Writing is Re-Writing
Yo, so! Play script submissions for 37 Plays are officially open and I’m buzzing with excitement to help our local writers get their plays submitted and feel good about that achievement!
This Saturday saw the second Writers Boot Camp session, just one of the many things Hull Truck Theatre have offered free to the local community to encourage Hull to get writing these past number of months in preparation. The main topic of the session was editing and re-writing, the final steps we take as writers to complete a final draft, feeling confident and ready to submit.
The boot campers have what we like to call the riot draft done, thanks to playwright Sally Abbot for this very apt terminology. The riot draft is the very first draft that you never need to worry about anyone but you, seeing it.
It’s where you run screaming through the pages just getting everything out from your imagination and onto the paper. This draft will be over written, over explained, more stage directions than dialogue and normally be a little longer than it will need to be Infront of an audience. This is because on first attempts we normally just write everything we are thinking in our heads and that’s fine. You just gotta get it out!
The hard graft to writing really starts now, the sculpting part, the part where you shape your play into a piece you would be willing to share with others.
Editing can be difficult at first, as many of the boot campers shared in the session.
“But… it’s my baby”
“This bit is really funny though”
“There is no padding”
“The plot won’t make sense if I take anything out”
I sympathised with them, really, I did. I know that feeling. I’ve been there. All writers find it hard to let go. To write with a creative eye is easy, to edit with a critical one, especially over your own work is the hard part.
Like the boot campers, some of you reading this may also be getting ready to submit but are likely at the fine-tuning stage also, so I thought it may be helpful to share a task we explored in the session with you dear readers.
Cut the fluff, keeping just the vital stuff!
I made that up in the session. It’s good, eh?
Firstly, I asked the writers to pick a section of their work. Either copy and paste it into a new document or bring more than one copy of their script that they don’t mind scribbling on.
I instructed the writers to go through that section highlighting or underlining the parts of dialogue they feel is vital to their story. Once they had done that, I asked them to read through just those highlighted sections and explore if it still made sense or not.
We chatted about if it did or didn’t. For the majority, much to their surprise it did.
Now I’m by no means saying you should keep it this way, it’s just an exercise that highlights some important things for you to think about.
What you find is space, space for the characters and the story to breathe a little and a simple and quick way to edit a play, especially if you are feeling sentimental towards all your brilliant lines. To which I have no doubt that each line is a gem, but not all gems are necessary in order for your play to make sense, move at a quicker and/or more interesting pace for your viewer.
You can also do the same exercise with each sentence so you can refine your editing even further. We usually write characters saying far too much at first, because we know all the information that’s in our heads that needs to come out.
Breaking each sentence up and seeing if all the words are needed in that sentence helps us not have a bunch of over articulated characters because overall, that’s not how many of us talk.
We don’t usually say everything we think and feel but when we first start to write character dialogue there is a tendency that our characters will over explain.
So try this sentence editing exercises as well.
Trust your audience and know that us humans are pretty good at filling in the blanks and stringing things together. Don’t spoon feed your audience. Let them do some work, they will enjoy the experience much more.
I wasn’t the boot camper’s favourite person while I made them do these exercises but as we reflected as a group, many admitted it was beneficial and important and decided they liked me once again by the end of the session. So, win, win.
Not long left writers. Good luck!
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