Thursday, August 20, 2009

break on through

So, in case I haven't mentioned it, it appears I have figured out the dreaded synopsis.

For years now, I had been driving myself mad with writing these damn things. For a while, the very word 'synopsis' would have me depressed and away from writing for a week. And I know I'm not the only one.

And every time I had to write one, I would go back to the books and websites I had found to help me along. And every single one of them would mention how a synopsis is sort of like the blurbs you find on books--the two or three short paragraphs designed to sell the book.

And then it hit me. READ SOME.

So I ran into my office and grabbed seven or eight of my favorite books that had these blurbs on them, and read them. And read them again. And again. Until I understood what made them tick.

Within an hour, I had dashed off a better draft of the synopsis for 'A Death in the Family' (still with Mr. Robert's help!).

I know it's not the easiest thing, but thinking of it in terms of the jacket blurb is much more helpful than all the exercises and warnings and crap.

That was the first breakthrough.

While Bill's parents were in town, I had limited writing time, and I was trying to rework some of the next play I was going to send out, 'Pleased to Meet Me' ('A Death in the Family' needs to sit around for a month while it percolates from Paul's suggestions--thanks, Paul!). Before the weekend was up, I managed to re-read the play and put notes down about it. And I had one scene, that was a sloppy, drunk mess (just because the characters are drunk and sloppy doesn't mean the writing needs to be). And I knew that there was a lot of stuff I needed to cut, re-arrange, and the thought of it was daunting. So instead of cutting and pasting on the computer or in real life, I just re-wrote the scene from scratch by hand. I cut out three pages of repetitive nonsense and I think the script is better for it. I had to cut some good stuff out, but I left the better stuff. So you know, be happy that the great stuff is still there, you know?

I sent out a play yesterday. Goodspeed to it.

I know the process of getting a play out is hard, but I really think I was making it harder on myself than was needed because it is so hard. Does that make sense? I kept whining to myself, it's too hard, too much, I don't know what I'm doing. Well, I won't know until I do it. So here I am.

Things are much better on the writing front. I know I need to be creating but I feel like this is what I need to be doing--the uncreative submission process. What's the point of creating more if no one is ever going to see my work? I have to give my children their way into the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I think I've mentioned it on here before, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE revising. Well, 99% of the time I do. Even the stuff that seems hard to get through and correct, I just love figuring out what exactly the characters are wanting to do.

And I really thought that 'A Death in the Family' was ready to go out to theatres. I really did. I even wrote a synopsis and everything, which, as we knows, is the bane of my existence. And I even went as far as finding theatres to send it to.

Last time, on Dramatecture, I mentioned the people who have helped me a lot. This has been both a great and bad thing. The great thing--I'm getting much needed feedback from both people involved with theatre and those who have an interest in it, but aren't exactly playwrights or actors. The bad thing is that I have A LOT of revision to do.

But this is also a great thing. It's probably the best thing to have happened in a long time. Obviously, if the play is not ready to go, I need to work on it. At the same time, I just want to be able to start sending out packages. I suppose I could do that and continue to work on the play while I'm waiting for responses. God knows it usually takes awhile and in that time I could really do some hardcore revising on it.

That's probably what I will do.

In related news, I have done one read through of 'The Dramatist's Toolkit' by Jeffrey Sweet. I'm starting to go back through it and really read each of the chapters carefully and jotting down notes. Sadly, I have noticed many deficiencies in my work. But happily, I know how to fix them, or, at the very least, I know how to attack them now.

My work generally suffers from issues with high and low context levels. Mostly I end up with characters, like in 'A Death in the Family', who have known each other for YEARS--their whole lives--they are family after all, even if the kids haven't been home for the last four years. There's one character--Belladonna--who isn't just a newcomer for the purpose of providing a way for high context information to come out from the family--she's got an agenda of her own, which is in direct opposition to the male lead's agenda. The funny part, I never even really thought to use her for the purpose of disseminating high context information, except one time during the play, so I guess that's a good thing. I just have to figure out a way to get all the high level stuff out in the mannerisms, the actions and words of the characters without saying, wow, this family sure fights a lot. It's good that I've noticed it, now I just have to figure out how to fix it.

Part of me is bummed by all the work this is going to entail. But I know in the end, I will be a stronger playwright and my work will shine more. But still, it's a bummer.

I just have to remember, I've only been writing plays seriously since 2003. I've come VERY FAR in six years. I just am a perfectionist and want to be even further in those six years. But daily work on the play and listening to and looking for the red flags will do more to help me than anything.

And having readers to help is amazing too.

I will just let myself have a pity party about it today while I'm at work and then come home and do more work on the play.