This is the second of our weekly "Rhino Burst *" in which an experienced playwright rallies us to the cause . This week's "call to arms" comes to you from our first 2008 NaPlWriMo winner, Dean Lundquist. Dean completed his first draft a whole 14 days before NaPlWriMo ended. Wow ! I asked Dean for the secrets behind his success, which he generously shares below.
1) Write with an outline.
I know that you might feel like writing with an outline robs you of your creativity.However, I think it gives your play structure.Even if you only think of it as 3 parts: beginning, middle and end. Knowing where you’re going will help keep you on target.
2) Write to an image.
I tend to think about what I want to see on stage. If I focus on the image and how to build towards it, it gives me some focus as well. And it doesn’t have to be just image. I could be other sensorial perceptions as well. Music is often a big part of my writing. I want to hear this music at this time—how can I make it come it and what is its significance.
3) Invest in your characters.
Sometimes I have drafted all the plot points that need to come out in a scene. I sit down to write and still find it hard. The dialogue may seemed forced or it doesn’t flow right. Usually I find that it stems from not knowing clearly what one of the characters wants in that scene. If I go back, flesh out the character in more detail, then usually I figure out what is wrong.
4) Organise a reading.
About a week after I started writing, I knew I would probably have a draft in a week. At that point I knew all the characters in the play, and knew a lot about them. Then I went out and started approaching actors about doing a reading, finding a place, time, etc. If you don’t know a bunch of actors, that’s okay. Get some friends together to read it for you. Knowing that it’s going to be read at a certain date and time can be a great motivator. I just don’t want to have it come hot out of the printer and into their hands. I want some time to refine it, take off the rough edges, reflect about it and make it better as well.
5) Don’t worry about theme.
Just tell your story. Themes will emerge. You will see them start to appear—this is the cool part. Sometimes I start not knowing if I can glean any deeper insight into what the play is about. It’s for others to determine what your play is about. I think a great play may mean many things to different people. Sometimes, they pick up on things you didn’t even think about—and it’s nice to hear their ideas and then say, “Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t think about that when I was writing but it’s true.” Let your audience get their own truth from it. If I try to get to into the message, I find that I end up being preachy. No one likes that really.
6) Value what you have to offer.
I’ve heard a lot of writers say that their work was no good. Or they look back on things they wrote earlier with scorn. Realize that every day, every play, every thing you make is a form of evolution. I like to think of playwriting as more like play evolving. Let it evolve naturally. Know that what you have inside is good and let it come out. If you don’t like it later, then go back and change it.
7) Write every day.
Get into a routine. I think to keep going you have to make a date with yourself. Don’t break it! Make sure you make time for you to write and don’t let anything get it its way.
8) Check-in when you need support.
Everyone on the site wants everyone else to complete their play. Don’t feel like it’s a race. We all want you to cross the finish line. If you need a little help or prodding, check in and post what’s going on. Sometimes just communicating your problem, talking it out, writing it out, will show you solutions.
9) Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I like to think of playwriting being a lot like painting a picture. You start with an outline and then go and fill in the details. If you get bogged down in details, you can’t see the whole picture. I know the temptation might be to want to get the upper right hand corner of the painting exactly right. But when you see it in the context of the whole picture, then it looks out of place. Or obsessing on getting that one little bit right stops you from standing back and seeing the whole thing.
10) Write and reflect.
I usually don’t sit down and say “I’m going to write X number of pages today.” I write until I’m done. Maybe I write a page. Maybe I write 20. Then I go away and think about it—analyze it. See if it works. I get some ideas and usually something new pops up. Then it motivates me to go back and write again the next day.
Hope these are some help to you.
Originally from Ventura, California, Dean now makes his home in Singapore. Trained as an actor, he studied Renaissance English dramatic literature and dramatic art at the University of California, Berkeley before studying at The American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. In 1998, his first produced play, The Haircut, a play about a Korean War veteran and his HIV positive barber, was produced in both the United States and Canada receiving productions in Las Vegas and Toronto.He was honoured by the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) as well as the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) for his directing and playwriting. Since moving to Singapore in 2004, he has been busy writing, directing, teaching and occasionally acting. He has taught at Modern Montessori International, American Academic Alliance, Raffles Institution, The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the LASALLE College of the Arts. For more, check out his website: http://deanlundquist.com