Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Draft Revision

I am proud to announce that I won Script Frenzy!!!! 

What did I win?

Wait for it... (drum roll please)

(horns tooting)      A year or two of revisions!     (crowd cheering)


Wouldn't it be great if we could just write something brilliant in the first draft when we're energized and excited about it? Instead, the first draft is 95% crap, at least mine always is. The first draft is usually a collection of disorganized scenes and a cast of underdeveloped, whiny characters who don't know what they want. The beginning is typically weak, full of exposition and back story; the climax good, but doesn't include all the elements it needs to be a true climax; and the ending unsatisfying. Writing dialogue is my strength, so it's lucky that this time I wrote a play rather than a novel. But it's still going to take a long time to get the language right for each character, and for the time period (I don't think an upper-class woman living in the 1930's would say "cool").

Revision is exhausting, because you can see what needs to be done, but you can't figure out how to do it.   It's too early for me to get feedback from a reader, so I'll muddle through on my own, focusing on gaps in the plot, inconsistencies, and character development. I work on all three elements at once because they impact each other. As I develop a character, I may discover a motivation that will propel the action of a scene, which can effect the entire plot. The process works the other way as well: a change in the direction of the plot can change the way a character behaves in a scene.

This whole process can feel like remodeling a house of cards, though. Change one element and the whole structure could collapse, which is scary. The threat of collapse raises important questions: if the plot needed that one thing to hold together, what does that one thing need as support so a change won't make the whole story collapse?

But sometimes having the whole piece collapse can be a good thing, because it forces you to see your story in a whole new light. Starting from scratch isn't the end of the work (although it might make you feel like killing the work anyway). It is simply part of the process of building a good story. You will have much stronger characters and a better idea of what direction the story arc takes the second time you write it.

Okay, I admit it... I really hope this play doesn't collapse once I start revisions. I don't have the energy to write it all again from scratch. But I'm in love with my characters right now and the time period is a blast to work with. Think 1930's movies with glamorous women and big sets, lots of dancing and drinking (it is post-prohibition) and witty dialogue. These people are rich and desperate, pretending to have everything they want while the Depression starts taking things away.

The excitement from my first draft is still there. Here's hoping that excitement continues as I work on it for the next year...

... or two...

...or three.

1 comment:

Shannon Drury said...

I am right there with you. Writing is fun! But editing & revising? That's brutal, time-consuming, soul-sucking work. Good luck!