4 Drafts That Will Make Finishing Your Screenplay Easier

And your finished screenplay better


Start with my 3-part email series: "The 3 Essential, Fundamental, Don't-Mess-These-Up Screenwriting Rules." After that, you'll get a weekly dose of pro screenwriting tips and industry insights that'll help you get an edge over the competition.

As Seen On
by Naomi Write + Co. in rewriting, screenwriting
screenwriting blog article

It’s a new year and so many of you have shared with me your plans for which scripts you’re going to write, who you’re going to query, and which contests you’re going to enter.

So, to help you take on – and achieve – these goals, this week I want to talk about giving the different drafts of your screenplay different jobs.

Giving each draft a job makes the writing process more manageable by allowing you to focus. You have one target to aim for with each draft you sit down to write, rather than trying to keep all of the plates spinning at once.

Iterating also makes the final product better. Smarter. More layered and robust. Your characters and story not only improve, but evolve over the course of the writing process. They become something they could not have been had they been set down fully formed on the first pass.

Unfortunately, too many screenwriters try to write a complete, perfect, final draft of a screenplay in one step.

Not on purpose, mind you. We do this without realizing it, out of a mix of optimism, enthusiasm, and ambition. How could that go wrong?

Your good taste may be your worst enemy

When you get excited enough about a screenplay idea to start writing it, it’s because you can see the movie in your mind. So it feels like you should be able to just pour it out of your head and onto the page in one go, and voila!

But that’s not quite the way it works, is it?

Getting to that finished version requires the creative process. There’s magic there, and you always discover things you didn’t know existed and couldn’t have planned for.

Yet even when we know that to be true, it’s scary to face the possibility of writing a “bad” screenplay — which is what it can feel like when you’re in the middle of working through a several-draft process. It’s frustrating when what’s in your head doesn’t match what’s on the page, as Ira Glass described in his now-famous video The Gap.

So let’s talk about how to avoid that perfection trap by embracing the process and defining four phases of writing that you can work through, focusing on just one phase at a time.

1. Start with a “Me” draft

The “Me” draft gives you a chance to forget about everyone else and just write for yourself.

Don’t worry about how your ideas or words will be received, only worry about finding the story and characters and what you love about them.

The beauty of this phase is that you get to capitalize on all of the enthusiasm you have for the movie in your head. Revel in your own brilliance without the fear of judgement.

The “Me” draft takes the pressure off. You don’t have to second-guess your instincts to try to write to someone else’s taste or demands. You don’t have to dilute your vision or voice. This draft is just for you.

2. Then write an Audience draft

In an Audience draft, your goal is to get what’s on the page lined up with your intentions. So you’ll work on solidifying the foundation elements, structure, characters, character arcs, etc.

Think of this draft as bringing clarity and order to the passionate, inspired chaos of your “Me” draft. Essentially, making sure the story in your head can be conveyed to others.

3. Craft a Producer draft

You’ve spent time nurturing and crafting your story. You know you’re telling the story you set out to, and what you have works. In the Producer draft you’re aiming to really turn the story into a movie.

Amplify the entertainment hooks. Exploit the genre. Mine the concept. Find those magic movie moments, whether spectacle or character-defining.

Make it so cinematic that someone will say, “I have to make this movie!”

4. Polish a Reader draft

Not to be confused with the Audience draft, here you’ll focus on polishing, formatting, wordsmithing, and just generally making the actual read as clear and entertaining as possible.

For some on-the-page craft help, you might start with the most recent Tweak + Polish tip here. You’ll find the rest of the series (10 tips in all) linked at the bottom of that page.

And you may choose (and need) to break down some of the phases into multiple drafts as well, each with their own, more specific job to do.

Although some writers feel that more drafts = more work, you now know that a series of focused drafts is actually a smoother, less anxiety-inducing process.

How can you tell if you need another draft in a given phase?

Ask yourself if the current draft has accomplished the job you assigned to it. And whether you’ve ultimately fulfilled the function of the phase you’re currently in.

Each phase gives you a different target to hit. By focusing on each one separately, you’re much more likely to hit ALL of the targets.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 2 ways I can help:

  1. If you’re still looking for traction with a screenplay idea, I’d recommend starting with a flexible story consult. In this session, we start wherever you are — whether that’s a rough logline and a page of brainstorming notes, a full scene-by-scene outline, or anything in between — and work together to fill in what’s missing and identify next steps.
  2. If you’ve completed a draft of your screenplay and want a fresh set of eyes to understand what’s working and what still needs work, book a screenplay consult session here.
  1. Marvin says:

    Wow ..this is helpful. .thanks Guys

  2. Christina Baird says:

    I like how it is all broke down and explains it better so we can understand everything better.

    1. Naomi says:

      Thanks, Christine! Glad you found it helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Start with my 3-part email series: "The 3 Essential, Fundamental, Don't-Mess-These-Up Screenwriting Rules." After that, you'll get a weekly dose of pro screenwriting tips and industry insights that'll help you get an edge over the competition.