the one that goes out for casting. But I had the same hopes for Draft 9.