Here’s the thing about writing – it’s difficult to stop. Once you love an idea, or characters, it can be difficult to let them go and watch them struggle in the world. You always have a different take on a scene, or a plot hole that needs filling, or a loose end that could use some tying up. I think most writer’s would agree, nothing you write is ever finished and nothing you write is ever perfect. So where does it end?
Some writers have a set number of drafts they like to do. I think this has to do with confidence. Knowing your talents, and how long it takes for you to fine-tune things. I’m not particularly one of those people. I’m pretty consistently thinking of ways for my stories and characters to be stronger, especially if I pull out a story I haven’t looked at in a long time. Those are the stories I often have the urge to rewrite from scratch.
For me, I think outside feedback is the only way I can know if I’m truly done. Once it’s in a spot where I’m mostly happy with the writing, story, and characters, and people outside of my circle seem to enjoy it (whether that be a paid consultant or a writer’s group) that’s probably a good place to think of a story as “done” until someone offers you money to keep working it.
I ran into this problem with The Time Bubble and I am expecting to run into this problem with my latest script. What I realized with The Time Bubble is that 1.) I can have a fairly accurate perspective on my own writing if given enough time away from it, 2.) I never take enough time away from it, and 3.) due to writing being a subjective exercise, it is important to have goals with your writing and seek out criticism that strengthens those goals. For example, I placed well in certain amateur contests with The Time Bubble, but when it was given to Black List 3.0 it fared poorly over two revisions. Because of the types of scripts, and the overall quality of scripts, on BL3.0 I tend to put more weight on the results there than other places.
With the current script I feel better about where it is than with The Time Bubble. Even when I felt like The Time Bubble was done something about it still felt off. I recently finished another revision that I might take back to BL3.0 and have entered in another contest (Screencrafting’s Action and Thriller competition – more on that in a later post), and my gut is telling me it may be the best it can be. If it doesn’t do well over the next few weeks or months, then it may have been a flawed concept to begin with. Or my execution doesn’t jive with the concept. Either way, it may not be worth the time and energy to keep tweaking and rewriting.
I do not have these feelings (yet) about the latest script. It is smaller in scope than The Time Bubble, but less of a linear story. Where The Time Bubble was logical in its progression due to the needs of the plot, this latest project relied more on characters and their decisions to push the narrative. That made the third act much harder to crack, but the story much more affecting and, dare I say, simpler to execute than The Time Bubble. I’m probably wrong, but I don’t think this latest project will require the same amount of revision.
I think in the end each project is different. Some will need more work than others. The important thing to realize, and this is something I’m not sure I’ve fully accepted, is that the project is probably done when you’re happy with it. You have the best understanding of the world and the characters, so if you think everything plays out as it should, stays true to the characters, and doesn’t have any gaping plot holes, what more can you do? At that point only outside eyes will tell you if it works or not.
By then it’s out of your hands anyway.