If you followed the instructions in the Joys of Rewriting, Pt. 1, you should now have a tight, professional-looking manuscript. Of course, your rewriting work is just beginning, and you’re about to sully that pristine script.
At this point, rewriting divides into two categories: “fixing things” and “making the script better.” We’re going to concentrate on “fixing things” and save “making the script better” for a future Joys of Rewriting. Of course, fixing things isn’t going to hurt your play either.
Once I have a script that’s presentable, I take two steps that, as you’ll see below, can sometimes be combined. In any case, since they’re just two different ways to get feedback, they can be pursued simultaneously.
I send my script to my “go to people.” These are the people who know my work, who “get” my work, and whose opinions I trust. They read my work regularly and give me their reactions and questions.
I get a group of actors/readers together privately, and we read the script out loud (always a good idea to provide snacks and drinks as “payment”). For me, this initial out loud reading often happens in the writers group to which I belong. If your trusted Step One friends live nearby, you can invite them and combine Steps One and Two. I think it’s always good to have a few people (e.g. your “go to people”) who are not busy reading as your audience, but remember that this is not meant to be a public reading. It is purely for your benefit.
What kind of feedback are you looking for? Try asking some of these questions:
What moments stood out for you?
What moments did you not understand? (This is a big one-chances are that in an early draft, there will be a few plot holes, and this is a good chance to find them.)
Where did the play seem long to you? Moments that passed too quickly?
Were any lines of dialogue difficult to say? (This is for the readers.)
Did any lines of dialogue strike you as not fitting the character or too on the mark? (One danger is when characters say too much and end up spewing the subtext).
Any characters who seemed underdeveloped or inconsistent?
These are just a few of the questions you can ask of others and of yourself. What you want most at this point is their reactions, not their advice on what you should do.
OK. So now you have a whole bunch of comments from your “go to people.” Now what? I’ll tell you in The Joys of Rewriting, Pt. 3.