According to Trevor Mayes, there comes a time when we need to stop tinkering and let go of our scripts and usher them into the marketplace.
“Just because you’re sick of your script doesn’t mean it’s finished.”
– William M. Akers
1) YOU BELIEVE EVERY SCENE IS EXCELLENT
Even if there’s only one scene that isn’t popping, you still have work to do.
2) YOU CAN READ THROUGH YOUR ENTIRE SCRIPT WITHOUT PICKING AT IT
Does everything make sense. Is every set up paid off?
3) YOU BELIEVE IT’S AS GOOD AS SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SCRIPTS
If you don’t think it’s as good as some of your favorite scripts, you need to keep working on it. You’re not competing with other amateurs, you’re competing with the pros.
4) YOU’RE REALLY PROUD OF IT
In order for your script to sell, someone has to fall in love with it. If you don’t love it, it’s unlikely anyone else will either. If you believe something’s still not working with your script — you’re right.
5) THE READERS YOU RESPECT TELL YOU IT’S GREAT
Has anyone (other than a loved one) told you your script was great? If not, it’s a good idea to get some validation from someone who’s read a ton of scripts in your genre.
6) IT’S THE RIGHT LENGTH FOR THE GENRE YOU’RE WRITING
If your comedy spec is 129 pages — and your last name isn’t Apatow — you should probably make some cuts. And no — fudging the line spacing isn’t a viable alternative. A seasoned reader can tell something is off, a quarter of a second after looking at your first page.
7) IT BEARS LITTLE RESEMBLANCE TO THE FIRST DRAFT
I’m not sure all first drafts are bad — but they should undoubtedly pale in comparison to the final draft. No one can write a 110 flawless pages in a row. Take the time to make your script the best it can be.
8) WHEN YOU GO TO REWRITE YOU INSTEAD FIND YOURSELF GETTING WRAPPED UP IN THE STORY
After several drafts, do you ever find yourself reading through your script and simply enjoying the ride? Do you have to remind yourself that you’re supposed to be reading through your script with a view to editing it? If so, your script might be ready to go.
9) EVERY TIME YOU IMPROVE IT, IT GETS STRONGER
If there are parts of your script that you think are great, but maybe could be improved by adding to the page count, that’s a good sign you’re done… unless your script is only 60 pages long.
10) YOU START TO MAKE CHANGES THAT MAKE THE SCRIPT DIFFERENT – NOT BETTER
At some point after the 73rd draft, you’ll read through your screenplay with bleary eyes and just start changing things because you’re sick of the same joke, or you no longer find a scene to be surprising, etc. That’s normal. It doesn’t mean that you’re making your script any better by changing it. It may just mean that your script is finished and you need to back away from the keyboard.