Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Four weeks to go...

Sometimes the best work comes together last minute and flying by the seat of my pants has certainly been my working method of choice in the past. I have a very active inner critic, and (apart from the weeks spent castigating myself for not being a better student/employee/playwright/general-all-round-individual) being a last minute wonder has been a way of silencing that critic. As it gets closer to the deadline I simply do not have time to attend to those intrusive critical thoughts; I become much more selective in what I do, and do not, listen to from inside my own brain.

My inner critic is a blessing as well as a curse. Yes, I am last minute, but, because of the critic my standards are also high. There's no way on earth that I'm going to allow myself to hand in sloppy work. 

However, somehow or other I have written a first draft of my dissertation, one whole month in advance of the deadline. I set myself a false deadline and forced myself to write a certain amount each day and voilĂ ! A first draft! 

So, this first draft of my dissertation combined with the first draft of my play (which I forced myself to write when I realised that my supervisor wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about unless I showed him an actual play, written in actual words, on an actual page) puts me in a position I haven't ever been in before...that of someone working on a second draft.

How on earth do I write a second draft? I feel so naive even just asking the question. I can imagine the professional people around me tut-tutting and asking me how I can even consider myself one iota a playwright, having only ever written draft one of a play before.

Worse still - some of my plays have been performed and people have paid to watch them.
The shame!

I do know of other writers who write only one draft and who put together plays very quickly. Noel Coward's 'Hayfever' was famously written in less than a week and not a word has been changed since. Phyllis Nage writes her plays in one six or seven day sitting - though she writes them in her head first and this can take a year or more. 

Anyhow. Here I am, for the first time ever, working on a second draft. And it isn't easy at all. I have asked around and my Playwright friend Sarah (@wordweave for those of you on twitter) has made these suggestions : 

Ask yourself : 

Exposition - where is it & can you show it better ? does it serve a function? is there a vital piece of info missing? 

Protagonist - is it clear whose story this is? where is it not? does that work for the play? 

Write out scene titles for the whole piece then decide a main action title - are there any gaps? does this make it apparent any one character needs more to do? 

(Thanks Sarah)

And Gary Henderson suggests the following when moving from a first draft to subsequent drafts:

1. Summarise the play in a single paragraph. This is not the play blurb or teaser, but what actually happens in the play.

2. Say what is the play about in a single word. Like, "solitude" or "desire" or "family". This is the theme of the play.

3. Using that word, state what you are trying to say, as short and pithy as possible. eg "Desire will kill you". This is the dramatic premise, which you must know why you believe in order to write the play.

I found Gary's wisdom on Renee Liang's blog.

So, armed with these suggestions and with the feedback I've gathered from numerous other people (thanks Supriya, Laurence, Sarah, Anna Clarkson, Harold Kimmel,James, Mum and Belle) I shall venture onto this unknown territory and see what happens next...

I have to hand the drafts to my supervisor on Friday so its going to be a very busy couple of days.

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