Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Since I've already worked on my play for TWO hours this morning (hurray for me!), I can blog... 

It appears that "revision" was the incorrect word to use for the work I've been doing on my play. I've essentially been rewriting it. Only one scene escaped the scrap pile. 

What have I done to it? Well, after my fabulous playwrights group (I so love them) delved through the first scene, the number one piece of advice I received was "tighten." But I couldn't just take out a few exchanges. I had four women all talking around each other, creating a world where the main character--Mary, the youngest of the four women--had no power, no say in how the others perceived her. How was I supposed to tighten that?

The solution? Not cutting out bits of dialogue here and there. That simply wasn't enough. I printed off the scene, then deleted the electronic copy and started over, this time with the main character and only her mother, who was on the phone with a third character. Suddenly the misunderstandings, the mixed up memories, and the shifts in control occurred between the two most important characters, and no time was wasted in trying to develop two other women who were not key to the play's ideas.

A 26-page scene became an 11-page scene, and went from distracted and manic to focused and powerful. Was it easy? Not at all. But it worked, so I don't mind the extra time it took in the slightest.

Once the two characters were gone, though, all but the second scene fell, too. But I realized that the main weaknesses of the play would also be resolved, and the action would have a focus I could never have accomplished had I held onto those characters. 

Suddenly the arc of the story became clear: two arcs, one with the main character moving up, slowly making choices that would allow her to live, while her mother's arc fell, as her disease ate her mind, turned her into a child, and finally killed her. In the past, readers (actors, theatre people, playwrights) had asked me which person the story was about. Now I knew the answer. It was about both of them, moving in different directions. One story couldn't work without the other.

I have probably an hour of work left, and the play will be done. I already know how the final scene will play out. Amazing what I can accomplish when I don't hold myself back. 

What's most ironic is that this is exactly what my main character learns... not to hold herself back... 

Art imitates life.


  1. I love it when making a change for basically an "unrelated" reason provides the catalyst that brings it all together and makes a finished product of unrelated events.

    I've had that happen with novels myself.

    Perhaps that time off wasn't really and your brain was putting it altogether and, SURPRISE, gave you something great. Or maybe that just happens to me.

  2. nice glad to see you moving in the right direction.
    maybe i should start my book from scatch rather than try and make all the edits fit... and may it will let the story flow from one page to the next, insted of one chapter blowing you away why the other ones put you to sleep/or get you lost...
    starting from scratch is something i don't want to do, but maybe thats what i need to do.

  3. It's one of the hardest things to do... but sometimes it's rewarding.

    I think you're right, Stephanie... my mind is constantly at work, even subconsciously, and the my right brain is particularly good at synthesizing when staring at a blank page. My left brain, the reviser, isn't so good at that. If things are too disparate, the left brain won't fix them, and the right brain gets too confused if given all sorts of crap and told to make it all work together.

    Jeff, you might consider rewriting a particular chapter. If you need to, print it out, and then make yourself type it in. The act itself will cause you to pare all sorts of stuff. I've actually rewritten more than a dozen chapters at a time from a different point of view, with fabulous results.

    Hopefully I can work on it tomorrow morning for a few hours, and get it done! (Or at least get the draft out, so that I can sit on it for a while and revise my second novel).

    Wish me luck!

  4. Good luck! I finished reading my draft to Lee. I know it needs more polishing. You still want me to send it to you?

  5. Yes, please send it to me. I have a bunch of grading to do this afternoon, but since I JUST FINISHED THE LAST SCENE OF THE PLAY (hurray!), I'm tackling reading--all the stuff other writers have sent me over the last month, which I've not yet read and given feedback on. Yours will be last, so it might take a week to get back to you, but since it's on my list, it WILL get done.