Thursday, September 14, 2017

SURF'S UP follow up

This is a follow-up to the two articles I did last week where I posted a ten-minute one-act play I wrote for a one-day play festival and followed it up the next day with my process. I received a Friday Question that became an entire post.

It is from Cheryl Marks.

I'm interested how long it took you to get to the "start," that is, to settle on the scenario and the relationship? (I immediately flashed on your talented daughter, Annie, and you and the "flip" seemed quite appropriate.) 

And then, once you started writing did you have to go back and revise any of the premise? 

And lastly did you have any feelings of despair or the sense that you should scrap the whole thing and start again?

In this case about forty-five minutes to settle on the premise. I never want to rush through that part of the process because if your premise doesn’t work the rest of the exercise becomes a nightmare.

What I always do is bat around several premises. And see where they go.

It’s not enough to just have an idea, you need to see if it has legs.

Allow yourself the freedom to really riff. Explore various options. What if the daughter wants to drop out and go around the world? What if this is the third harebrained idea Dad has had? What if the daughter wants to move back to New York to be with her mother? What if Dad is a school teacher and can’t face the prospect of another full year?

Don’t just go with your first idea. It’s worth the daydream time to settle on the “best” idea.

Once I start writing I always leave open the possibility that I may have to make adjustments along the way. That way I let the characters guide me and I follow their lead, and sometimes they take me to unexpected places.

When that happens I’m left with two options. Follow the new path. Or stop, go back, throw out the recent section, and start again down the original path. You have to be willing to throw stuff out. You have to be willing to stop, say: “Ugh! That sucks.” Believe me, I go down a lot of these blind paths through the course of writing full-length plays. I keep a discard file and for a 90 page script I might have 40 pages I threw out. But it’s all part of the process.

In the case of SURF’S UP, it seemed to fall into place. But that’s THIS TIME. Next time when I do the exercise again it might be a whole different story. So I never had that feeling of despair, but it happens. Sometimes you just have to power through it. The problem could be that you’re too close to it and have lost objectivity and it’s not nearly as bad and you think it is. And then sometimes it is a piece of shit and deserves to be thrown in a drawer never to be seen again.

Hope that answers your questions. I find the writing process fascinating. No two writers have the same process. But then, no two writers write the same thing. (Well, that does happen but then one of the writers is sued.) 


Cheryl Marks said...

Thanks Ken. That does answer my question. I too am fascinated by the writing process, especially that used by successful writers like you. (OK, that's enough suckin up.)
Once again, thanks.

Joseph said...

Thanks for sharing. Good to know that very experienced writers like yourself still struggle but just push through it.