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Part 3: Rewriting On Your Own By Dale Griffiths Stamos

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THE PLAY’S THE THING

Part 3: Rewriting – On Your Own 
The First Pass

By Dale Griffiths Stamos
February 2011

Authorlink welcomes award-winning playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos as a regular monthly columnist.

"The first thing I recommend you do now is to read the entire script out loud."
—STAMOS

All right, you have put your play away for at least two weeks. You are now looking at it fresh and hopefully with as much of an objective eye as you can muster.

The first thing I recommend you do now is to read the entire script out loud. Try to act it out as much as possible, really getting into the different vocal rhythms and cadences of your characters. As you do this, keep a pencil nearby, because things will immediately jump out at you. Quickly cross out anything that feels awkward, and if new dialogue comes to you, just as quickly jot it down in the script. But don’t stop to do an intensive rewrite of any one scene. This is your first pass and you want to get through the entire script as rapidly as possible.

". . .the point is not to feel like you have to fix all the problems at this moment . . ."
—STAMOS

There are other things I recommend that you notice as well during this initial process. These are general impressions of issues that need work but that you plan to tackle in depth later. For example you may scribble comments like: “Too much exposition,” or “This scene doesn’t feel like it belongs here,” or “This monologue goes on for too long,” or “This scene doesn’t advance the story.” Of course you are free to also add positive comments like: “This is where the action really takes off!” or “Good conflict!” But regardless, the point is not to feel like you have to fix all the problems at this moment, but to gently peruse the play and get a sense of what is working well and what needs further work.

If possible, try and complete this process in one work session. If it takes more than one session, ignore the temptation to start again from the beginning, because you will just keep finding new things (I guarantee)! Start from where you left off and just keep going.

". . . it is often so tempting to get mired in the process of reworking one scene over and over again . . ."
—STAMOS

Why am I advocating this approach? Well because it is often so tempting to get mired in the process of reworking one scene over and over again without seeing that scene in the context of the whole. This is overview time, not zeroing-in time. The other reason is a psychological one. Looking at the entire play reminds you that you indeed have a play! It may be flawed (and what first draft isn’t)? It may be way over (or under) written, it may even make your head ache, but you have your raw material. Your once shapeless marble has a tentative form. And it is that form you will continue to chip away at or add to from this point on. Honor that form, honor what you have accomplished – recognize that in that rawness lie the secrets you will need to hone and refine your work into something beautiful.

About the Author

Dale Griffiths Stamos is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced and published in the United States and abroad. She is on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and has been a guest artist at Cal Arts, where she taught the workshop, Finding Your Story. For more information, go to her website at: www.dalegriffithsstamos.com For information on Dale’s private consulting (all genres), go to: www.manuscriptconsultant.com .