Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

Week 5 of Zachary Rowell’s 90-Day Screenplay Challenge: The Backward Way to Approach Rewrites, and How to Stay Positive When the Process Gets You Down

We’ve been following screenwriter Zachary Rowell on his screenwriting journey for nearly five weeks now, and I love how he is sharing his experience authentically and transparently. Zachary won our “So, Write Your Bills Away” Sweepstakes. The prize? We’re paying his bills for three months so he can focus on writing a feature-length script. The catch? He must share the experience with all of you! We wanted to give one screenwriter a hand while also helping other writers learn through the process.

In this week’s update from Zachary, he reveals a great tip for rewriting. And, he talks about the negativity he’s experienced within some screenwriting communities. We’ve also seen that negativity, and it’s just one reason why we decided to launch a new Facebook Group dedicated to all things screenwriting positivity! In it, Zachary is sharing his weekly updates, taking polls about his screenplay, and asking for your help. I hope you’ll check it out and join!

Meanwhile, if you’re just joining in on Zachary’s journey, you can catch up by watching his prior updates below:

“Hello, and welcome back. This is the fifth or sixth edition of the screenwriting vlogs. And I’m in my car. It’s a bit of a hectic day, running errands, going to the bank, UPS, all the fun adult stuff that I didn’t think I would ever be doing. So, I decided to park real quick and bang out this vlog.

So, I’m pushing 60 pages in the screenplay now, and I don’t think there’s going to be any problems coming up. I have everything outlined. I know all the scenes coming up like I said the other week, I know the ending. I think it’s going to be smooth sailing until I finish and start the re-writing process. And it’s looking like, as long as I stay on track, it’s looking like I’ll have some time to rewrite it before you all get to read it. So, that’s good.

I’ll probably, coming up I’ll share. You know I had the one video where I showed, or I had a screen record of me writing. I’ll probably do another one of me rewriting a scene. So, hopefully that will be helpful.

Rewriting has been a struggle for me, forever. I hate rewriting. And it’s not that, “oh, I think my stuff is gold the first time, it doesn’t need to be touched.” It’s just that I struggle with finding out which scene needs to be deleted and what pieces of dialogue don’t work. And it’s always been a struggle for me, to the point where I put it off and then forget about a script! Or, send of scripts before they’re actually ready to be sent off.

Recently, I was searching around, trying to look for tips. I needed something. And I came across this old blog post from John August. And in the post, he talks about how most writers will start the rewrite process from page one, which is usually the best page in the script. And that’s what I always did. I started from page one. And then, you kind of get in this rhythm and you kind of forget why you were rewriting in the first place, and you’re focusing on the structure of the sentence, and does this comma work, and fixing like little lines of dialogue, stuff that probably wouldn’t matter in the end, and you end up not doing much of anything. And that’s the situation I would often find myself in. And then, he suggested that instead of going from page one, you write down what your goals were for the movie. What did you want to accomplish? And you figure out what scenes don’t help that goal. And then you fix those scenes. Instead of going from page one, you knock out the scenes that need to be addressed. I think he compared it, or someone did, to fixing a car. You wouldn’t just blindly start fixing the stereo when the problem is with whatever underneath the engine. I don’t know. I’m not sure. I can barely fix a tire so, yeah.

Basically, with everything else that needs to be fixed, you know why you’re fixing it, what you’re doing, what needs to be fixed, you have a process for it. And it should be the same way with screenwriting. You shouldn’t just start at page one just because, you know, that’s where you’re supposed to start. Or, not supposed to. But, you understand what I’m saying. You get it. Don’t act like you don’t get it. I know you do.

What else did I want to talk about? I wanted to address the negativity in the screenwriting community. I saw a recent post on Reddit, which, if you don’t know, is a website where there are different subreddit communities, and there’s a screenwriting community on there. It has a lot of helpful stuff on there. If you haven’t checked it out, go do that now. And, there’s a lot of posts on there that, it’s a lot of complaining, and it comes across as bitterness sometimes. Like, “all contests are scams,” and “the judges don’t know what they’re doing,” and “it’s pay to play,” and “why even try, it’s so hard to break in.” And, you know, it’s true. It’s very hard to break in. It’s highly unlikely. But, you know, a lot of things in life are hard to do. That doesn’t mean you stop yourself from doing it. You psych yourself out. In any process, being negative or focusing on the negatives will not help you. So you can sit there and complain about how hard it is to break in, or you can be like, I know it’s hard. So, I have to work even harder. And then, when I actually do break in, think of how great it’s going to feel.

I mean, it’s a struggle for me sometimes. I try. I’m not always the most positive person. But, you have to try to remain positive, even when things might be stacked against you because you can really get yourself down with that.

It might be a newer writer thing. I struggled with it when I first started writing. I was like, I probably shouldn’t try to pursue this seriously, because you know, it’s so, so difficult to break into. But it’s what I love to do. And if you really love it and really enjoy it, there’s no harm in trying. It just doesn’t help to be negative. So, try to fight the urge.

Also, no one wants to interact with someone who is negative all the time. It might sound harsh to say, but I’m speaking from experience. I’ve been that negative person. And no one wants to hang around that. You don’t want to be the complainer, the Debbie Downer; no one wants to be around that. So, if you give off a positive energy and if you have positive things to say, and if you believe you’re going to make it, then maybe you will. You know, I’m also not naïve enough to be like, if you believe it, it’s going to happen for sure! You just have to see it in your mind! It’s not going to happen for everyone. But, I think you’ll get a lot closer and have a better chance if you just be positive, and you try your best to enjoy the process.

Also, what is “breaking in”? A lot of us will probably never have a wide-release film in thousands of theaters across the country. But, if you truly love telling stories, you can pick up a camera and shoot a film with your friends. There are thousands, millions probably, of actors who are just itching at the chance to be in a short film to have something on their reel. So, you can find people who want to collaborate with you. You don’t have to be a Hollywood success to achieve happiness in this creative world we live in.

Be positive. Create things. Help each other. And that’s it. Bye.”

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