A Bollywood screenwriter-director was taking us through a screenwriting program last year. I wrote a lot of notes and still refer to them today just before I begin writing a screenplay, and when I’m stuck on a scene.
One evening, we were having tea in Nairobi, and he told us about his country. India is a poor country with a vast population of people that speak different languages- much like Kenya. India also produces sugar. When sugar cane is harvested, it is taken to the factory, where it is taken through a roller mill machine that squeezes the cane juice out. After the first run in the roller mills, the squeezed sugar cane is folded and run through the mill again, to squeeze out any remaining cane juice. After this, the cane is folded again to squeeze out even more juice. Every single drop of cane juice counts in this county- every drop of cane juice contributes to make a kilogram of sugar to be sold. They can not afford to lose out on any drop. The cane is folded and squeezed over and over until there is no cane juice left at all.
When writing your screenplay, he told us, the first draft is the first run through the roller mills. In the second draft, you should bring more juice out of the story - and in the third, and in the fourth- each draft has to milk the story for all it’s worth, contributing to the overall sweetness of the final draft.
We had tea and he flew back to India. Now whenever I see sugar, I think of how much consistent effort was put into converting it from the juicy fibrous cane grasses to sweet particulate sugar crystals.