I got this question recently:

“I wrote my first screenplay and at first loved it. After reading it for the 900th time, I find it very boring. Is it normal for writers to experience this?”

Yes. This is quite normal. I experience this with every screenplay I write. What you’ll find though is after writing a few screenplays and reading them a few thousand times, you’ll start to be a better judge of what is actually good and what isn’t. It might not seem original or fresh anymore but you’ll have an intellectual understanding of what is working and what isn’t even if it is no longer interesting to you.

You should be getting notes from people on your material and this is a great way to tell if your instincts are right. If you start to feel like a scene isn’t working and other people are telling you the same thing, than that means it’s probably something you should look at and perhaps rewrite.

Also, I have found myself finishing first drafts and then letting the material sit for a while. Sometimes months, and sometimes years. Then you can go back to it with fresh eyes. My writing partner and I recently optioned a screenplay, and we felt exactly the same way you did, at first we loved the idea and everything about the script but by the end of the writing process we were ready to throw it all in the trash. It’s now optioned and the producers want us to do rewrites. It’s been well over a year since we finished the version we sent them so we’re now excited and ready to take another pass at this material. You might try and just put your material away for a few months, work on something else, and then go back to it after you’ve had time to get some distance from it.

6 thoughts on “How do you stay objective about your material after reading and re-reading it so many times?”
  1. This is great advice. Beginners (and your non-writing friends and family) often don’t get this part of the process (and maybe start to secretly think that you are thoroughly deluded!) that a project can take, potentially, years. It’s very unlike most other jobs in this respect, where tasks get done and that’s it. I check things out if two people point to the same issue, and if three or more do then it definitely needs work. Also, reading other people’s work, pitches or drafts, and offering constructive, carefully considered feedback is a great way to get the feel for how any ‘story’ works well – then you can feed this back into assessing your efforts…eventually (I think it’s one of the hardest things) so don’t give up!

  2. I agree that it is very important to have other people read your work, especially people with industry and/or screenwriting experience. For me, I always think my work is genius until someone tells me that it isn’t, which is nearly every time. Once I have their notes, I am able to go back and make my screenplay MUCH better, even if I don’t use their ideas they get me thinking objectively.

  3. I 100% agree with letting it sit for a while. I’m doing that with my two completed drafts. I know the first one ain’t too good (I’ve got some plans on how to revise it) and the second’s gotten notes from readers. Neither of those are going anywhere. So while I mash out my third draft (I find it pretentious to say things like “I’m writing my third screenplay”) those two will hopefully recede from my awareness a little, and I can come back at them fresh. It’ll be no time soon, though – I’ve got ideas for a fourth, fifth, and _possibly_ a sixth draft to write, before it’s back to the top of the batting order, so to speak.

  4. Wow! Just this week, while working on my first screenplay, I had asked myself the same question! But, thinking as a movie fan, I realized that I should follow my first gut instinct and re-write it, if need be, when I’m ready for the credits to roll. Like Alexandra, after I’m finished and while awaiting peer review, I’ll charge full on with my next project, finish it for review then re-write the first. That way the creative center is always switched on and there’s always something in the works. I’m lovin it!

  5. Ash,
    You might consider giving us a uploading place so that we (who follow you here on your blog) can critique each other. That would be cool. I just completed my first script and I (like others – at first felt like I was being genius). I just received my first review and there was both good and bad. The good news is that I predicted the caveats. Things I want to see change are things she didn’t like about it. The MAJOR problem is that being a theological script it’s esoteric. That is going to be a massive wall for me in the first rewrite. But she cried at the end and said the last 30 pages were so moving she couldnt’ stop crying which pleased me because my intuition was that the end was strong. I’m waiting on about 4 other reviews. Still with friends and family (which I don’t trust for an objective review) I’d like to hook up with those who frequent your site. Just a thought.

    1. Gene – there are lots of sites already in existence that do just that. I post to Trigger Street (fantastic community…I’ve learned so much reading and posting there), so obviously that’s the one I recommend, but there are lots.

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