I recently finished the first draft of the comedy pilot I’ve been working on with a writing partner. It’s great except that it’s about twenty pages too long and not funny. We cringed every time we read it. The thing needed rewrites. Not the kind where we could just go through the script and punch it up, add jokes, and cut unnecessary dialogue – our issues were worse. The character’s motivation changed from scene to scene, and the premise had gaping logic holes.
Once we figured out what it would take to fix the story, we realized there was little from our first draft that we could use in our second try.
In the past, this would’ve been really hard for me. I often made the beginner’s mistake of falling in love with a certain joke and not being able to let it go, even if it no longer worked in the scene. I would craft the entire rewrite of scene around a tiny joke that I thought was clever. By the end of this process, I probably ended up hating the joke I worked so hard to preserve. I think the key to letting this stuff go, is trusting in yourself that you can come up with a million more jokes that are just as funny. That first joke wasn’t a fluke or a miracle. I can do it again.
Another thing that I constantly remind myself during this rewrite phase, is that the first draft isn’t a waste. Even if use nothing from it. It’s the draft where I got to know my characters, and figured out what not to do. It’s where I figured out the story. I learned from the mistakes in the first draft.
So as my writing partner and I get further into the rewrite process, we’re realizing that there’s barely anything from the first draft that we can use in the second draft. But that’s okay. Because the second draft is funnier and better already, and wouldn’t have existed without the stupid first one.