Rewriting is Where the Work Is

By Jeffrey Gordon, Writers Boot Camp Founder (originally included in the December 2019 Career Progress Workbook)

Considering how few spec feature films or pilots are bought or produced, most scripts are potential writing samples.  As we have discussed prior, the likelihood of newer writers selling or even optioning early scripts is reduced by lack of conceptual vetting due to inexperience, incomplete ideation, lack of understanding of structure and cursory approach to rewriting.

While great ideas and productivity are a powerful combination, rewriting proficiency (the Pro in Pro Membership could stand for Proficiency in Rewriting) is how writers make their breaks and get paid.

Here’s how rewriting applies to the career: 

–A spec doesn’t become special without significant and less conventional rewriting; the key to rewriting is layering and bringing enough material to a draft to fulfill the promise of the fresh entertainment inherent in the idea.

–If there’s mild interest in your feature spec or pilot spec, early fans of your work will more than likely ask you to rewrite on spec (without getting paid or a formal deal) as a method of hip-pocketing the opportunity, and they’ll gradually lose interest if the rewrites don’t wow them.

–If there’s a higher level of excitement, there may be some nominal option money for you, though the project will most likely stall if their third-party submissions, the bigger fish (financiers) don’t bite, which means nothing much will happen if you don’t rewrite or reconceive via the insight you may receive.

–If a producer does have some discretionary capital (development funding), or a rare financing/studio/network deal, you may win the right for the first rewrite, yet even an option could be extended, it may go into turnaround and sit back on the shelf—until you decide to dust it off for another rewrite.

–If it does get the greenlight and your early rewrite is well-received, you may be paid again for a subsequent rewrite; if a new director or actor is attached, then there’s another rewrite.

Note:  Between 2011-2017, after movies started picking up again, I think nearly 80 movies were produced that were written by Writers Boot Camp alumni—and in most cases they stayed on as the writers, which means they got paid.

–On a development deal, you’ll often create your take on other writers’ work; your pitch in that manner—not necessarily the performance in the room but your vision for how to enhance or fix the existing script/story—will mesh with the producer or executive’s creative goals for the project.

–On staff, your input in the room often helps break story and enhance the work of other writers.

–As a show runner, you’ll tend to rewrite everyone to sustain the conceits of the show, its voice and characterization.

–In prose writing—whether books, novels, short stories, essays or blogging—there can be the heavy burden of matching your prose style and streamlining.  The rewriting stages for a long-form book will require many more hours per stage.  When your tense and POV has not been established early on, it can be extremely challenging to avoid editing prematurely.  That’s why editors often play a stronger role in publishing.  Still, rewriting is the real process.

So, it’s not an overstatement that the writing business is about rewriting.  And being open and capable of seeing your own work more clearly.

To inquire about or apply for Professional Membership, please email JG directly at

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