Navigation

Follow Authorlink:

All about publishing a book, getting help to convert a PDF to eBook, and keeping up with publishing industry news

THE PLAY’S THE THING: Part 3: Rewriting– On Your Own

| Format: Written | Contributor:

Stamos photo

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

THE PLAY’S THE THING
Part 3: Rewriting – On Your Own
The Private Process

By Dale Griffiths Stamos
January 2011

". . . as in all forms of writing, plays are not written, they are rewritten."
—STAMOS

With the new year I am beginning Part III of my series on the nuts and bolts of playwriting, inception to production.

Part III will focus on the rewriting process. Remember as in all forms of writing, plays are not written, they are rewritten. I cannot stress enough the importance of that statement.

There are, in reality, two different parts of the rewriting process, the private and the public.

The private part is what you do in the quiet of your workspace, without outside influence. This is when, using only your own judgement as guide, you write as many drafts as you need to until you feel the play truly reflects your vision.

The public part is when you release your precious play to other eyes than your own (colleagues, friends, staged readings, etc.) You will then rewrite again, based on the feedback you find most helpful. I will cover the public aspect of rewriting in Part IV.

"For now, I highly recommend you keep the rewriting process to yourself."
—STAMOS

For now, I highly recommend you keep the rewriting process to yourself. Admittedly, there are different opinions on this. Many writers, for example, bring their earliest efforts, usually in the form of a scene or two, to writer’s groups. When I first began to write plays, I did this. And perhaps, if you are beginner, this may be a useful path to follow, especially if you are among writers you respect. But there are also drawbacks. The first is that, if you are not clear on what you’re writing, you can get easily swayed at this formative stage to pursue directions that might not be in alignment with your intent. Second, you may fall into the trap (as I once did) of writing and rewriting Act I, Scene 1 over and over, trying to “get it right.” The issue, as I have stressed many times in my previous columns is not whether one particular scene works, but if the structure of your entire play works. Until you fix the latter, the former will flounder. A group to which you bring just scenes may not help you resolve that.

"Now is the time to solidify and hone your own sense of the strengths and weaknesses . . ."
—STAMOS

So why not, at this first draft stage, start seeking opinions on the whole script? Well, because there will be plenty of time later to get other peoples’ opinions (and believe me, they will give them). Now is the time to solidify and hone your own sense of the strengths and weaknesses of your work, in other words, the time to develop your own critical eye. This will serve you over and over as you write subsequent plays.

It is during this private phase that you ask the hard structural questions, learn to ruthlessly edit, identify clunky dialogue or passages of exposition, sense when one scene needs to be placed elsewhere in the script, or perhaps be taken out entirely. This is the time, in other words, to be as objective about your work as possible, to approach your play, if you will, as if it were someone else’s and you have been given the job of making it as strong as possible.

"The best way to gain some of that objectivity is to put the first draft away. Yes. For at least two weeks. "
—STAMOS

The best way to gain some of that objectivity is to put the first draft away. Yes. For at least two weeks. Find something else to do, straighten your office, pay those bills, go for long walks, or start tackling that long To Do list that kept getting longer while you were deep into writing.

You will be surprised, when you return to the play, by to what stands out as working or not working. This fresh perspective will go a long way toward jump starting your second draft. This is where we will begin, then, in the next column.

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 .