One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the past 6 years of writing scripts is that being an effective writer means doing a lot of rewrites.
As Hemingway once put it, "The first draft of anything is shit".
Writing a script is no different than developing a recipe for a star dish at a restaurant. A chef would never plate the very first thing that came to their mind. They would iterate, get people to taste each version of the dish until it became so delicious that people begged them to put it on the menu. Writers too must season their script, taking care to balance the flavours, texture and acidity until it tastes just right.
With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you navigate the rewriting process.
Give your mind time to reset in between drafts
There is no use beginning the second draft the minute you finish the first. Your mind needs time to rest, but more importantly, it also needs time to experience new events, encounter new perspectives, and unlock new and deeper understandings of your story and its characters.
And all of this takes time.
Give yourself a few days to do anything but look at your script. When you come back feeling fresh and energized, you will have the horsepower necessary to take your next draft to a whole new level.
Get feedback (for free first)
One of the best things you can do is get feedback from others regarding your script. But never just give your script to one person.
Get a number of people to read the script. Friends, family, other writers, actors will all bring a different perspective to light. Some of the feedback you get will hurt, but remember, this is about making your script better, not making you feel like a superhero writer.
Look for patterns in the feedback
When you sit down and really dive into the feedback you received, be careful not to implement all of it. You will end up with a mish-mash of a script and a broken story (and perhaps heart).
You are the writer, after all. You need to be selective. Look for patterns in the feedback. What did people commonly dislike about the script? Where did most people get confused? Is there a particular character that is consistently called out for something?
Submit for coverage
Many new writers are unfamiliar with coverage services. These are professional script readers you can pay to read your script and give you a detailed review (and valuable notes). They will breakdown the review into categories like story, dialogue, characters, formatting, etc, and often even write a logline and plot summary for you.
You'd be amazed at the insights you can gain from submitting your script to a coverage reader. Because they typically read dozens of scripts each year, they are experts at identifying issues that may be holding your script back.
Be careful though, I've found that not all coverage readers provide the same value. Try a few different onces and see who you like, then stick with them for future projects.
The goal is WOW!
It's hard enough to write a good script. Writing an amazing script with unforgettable characters, a fascinating plot full of twists and turns, and a totally original yet high-level concept is about as tough as turning dirt into diamonds.
And yet with enough pressure, that's exactly what you can do. You must not stop writing until people read your script and say, "WOW!"
That's your finish line - "Wow!" That's when you know you're done writing.
Not "It's good" or "I liked it", but "Wow!".
Through all the rewrites, remember this one important thing
Never forget that you are the writer here. You are the artist. It's your vision. Your story.
After rounds of feedback and coverage, it can start to feel like you have voices in your head. It can get so bad that you get disillusioned with your work and lose your self confidence.
Not all notes are worth their salt! Some opinions are outliers. In the end, it's the audience that will judge, and your tiny sample size of 4 friends who gave you advice likely doesn't represent all the tastes, opinions and attitudes that exist within your target audience.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, you will find yourself feeling the same way prolific screenwriter William Goldman did when he famously said, "Nobody knows anything," and that's okay. At the end of the day it's your name on the script.