Saturday, January 3, 2009

Well, I've written a play.

It doesn't have a title yet, and it is still at least two full rewrites away from performable. But Draft 1.5 is done enough that I made Columbia's deadline last night, by the skin of my teeth (I love you, 24-hour emergency window at the big post office by Penn Station!), and it should be a real second draft by my next deadline on the 9th.

Things I Learned About My Writing While Working On This Play:
  1. I cannot write in a vacuum. This was by far the biggest project I've ever undertaken that did not involve either collaboration or feedback from a workshop. It is MUCH harder alone. And also much less fun.
    Conclusion: don't write in a vacuum. Things improved exponentially when I finally showed my sister a draft, and I should have involved her earlier.

  2. I am incapable of not writing jokes.
    Conclusion: Lampshading it by having consciously joke-making characters is working so far...

  3. I am very good at ending scenes. I am okay at starting scenes. I am rubbish at the middle parts.
    Conclusion: You know what has lots and lots of short scenes? Television.

  4. All of my characters sound vaguely British.
    Conclusion: I watch too much British television.

  5. My plots have a tendency towards the "slow reveal of a complicated backstory" style because I get too into world-building.
    Conclusion: Uhh... Work on that?
    Alternative: Become a tv show-runner.

  6. I am excellent at banter (see #2) and casual or casual-seeming conversation. And pretty good at pacing big reveals. I am very self-conscious at Talking About Feelings, and generally make someone leaven it with jokes (see #2) because, well, I don't like Talking About Feelings.
    Conclusion: Get used to it.
    Alternative: Sitcoms.
    Second alternative: Musicals. The feelings are the lyricist's problem.

  7. It is much, much easier to write two-person scenes than any-other-number-of-person scenes.

  8. I tend to forget that in non-musical plays, you can have things like protagonists with vague motivations (no need for an "I want"!) and you don't need "finales" or any of that jazz. But that does mean you need to replace the 11 o'clock number with an 11 o'clock Scene of Awesomeness That Keeps People Awake, which is harder without dancing and trumpets. And sadly, you have to take care of the emotional stuff yourself, instead of letting it be the lyricist's problem. (see #6)
    Conclusion: The fact that I'm in a librettists' workshop and read/see far more musicals than plays probably isn't helping my effort to not default to musical format...

  9. I am very good at writing my way out of corners.
    Conclusion: More corners.
I will probably add to this list as I think of more lessons learned.

Oh yes, the story! It's about two young graduate students working in a lab in the Netherlands, developing a Large Hadron Collider-style particle accelerator that, according to one guy, might accidentally invent time travel. And might also accidentally destroy the world.

Here's an impressive picture of the real Large Hadron Collider. I don't expect my set to look like this: