Ask a Mentor
Are We Done Yet?
Danielle Sanchez-Witzel explains how to know when a script is ready for the world.
It’s often said that writing is rewriting, but how do you know when you’ve done all you can and it’s time for the world to read your work? Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (Like a Boss, New Girl) details a process that will help newer writers know when their script has reached its maximum potential.
Question: “When do you know your script is ready to go out into the world?”
Danielle Sanchez-Witzel: When you’re first starting out, knowing when you’ve written your best requires using a muscle that isn’t fully developed yet, but will gradually grow stronger with time—so it is helpful to have a community of creative people who can give you feedback as you learn what your best looks like. Ideally, you'll have peers who are also starting out, maybe from a writers’ group or knowing people in the assistant community or just having some good friends with opinions you trust. They are your first-level readers.
Two things: first, it is important for you to return the favor and offer to read and give thoughtful feedback on their writing. And second, you should not be giving anything to any reader until you’ve maxed out on your abilities with your first draft. That means you have put forth great effort to break a story, write an outline and then a draft, and done a series of rewrites on that draft on your own before you give it to anyone else. The point of feedback is to see the things you aren’t seeing because you’re so close to it. And the only way you can find your best is if you give your best effort.
Once you get feedback from these kind, first-level readers, you will thank them profusely and decide what thoughts make sense to you and how you can address them to improve your draft. And then you do another series of rewrites before you move on to second-level readers. These are hopefully comprised of working writers in the business who are lower to mid-level. These relationships can be made in a variety of ways: being an assistant or a PA, reaching out to fellow graduates of any school or writing program you may have attended, or it could just be a very nice friend of a friend. It won’t be so long ago that they were trying to break in, and you’d be encouraged by how many kind people are willing to help the next generation of writers.
So you repeat the process of thoughts, rewrites, and thanking your readers profusely. And if you are truly maxing yourself out at each step, you will come out of that process with what is your best writing at that moment in time. And if you’re wondering what “maxing yourself out” means, to me it means I’ve reread the draft so many times I have it practically memorized, and I’ve rewritten it so many times that I actually want to throw up from physically looking at it. Writing is fun!
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