Saturday, August 02, 2008

The 5-2 draft

So my partner and I have written the script. We’re very happy with it. Been over it several times. It’s ready to turn in.

But first –

The 5-2 draft.

We always make one final pass and do the following – add 5 great jokes, take out 2 pages.

You can always lift two pages. You may not think so but you can. Every big speech can be trimmed. Most joke runs have one or two that are not as good as the others. Lose ‘em. Comb through the dialogue. I bet you’ll find some unnecessary lines.

“Where you going?” “The market. I haven’t shopped all week.” “Will you get some orange juice?” “Sure.” “Bye.” “See ya.”

...can be replaced with “Off to the market. Will get you your O.J.”

Take a machete to your stage directions too. This is no time to be John Updike.

And now look for spots for five more killer jokes. Some of our most memorable lines (even though I can’t remember them now) have come at this eleventh hour. Maybe you've got a good joke that could be better. Maybe there are places for jokes you just sort of skipped over before.

And yes, you might be saying but then we're adding stuff in addition to losing pages. That's right. So maybe it should be the 5-2 1/3 draft.

The bottom line is: even your best script still can be improved. The 5-2 draft is something that just seemed to evolve as we gained more experience. Other teams might have a 1-7 draft or a 3-2 draft. You're in trouble if it's a 40-10.

And after you’ve done your 5-2 draft, turn the Goddamn thing in already and don’t obsess over it. You’ve done all you can do. Go out and get a pizza.


Anonymous said...

The phrase "you can always lift two pages" reminds me of an old programmer joke, which IIRC is usually attributed to Edsger Dijkstra:

Every program has at least one bug, and at least one unnecessary instruction. Therefore, given enough time, all programs can be reduced to a single line of code that doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Edsger Dijkstra? Oh no. Geek Humor!

Anonymous said...

What do you do with the extra jokes? We're into yard sales.

Seriously, couldn't a so-so bit in one story later come in handy where it fits better. And at the risk of again violating the sanctity of having the joke always develop organically out of the story line (oops, this is where I was supposed to say character,wasn't I?) is there such a thing as a joke search engine -- not to lift a joke but as a starting point when you need something in a particular situation? Not talking about where famous (and usually deceased) comedians write a joke book with a table of contents arranged by subject and an extensive index by topic at the end.

Jess Kiley said...

And then you torture your faithful readers by not giving them an inkling of what you've been working on all this time.

Cap'n Bob said...

I had to cut a 125,000-word draft down to a 72,000-word novel. By the time I was close to the end of my labors I was looking for unnecessary a's and the's. But I learned a lot.

Anonymous said...

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Michelle said...

This is great advice!

(This comment is only a first draft.)

Anonymous said...

> And after you’ve done your 5-2
> draft, turn the Goddamn thing in
> already and don’t obsess over it.
> You’ve done all you can do. Go
> out and get a pizza.

Wisdom is knowing when to let go.

You're a wise man, Ken.