When should I stop rewriting my script?
In the last post, Dave Cohen sagely advised caution before sending out scripts, and urged writer to hold off sending it out until it was really and truly ready. A while ago, I made the point that this is especially true for script competitions. It is generally worth holding back until you really are sure that the script is as good as it can be - bearing in mind it can still be better and will need to be rewritten depending on casting, rehearsal and technical considerations.
And so when to stop? How do you know when it's good enough to send? You don't know. And yet you do.
If you're sending a script out 'to give a potential producer a rough idea of how the show might look', it's not ready.
If you're sending a script out 'even though the ending still doesn't quite work, but since I'll have to rewrite it anyway, I'll do it then', it's not ready.
If, when rewriting it, you're painfully aware that you're not making it any better, but just changing the words, it might be ready. Put it away. Leave it for a few days - longer if you can - and return to it. You'll see bits that aren't right straight away. Try and explain the plot simply to a spouse or long-suffering friend. If you can do that, it might be ready.
Then Dave said that maybe it's time to stop work on that and start on the next episode. Good idea. But Griff says:
There's a danger of getting to the point when you're saying to producers "I've written the first twelve episodes and a Xmas special" and they start scanning the room for exits. So I guess however many episodes you've actually written, only ever send one out and let the others be your dirty secret?
Should I write more than episode?
Let's take a step back here. One script takes ages. Or at least it should. Working nine to five, five days a week, coming up with a storyline and getting it right could take a week. Maybe longer. The first draft will take a week. Maybe two. Then drafts 2 and 3 might be another week or two. That's a least a month of solid work before it's worth sending to anyone. And then do it again? On spec? Does anyone really have time to take longer than that for free? It's well worth having outlines up your sleeve for future episodes. While you wait for responses, work up two or three of those, maybe into longer scene-by-scene breakdowns. Doing this will reveal whether your show has legs, and whether the characters really are working, or will demonstrate that some of your characters are not generating interesting stories.
If you really have nothing else to do, and no children to read stories to or no hobbies to pursue, you could start to write another episode. But it's likely the first script will, if it is progressed at all, require seismic thoughts and rethinking, so a second script might not be of much use, or be better started from scratch much later.
If I were a producer and someone sent me a script with a note saying 'I've already written six episodes', my heart would sink because I'd assume that the writer thinks that writing sitcom scripts is easy, and not extremely time-consuming. The alternative is that this writer has spent months of their own time, unpaid, writing these episodes - at the exclusion of all other things and human relationships. And this would be a worry, because comedy is all about all those other things and those human relationships.
Is that harsh? Or fair? Bad advice? Do leave comments.