You Need a System to Organise your Drafts and Paul Haggis Has One
Writing is Rewriting:
Paul Haggis System to Organise his Drafts
When you start writing your “first draft”, things are pretty clear, you write your first draft.
But what qualifies as a second draft? How many changes mean that it’s a new draft, versus just a tweak?
Over time, you realize that your first draft was really what Haggis calls a Rough Draft. You did write a story from A to Z but it was a very rough baby that’s going to go through many mutations.
Meet Paul Haggis System
A few days ago, Canadian Oscar Winner filmmaker and screenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash) shared how he organizes his files (highlights are mine).
Here is what he put under the picture you can see at the top of this article:
“This is how I keep it straight. RD stands for Rough Draft and the number obviously indicates how many. When it’s finally a decent script & I want to send out it will become 1D for First Draft. And when I revise it: 1D-1 etc. A big rewrite will make it 2D. And behind you see that before writing I did 8 versions of my outline. #screenwriting is made easier by organization.”
Why Having a System Matters to You
Because producers, investors, distributors, labs, grants etc. will ask you at what stage of your writing you’re at. They want to know how close you think you are from “locking” your story (although that’s also a loose concept since the story will keep on changing until it’s locked in the edit…) and it’s also a way for them to test how much experience and knowledge you have in your own storytelling.
This is one of the many lessons I learned in 2016: I kept calling Drafts what were Rough Drafts, and didn’t differentiate a small and a big rewrite. As the number behind the word ‘Draft’ goes up, it becomes harder psychologically. Think about Haggis:
- 8 outlines
- 21 Rough Drafts
And maybe more to come. That’s how much writing and mutations his story is going through before any decision maker gets their hands on the First Draft.
Although I’m glad I learned the lesson in the trenches, I am embracing Haggis System from now on.
If you’re a screenwriter, do you have a system? Do you name or number your files differently? Let us know below.