It’s hard to say if a writer should rewrite a failing project or start from scratch.

So you’ve finished a first draft, but you’ve come to hate it.

Maybe it’s similar to a movie that just bombed. Maybe you realize you’ve bit off more than you can chew. Maybe it’s conceptually bankrupt. Maybe it’s something you’ve just plain come to dislike.

People send me scripts that they’ve burnt out on all the time. They always ask me if they should rewrite it or not.

This is the one question I have the hardest time answering. There are pros and cons to either approach.

Option 1: Continuously rewrite the project until it shines.

PROS:

1. Build skills/discipline. Learn the value of seeing things through.
2. Learning to fix a script with a seemingly intractable problem is the best way to develop your craft.
3. You'll develop an appreciation for how much work it takes to get a script to a high level.
4. Approach develops necessary scene writing skills
5. Investing in a script makes it real in your imagination, which develops you cognitively and makes future writing easier.

CONS:

1. Can get wedded to a script or get overly precious about the details
2. Can mistake the time invested in it to it's relative worth.
3. Spending years on a project that becomes a nonstarter is discouraging for an author.
4. Beginners are bad at picking feasable concepts to start with.
5. Hyperfocusing on one story can lead to creative burn out.

OPTION 2: Move onto the next project

PROS:

1. Odds of locking into a workable concept go way, way up.
2. Developing multiple scripts allows you to see patterns and leitmotifs in your overall creative work
3. Develops pragmatism about the business, relative worth of ideas.
4. You'll have more ideas to pitch if you ever have the chance to.
5. Developing many ideas trains outlining skills and a sense of what tends to work or not work in a script idea.

CONS:

1. Tends to lead to a collection of 5 glorified first drafts and no good ones
2. Writing is rewriting, by skipping to a new script too quickly misses this point.
3. The problems of an abandoned earlier project tend to follow you to later ones.
4. Tends to lead to superficial drafts and projects abandoned too soon.
5. Most writers who follow this path turn a little facile and their craft plateaus at a surface level.

NUANCES

  1. Writing is about happy mediums – the best way is probably some hybrid of the two approaches.
  2. I started as a guy who’d jump from script to script, but developed into a guy who was much more careful and meticulous about my work.
  3. IMHO, If at all possible, you should only write one project at a time[1] .
  4. If you abandon a project, I recommend writing up a detailed synopsis and status report, so it’ll be easy to pick up months or years later.
  5. Use the project as a case study. Write up why it failed, how it evolved your craft, and how you’re going to avoid making the same mistakes on the next one.
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