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        Screenplay Editing: Importance, Cost, & Self-Editing Tips

        • calenderJun 16, 2023
        • calender 5 min read

        Even as you type the last word of your script, that blinking cursor in your FinalDraft or CeltX Window may seem to taunt you. You know you’ve done a good job! But is it good enough for the editor you’ll send it to? Screenplay editing answers this question for you.

        Most final drafts of screenplays are usually the 10th or 12th ones. Even Michael Crichton’s draft for Jurassic Park was rewritten by Maria Scotch! This article will delve into the world of screenplay editing, its importance, and the editing process. We’ve also added six essential tips for editing your own screenplay.

        What is screenplay editing?

        Screenplay editing refers to the process of revising and refining a screenplay to enhance its quality and readability. It elevates the structure, dialogue, characters, formatting, and overall flow of your script.

        Screenplay editing goes beyond merely error correction to ensure that your story is engaging, coherent, and well-suited to the screen. It also checks whether you meet your genre requirements and audience expectations. Unlike screenplay editing software, a human editor undertakes three rounds of editing to improve its intrinsic value.

        Here are the processes involved in editing a screenplay:

        1. Structural editing

        Structural editing focuses on the overall structure and organization of your screenplay. The assesses the plot development, character growth, and story arcs in your script. They identify any weak areas in your story and make necessary revisions to ensure a well-paced and cohesive narrative.

        2. Dialogue editing

        Dialogue editing improves the quality and impact of your characters’ conversations. The editor evaluates the authenticity of your dialogue and refines it to enhance character voice, emotional depth, and subtext. They ensure a healthy balance between dialogue and action so that both elements work harmoniously to drive the story forward.

        3. Formatting and proofreading

        Formatting and proofreading are the final stages of screenplay editing. During these, the editor checks whether your script adheres to industry standards. They ensure proper formatting, pagination, and font styles. Additionally, they proofread the screenplay meticulously to eliminate grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or typos that undermine the quality of your work.

        Do you need professional screenplay editing?

        Most writers choose to edit their own screenplay, often with the help of an AI tool. However, this is not nearly as effective as a professional editor’s scrutiny. Editing and writing are two distinct, skill-heavy processes that are best when handled by the respective experts. Professional editors possess years of experience, helping them identify the smallest issues in your script.

        Editors are trained to rectify any plot holes, inconsistencies, and pacing issues in your document. They ensure that the screenplay flows smoothly and engages the audience from beginning to end. Ultimately, a professionally-edited screenplay increases your chances of attracting producers, directors, and actors who can bring your words to life.

        If you want people to invest their time and money in producing your screenplay, you must invest in editing it first. Editing your screenplay professionally reflects your sincerity and dedication to your craft. So, it’s best to invest your time in writing the best screenplay you can and rely on screenplay editing services to take it to the next level!

        Screenplay editing cost

        Screenplay editing with PaperTrue will cost you $28–$55 per 1,000 words. This cost will vary depending on the turnaround time you desire, with lesser time costing more money. However, other editors and editing firms may consider factors such as script complexity and the density of errors in your document.

        Here is the cost of editing for a movie-length screenplay (20,000 words):

        While professional editing is essential, not everyone can afford it. For screenplays of relatively less importance, you can make do with a few rounds of self-editing. As your loyal editors, it’s our job to assist you in this endeavor!

        So, let’s take a look at the five crucial aspects of editing your screenplay.

        Screenplay editing tips

        An amateur is sure to find editing a tedious process, none so more than a writer! While it’s certainly a less creative process, editing can help unearth some hidden gems in your writing. For this to happen, however, you must approach the editing systematically.

        A trained editor can scout for different types of errors at once, but you must do this individually. Scanning your screenplay for one or two errors at a time will help you catch as many of them as possible in one go. You may be tempted to make those quick corrections, but just mark them up and return to the type of error at hand. You’ll thank us in the end!

        Here are our tips to edit your own screenplay:

        1. Take a breather before editing your screenplay

        The reason writers don’t make the best editors for their own work is because they’re too familiar with it. You’ve been brainstorming scenes and filling in little details for far too long, so you can’t approach your writing from an objective viewpoint. Since this is essential for screenplay editing, it’s best to take a break from your document for a good week or two.

        Come back with a fresh perspective and you’ll be amazed at the amount of errors you’ll be able to catch. The longer the break, the more effective you’ll be at editing. Some even suggest locking away your screenplay for a whole month, but we’ll leave that to your discretion.

        2. Refine and tighten the structure  

        Where editing is concerned, storytelling conventions and narrative structure are reviewed first. These integral aspects of your screenplay decide how it’ll be received by your readers. Now, there are a few books you can read in-between drafts to hone up on these aspects:

        •  Aristotle’s Poetics
        •  Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey
        •  Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat

        When editing your screenplay, construct a beat sheet based on the parameters laid out by Aristotle, Campbell, or Snyder. A beat sheet is generally drafted before writing, but if there’s nothing wrong with writing the first draft and returning with a stronger sense of beat in mind. 

        A lot of writers forget that they may know the story inside and out, but an audience watching it in a movie theater for the first time does not. It’s a good idea to follow in the footsteps of the greats: structure your screenplay like your successful predecessors have. This is especially important if you’re writing a movie script that you hope to see someday on the big screen.

        Bonus tip: Make sure you’re using cross-cutting as a tool to better structure your storyline!

        3. Show, don’t tell (use a montage)

        Yes, it’s the oldest rule in the book, and yes, you’ll still find chunks of dialogue and expository scenery in your first draft. Deploy one of the major techniques of “pure cinema”, to use a phrase by Mr. Hitchcock, the montage.

        Wherever possible, replace a character telling something with a visual description. This is known as having a grasp of “visual grammar”. This removes a lot of redundancy and disposable material from your screenplay, leaving room for more engaging storytelling.

        There are various ways to do a montage. Analyze as many scripts as you can to get a better idea of what you want in your own. We’d also suggest reading up on montages through filmmaking books by Bordwell & Thompson. 

        4. Make your dialogues contextually apt 

        There is an old adage in filmmaking—if it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. You need to give your actors more scope to emote and show off their acting chops. In other words, your dialogue needs to be contextual but nuanced.

        Always have with you a separate sheet where each of the main characters’ biodata and life experience is outlined. That way, during editing, you can refer back to it and confirm if a certain piece of dialogue can conceivably be spoken by a particular character.

        Sometimes you may have seen actors ask directors, “do you think my character would say that?”. You need to pre-empt this and write dialogues in a way that they seamlessly blend with the arc of the character from the first act to the last.

        You can read out your dialogue to naturalize it or ensure that it fits the narrative universe.

        5. Remove mechanical errors from your writing

        You can’t afford to have any language mistakes in your final script. So, it’s important to undertake a line-by-line review to find grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors in your screenplay. You may use an AI tool or software to help you along but don’t trust these tools blindly.

        “Intelligent” as it is, AI still has many failings when it comes to language correction. It doesn’t understand nuance in writing, so you must double-check some of its suggestions. Proofreading is an important quality check for your screenplay, so make sure to leave this for the end. The first few editing steps are sure to leave some stray errors in your document and proofreading can help you remove them.

        6. Use screenplay editing apps and software

        You don’t want to be flagged as an amateur while submitting your screenplay. So, it would be well worth your time and money to buy and use screenwriting software. If you write your script in Word and try to fit it into an industrial format, you’ll most likely get caught.

        Below are three of the best screenplay writing and editing software:

        1. Final Draft

        2. CeltX

        3. WriterDuet

        These platforms take care of all the formatting specifications for your screenplay: the font, margins, pagination, and capitalization. A major advantage of using screenplay editing software for Windows and Mac is that it’ll also provide language correction. So you can rely on the tools to catch errors you couldn’t!

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        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

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