Finished the first draft, now what?

I’ve done it. I’ve finished writing a first draft. But now I’m supposed to put it away for weeks and I just don’t want to, despite this advice:

…[W]rite the first draft as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about quality. Just get to ‘The End’.

Put the script in a drawer and forget about it for a few weeks. Work on something else in the meantime.

Once you return to the script, you’ll be reading it fresh. Like a stranger. You’ll immediately know what works and what doesn’t.

Writing a proud achievement

If forced to think of one at gunpoint, I’d tell you that my life’s ambition is to write for a TV programme or film.

Given that I’ve spent my entire life watching sitcoms – some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching The Simpsons and Red Dwarf with my dad – I like to think I’ve spent my entire life building up the courage and analytical eye I need to write one myself.

Along with that, the internet is an absolutely amazing tool to have at your disposal, for finding advice and guidance from the masters of the craft.

I’d definitely count Graham Linehan among these sage men and women – he’s contributed to some of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.

But there are parts of the advice he’s seen fit to dispense (above) which I myself have found impossible to follow. Partly through my own sense of OCD but also through my struggle to get something down on the page, it’s been a long path towards my very own finished first draft.

The Waiting Game

We’ll skip over the fact that it’s taken me nigh-on a year of false starts, false finishes and fevered re-imaginings of the basic setups, world-building and character counts to arrive at something approaching a first draft of this particular story.

But every time I’ve ever finished something else that I can call a first draft, I find it extremely difficult to put it away and forget about it.

Even without reading the script right now, I know there’s a line that needs fixing, or a joke that needs to land a bit cleaner. It’s annoying because I’ve been building these scenes in my head. I don’t know them off by heart but I do know the gist. What if I come back to the script, and it’s been built so differently in my head during the time away from it? What if it’s already different on paper after just one nail-biting night away? Maybe I should go take a look, just to make sure.

That’s the whole point, though – I need to wait; to try and forget what I wrote, so that in two weeks or so I can give it a thorough read through and immediately set about fixing it up.

waiting game

But…I just can’t do it. I can’t let go. I’m still just getting to know these people. I feel like they still have the ability to surprise me. I’ll think about my favourite scene and immediately try to imagine if it should be longer, or shorter, or have more or less people in it, or work out if I need another joke or two.

Not reading the script isn’t going to be enough, because I still have it in my head.

So…how to get it out?

Distraction pieces

Well, there’s the two games I bought on Steam today, for a start. And there’s the Mario speedruns on Twitch which me and the wife have recently got into watching. I would watch more CS:GO tournaments just for fun – but that’s another danger because I’ve been watching them for research. I might suddenly get an idea and need to go running back to my draft.

I appreciate Linehan’s advice for what it is – but in this relatively early stage of my mission I can’t help but wonder if there’s some quick fix I can apply to my script that would make me feel much better about leaving my characters and plots to their own devices for a couple of weeks. I’ll still be sure to write down any brand new ideas for later development, but I’m getting itchy just sitting here writing this. I’ve done it in the vain hope of diversion, but writing about how desperate I am to revisit a script barely a day after writing it, is just making me want to read it more.

If I still smoked proper cigarettes, I would’ve definitely been out on my stoop at 1.30am last night, celebrating the completion of my first story. But less than a day later and I’m already itching to get back in there.

Maybe I will just take a peek. A quick one. And then I’ll mark the day on my calendar.

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