Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How to redraft a play

Have been redrafting my play Lantern, which is precious because it's my first real child (a full-length play, as opposed to the many shorter plays I've written). It's scary because the time has crept up on me and now there's less than a month to go before we're actually performing it in front of a paying audience.

The play has moved very quickly through two new drafts, in part due to some excellent advice from Gary Henderson, who's helping as a dramaturg. I wanted to share some of his advice, because I think that it's really helped me, as a writer, to see more clearly how to shape a longer narrative. Not just plays, but also things like novels or poetry collections. (I hope that my current obsession with theatre will have a payoff in other areas of my writing life - at least that's how I'm justifying it. If I need to, that is.)

Anyway, Gary suggests doing three things 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 think this is great advice for any piece of long-form writing, not just plays, and I hope Gary won't mind me repeating them here. Anyway, I've included some links to the articles on his website:

What to write about, by Gary Henderson

Advice to Young Writers, by Gary Henderson

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