From Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass

Rewrites: First Draft

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.

Topics include: Getting to the end • Killing your darlings

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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.

Topics include: Getting to the end • Killing your darlings

Aaron Sorkin

Teaches Screenwriting

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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...

Your script starts here.

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.

Reviews

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

I learned exactly what I needed to know, but more importantly I was inspired to follow my dreams and my vision.

I love him! I loved West Wing! I could only hope to write dialogue half as well!

I thought this was great. The writers' room part was too long, but otherwise really insightful.

Just amazing ! A really good teacher in addition to being a genius !

Comments

A fellow student

For every rookie that is starting its reallly good to hear this stuff, because it makes essential point about not getting everything right the first time

A fellow student

The scene in "Fargo" he's talking about is actually very necessary. It makes Marge (McDormand) rethink her previous conversation with Jerry about the stolen cars. So she goes back to Jerry to investigate. If her friend from high School, who was so convincing in his lie to her, made her believe in something that wasn't true. What could a total stranger be lying about?

A fellow student

I am having a hard time downloading the lessons. Is anyone else having these problems?

A fellow student

Gary Thomas, WA How did Michealangelo sculpt DAVID? He cut away excess marble that wasn't David.

Steve P.

Can someone address Mr. Sorkin's edict that scenes that don't push the story forward have to be earned? I believe he means that such a scene must be exquisitely crafted in order to remain in the script. What say you?

Julek K.

I think the quote is from Michel Angelo, at least according to Irving Stone.

Maros M.

This was helpful, I understood that what comes out of your pen first time on page does not need to be final thing and you can feel freedom to write and create then rewrite. For some odd reason, maybe from school, I had a feeling that when you have to rewrite it means you failed first time, but I can see it is not the case, but it is natural to create something not final first then starts the creative process of tuning it and it has its place. That is the freedom that helps you sit and write not feeling you are failing when you do not get gold out the first time.

Jay M.

Am working on a first draft - been through several outlines, but considering editing background - it's really hard to tweak and fret over everything, rather than just knock it out.

Jake H.

i love rewriting and reworking scripts and I gotta say I love the metaphor of taking the statue out of the marble. It's also good to know that Sorkin both recognizes the beauty of those nonessential scenes and the importance of cutting.

Alice P.

This lesson has helped me re-frame the enormous task of re-writing - chipping away at the the monstrosity that I created. I have a gigantic problem solving adventure!!