There are a total of 7 people on the writing staff of Terminator: The Connor Chronicles (T:TCC) I think that’s a grand number, it’s also the number of perfection so I suggest we leave well enough alone on that point. However how does writing work with a seven person team, or to be more specific how does re-writing work?
Let me share with you a few things that I took into my first re-write so that you can understand how the process works.
First of all while the latest update at the main page Terminator: The Connor Chronicles says that I’m the 2nd writer on the series, (and I do truly feel humbled by that), I am in fact the most recent hire. I’m coming into a project where we have first drafts written for 90 percent of the episodes, in other words other writers have poured their time, energy, effort, and writing skills into these scripts. Which leads to my first rule of rewriting especially of other peoples work.
Treat the draft with respect.
As part of the writing process each draft of a script is critiqued by the other writers, the more detailed the critique the better, so that a rewrite can be greatly improved. In fact before I wrote a single sentence in my first script rewrite of Episode 3, I not only read ALL of the critiques for that episode but I made a document out of them.
All told I had four documents open on my laptop when working on my new draft:
- Critique Document
- Dialogue rewrite document
- Current Draft
- New Draft
Another rule of rewriting someone elses work:
Don’t change what you don’t have to.
Common sense really. If it didn’t need to be changed I left it for the most part exactly the way it was because I want the original authors voices to still be present in the script. Not changing what you don’t have to also saves valuable time when you do have to rewrite something or add something.
The Critique document was the one I kept flipping to the most often and I tried to address as many of the suggestions as possible, and made sure I did make the major ones. If you were in fact to compare my rewrite with the previous draft you would find the same scenes, in mostly the same order, with the same characters doing the same things. Of course I took the critiques and applied them so there are naturally some differences. Keep in mind the point of the rewrite is:
To improve what we already have by adding details, reworking dialogue, adding and removing scenes while telling the same story.
One of the biggest tricks for me is that I’m a very descriptive writer and action paragraphs where descriptions occur can tend to get a bit wordy. I was especially conscious of this because I knew that I (because of the critique document) was going to be rewriting one scene and adding another- not to mention adding more detail to a rather intense sequence.
My main goal was to keep my rewrite as close to the same length as possible while making all the improvements that should be made in a new draft. So after rewriting a scene I’d switch both drafts over to print preview mode and see how they were lining up, that was always very interesting. Of course it became very hard to judge after I made one of the more drastic adjustments during the rewrite but when all was said and done somehow…the scripts were practically the same length!
I worked quickly to knock out a first private draft of my rewrite within a week. Once that was done I spent the rest of December fixing all kinds of little errors, adding more details, refining dialogue and adding at least one easter egg of sorts to the growing draft. Once that was done I read the whole script out loud to see how it sounded and made more changes and I’m sure there’s some things I missed, or got wrong- however that’s alright. Why?
My draft will now be critiqued by the rest of the writers so that if the need arises we can make further refinements.
As a screenwriter one has to develop a thick skin simply because you will be told to change and fix things. It’s highly likely that a script you’ve worked for months on will be re-written so much that it no longer resembles what you poured your heart and soul into. If the film sucks the blame generally gets unloaded, both barrels at once, upon the writers. And that’s fine, we can take it!
From what I can tell from reading the critiques of the other episodes we have some smartly intelligent creative writers on board at T:TCC I am confident that their critiques of my writing will be fair, well thought out and from the heart. Just as mine are of theirs.
So that if we have to we can-
P.S. Happy New Year!