Daft Drafting Discussion May 20, 2009
First of all I’d like to say that after being dressed like a slob for a while (I have of course been ill) I’ve taken the effort to put on ‘outside’ clothes for my trip to the hospital and doctors. I don’t seem to have got the balance right and look fairly dressed up, they’ll possibly think I enjoy my trips to their tea-stained wards or they’ll think I live the highlife and I’ll be swanning off to meetings and premieres after our little chats. Neither are unfortunately true. At least I don’t look so pale now, but then again I did fiddle with the colour saturation to make me look more human.
Right, I’m here to write about drafting, rewriting, multiple drafts, agony writing and exorcising the writing demons. Whatever you call it it has to be done.
As years have gone by since I considered whether or not to try it as a writer in this world I’ve steadily grown to appreciate the drafting process. Whilst at university I hated the idea of unpicking ideas and having to go through and re-stitch vital elements of the story and more than often convinced myself that my first draft was more or less okay. No wonder I didn’t get the marks that I craved for, but as much as I have a love/hate relationship with my degree it taught me vital lessons that I’m only really utilising now.
I used to print out my script and announce smugly, “I’m done”. Completely premature; a lot can be said of re-drafting and I’ve now come to the point in my career where re-writes are the most important step. You have to be able to disregard what you thought once worked and find a solution. This is the part where I really get a kick out of it all; because it’s still my work and still my idea. It’s the inclusion of other minds that force it to be a better piece of work, more solid and that is no bad thing. Collaboration (not just for personal profit or gain) is key for making work stronger and ultimately better. If I’ve harassed you or littered your inbox (the whiteboards in the photograph show my list) it’s because I feel your opinion can help me to craft my work and because I trust you. Any writer know it’s hard to pass on work especially when you know it’s no the final appearance it can muster, this in itself is a hard task to undertake.
I personally, whilst momentum is hot, thrust my script electronically into the hands of friends, colleagues and fellow writers; each time my list expands. I find not only does this force me to kick back for a few days, but also lets me encounter different types of feedback. Mostly the main bulk of friends are either scriptwriters or playwrights but I also give to friends who aren’t even vaguely touching the creative arts because they’ll keep me grounded and approach it as your average theatre punter. It’s for this very reason that I still get excited because you set your work free for a bit and anxiously wait for it to return home and you can re-embrace it.
The only image I can conjure that I feel would fit the bill is this. I’m a mother that’s sent her child away to a holiday camp and I’m spending my days busying myself tidying, cooking for one, reading books and giving them my full attention. Then I get a call to say my child is on their way home. And I sit by the door. I’ve missed my annoying, sniveling, snotty child who didn’t always do what they were told but I’ve missed them. I’m ready to have them back, because I’m lost without them. Then they arrive and I’m greedily accepting hugs and my child is talking nonstop about this, that and the other and although I don’t really want to hear everything they have to say I’m glad that they’re back and will listen patiently to their stories. Later on that evening when they’re in bed full of sugar and spaghetti hoops I’ll sit down with a Gin and Tonic and think about everything they’ve said and relish in the fact that I have that child and I have their stories and that they’re home. Then the process repeats until the child has no more interesting stories to tell me or they’re too old for camp and I have to find more adult conversation.
I think it’s fairly obvious what I’m trying to say but sometimes a naff analogy hangs well. So for all the holiday campers out there, treat my child well and you may just get some spaghetti hoops with your Gin and Tonic.
Chipper Dandy, Thanks For Asking… May 15, 2009
Forgot to mention about ‘editing’ now being referred to as ‘perfecting’. This new phrase has come courtesy of Helen Thornber whose blog can be found (looky, looky) here. Whilst in good ol’ Twitter formation today she casually threw this into conversation. It’s a term I very much prefer because it means that what you have is already of worth and you are tweaking to craft it better. And in writing that sentence and generally watching these videos back of myself, I realise the word ‘craft’ is said, written and thought of a lot. I should start to keep track of my own vocabulary. So just so you can all spread this new terminology, it’s not an editor you’re after, it’s a perfector. Perfect.
p.s. Yes, my phone does bleep at the beginning, what can I say… I move with the times.
Children Of The Comic-Evolution May 13, 2009
Now there’s a point in every writer’s career where the giddy excitement of having your work read out will tease you senseless that you can’t help but pride yourself of the perversity of it all. I’ve been in the fortunate situation a fair few times (let’s be honest, it’s not that hard to get an actor to read something out) and every time I’ve been happy with anticipation to hear the lines… Only to scratch score marks on my script on the bits that just don’t work. But anywho, I digress…
I’ve found a new level to that excitement one feels and that is when your work is read out by children. Yes, the snivelling, bouncy, temperamental things that are invariably small but some are like giants on acid.
Let me put this into context for you: I’ve been commissioned by a children’s theatre company called Theatrix to adapt “Alice in Wonderland” for them. This has involved me watching children improvise and then merge their ideas and craft them into dialogue resulting in new work. Voila! I was recently asked to write something for their newsletter which went a little something like this:
“I’ve kindly been asked by Theatrix to come along to rehearsals and scoop up the energy and wit from the children involved and re-write it into the original text. I’m often seen hanging around at rehearsals with a pen and pad in hand laughing at the brilliant exchanges the aspiring actors come out with and scrawling like mad to get all the juicy stuff down. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a classic story that everyone knows but it often takes someone else’s fresh approach to really bring it alive; it can lie already told and dormant in the mind but deserves to be given a new lease of life. The story is riddled with colourful characters and confusing text but upon giving it to a young fresh mind it can take on a completely new appeal. I’m aiming to make the text more modern so the actors involved can really get their teeth into it and flesh out the characters that we know and love. It’s been fun and really challenging but most of all it’s been great interacting with the rehearsals and hearing all these budding actors chipping in with their nuggets of brilliance. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a really intriguing text to adapt because it’s laden with vibrancy and imaginative narratives and I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of bold and explorative people to write for than that of the students of Theatrix.”
How much do I sound like I know what I’m doing? Incredibly. So there was one particular scene which I had extended by a great deal and that is the Court scene towards the end of the piece. The rehearsal on Monday was a hectic one in that the scene has pretty much everyone in it and they’re all kids. Cue noise limitation out of the big window. The general gist of the scene mirrors that of parliament with the rabbles of men scoffing and protesting at the opposition’s exclaims. Directors Rosemarie and Miriam decided to start with a little bit of improvisation which involved two opposing parties battling it out over the following debate. Bourbon biscuits are better than custard creams. These are children ranging from eight to eighteen. What followed next was hilarious to the point of me wiping away happy tears. I’ve never seen people think so fast on their feet yet stay in control of the improvisation. I won’t do it justice by writing it down verbatim (partly the straight faced delivery was the killer punch) but a few snippets involved: racial equality making the bourbon more socially friendly, outrage that ministers were claiming for custard creams on their expenses, the bourbon being statistically proven to sustain a higher voltage of dunking and custard creams having the reputation of keeping our boys in check of much needed carbohydrates whilst fighting in the Second World War. Like I say the panache these kids had was amazing and it’s always a joy to watch them work and develop.
Roused by the mock Parliament we set about dropping them into the Court scene and given free reign to ad lib. Someone asked me whilst I was watching (and admittedly laughing like a loon) did it make me angry or annoyed if someone didn’t deliver the line the way I intended? To be honest, no. Once it’s on the page it’s in the hands of the director in my personal opinion. If it’s wildly misinterpreted then I’m sure I’d say something but if I were to pre-empt each line and guide actors to the ulterior motives I would wander into directing. As much as I’ve done and relished that in the past, it’s not something that I’d want to hone in on at this point. I prefer to dust my hands after handing it over because if I got too attached to anything I’d be tearing my hair out. But after saying all that the joy of the rehearsal was that the kids were delivering the lines as I intended them, how I heard them in my head. That probably contradicts what I’ve just said, but what I mean was that it’s an added bonus if that happens! These kids are seriously funny and like kids of any age under twenty can command a great sense of noise when needed. More than often the court descends into pure noise and they delivered that in bounds and extreme volume.
I walked back with a mahoosive smile on my face and a spring in my step. It felt good that something I’d written had engaged with the children and that they could see the humour and run with it. The directors were equally enamoured with the results and proceeded to email the next day saying they were still buzzing from directing it. In their words, “Just want to say that the Court script kept rolling round my head like the after effect of a good play/ film/book . It was great fun to direct.. ..so something is very, very right!”
You may have noticed by now that this is not a video blog. The reason is that I have worked on my (adult) script for many many hours today… 12 in fact give or take a few hours rest. This in turn has made me look like I deserve to be made a Gin and Tonic and handed a tub of custard. Instead I’m listening to Mercury Rev and drinking water. That’s life for you kids, what you want is not what you get. I’ll be damned if I can get someone to make me a Gin and Tonic. Top of my list when I start making money.