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Moffat on First Drafts and Honesty

Steven Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who, has given his tips on getting your script made, including pitch, first drafts and subsequent drafts; as well as dismissing some myths about writing, he also talks about how hard it is to write.

Steven Moffat 3

You know when you talk to someone about your story and you immediately sound like a loon and feel the idea is awful? In Doctor Who Magazine #471, he writes, tongue firmly in cheek, about why that experience is so painful:

“It is not that writers are sensitive beats – I am, but the rest are well hard – it is that writing is humiliating. It is cataloguing in public everything you think is insightful or clever or funny or exciting. Or, in fact, sexy, which is the worst. No writer has ever had sex, so frankly, it’s all guesswork.”

As Shrek says, ogres are like onions, and it’s exposing those layers to the world in a way very few actually do. It’s telling the truth.

He also tackles that first draft and a perceived wisdom passed on from writer to writer which makes very little sense…

“Everyone who ever says ‘It’s only a first draft’ can do to screaming hell and burn. Somehow that has become the norm. Writers say things like, ‘Well, it’s just a discussion document really!’ No it isn’t… The first draft is the real work. It’s when you haul the story out of the mud, and get a look at what you’ve got. The first draft is authorship – everything after that is engineering. So you give it everything. You draft and redraft every tiny moment, until you honestly believe it’s utterly, transcendently perfect. Until you’re tearing up at its golden qualities. The correct mental  state: there will be no other draft necessary past this, because it’s perfect! This is to be held simultaneously with the other, equally true thought: I will write many other drafts.”

I think this hits the nail on the head. Everyone just accepts that “writing is rewriting” and it’s probably just to make that first draft easier to put down on paper. It’s hard to start.

There are plenty more gems of advice in the issue’s Production Notes column and is truly fascinating for any wannabe screenwriter.

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Television

 

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