Notes from a Screenreader: Start by Finishing

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

In the same way that a recipe is not a batch of warm cookies on a baking sheet, an unfinished draft is merely an intention — and like raw dough, a story won’t show its shape until it comes out of the oven.

Most contest submissions suffer from a half-baking. This error is apparent to readers when the story starts late, often just after the halfway mark. That’s not good enough.

Start by finishing. It is the outcome that reveals the intent.

The function of the rewrite is to look at the real story from the vantage point of the end and chop out everything that does not march squarely toward it.

If you end up with an oatmeal cookie, don’t keep those ingredients you put in when you thought you were making lemon drops. Lose characters, devices, and plot lines that started out important but ended up in the way of the real story. Replace them. Use less vanilla and more nuts.

ANNIE LABARBA 

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

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