Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Rewrites: First Draft

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 07:50 min

Rewrites aren't a sign of a bad script; they're a sign of a good writer. Hear how Aaron reworks and strengthens his screenplays during the rewriting process.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Getting to the end • Killing your darlings


The screenplay isn't as good as you think it is once you finish it. Because you've probably got something good in your head. It feels really good in your head. It feels emotional. It feels sharp. But you probably haven't gotten all of that onto the page yet. And you discover that once you start reading it through. You become horrified that this whole thing doesn't even matter much, that kind of thing. This didn't work. Rewriting is a lot easier than writing. Because you have a problem to solve. You're no longer looking at an empty page with a flashing cursor. You have a problem to solve. This thing doesn't work here because. And you can attack that specific problem. I always recommend, if you're writing something, to get to the end of it before you start rewriting it. So you're on page 25. You look down. You haven't introduced the protagonist yet. You haven't introduced the inciting action yet. Don't crumple up those 25 pages and start again from page one unless you really want to, unless it really feels good. Get to the end. Get all the way to the end. Get to page 400 of this shapeless monstrosity that you're putting together. I don't know what sculptor it was who said this. It was a famous sculptor who was asked, how did you sculpt that fantastic statue of David? And they'll say, I look at a giant block of marble, and I take away everything that isn't David. Now, that's easy for the sculptor to say. It sounds really hard to me. But in writing terms, get to the end of the thing that you're doing. That thing then-- once you've gotten to the end of it, that's your big block of marble. Again, that clunky monstrosity, this unwieldy thing that doesn't work, that's your block of marble. But when you get to the end, you're going to know more about it than you did at the beginning. You're going to realize-- we talked about The American President in that 300, almost 400, page screenplay that had so much in it that wasn't Sidney and the president, that wasn't that conflict. To get to The American President, I just took away everything that wasn't that. And that's what we were left with. But I only was able to do that by writing the 400 page monstrosity and realizing, OK, where this thing lives is in the love story between these two people. So I recommend getting to the end of what you're doing and then saying, OK, I know what this is now. One of my favorite screenplays, certainly of the last 10 years and possibly of all time, is Tony Kushner's screenplay for the movie Lincoln, which also was originally 400 or 500 pages when he turned it into Steven Spielberg. And they looked at it and said, you know, the part of this we should do is the part where he's trying to get the 13th Amendment passed. And Kushner proceeded to take away everything that wasn't that and ended up with a fantastic movie about Li...

About the Instructor

Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins. Those napkins turned into A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson. Now, the Academy Award-winning writer of The West Wing and The Social Network is teaching screenwriting. In this class, you’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you’ll write screenplays that capture your audience’s attention.

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Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting.

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