The four full-length plays I’ve had produced (with a fifth coming next fall!) are all adaptations. I confess, I enjoy the process of adaptation immensely. There is something immensely satisfying in that moment when I find that thing that will take the feeling I had reading the book and deliver it to an audience, watching a similar story on stage. I say similar story, rather than the same story, because it’s just not the same. It cannot be. Take The Count of Monte Cristo, for example. If the length of the audiobook is any indication, it takes over fifty hours to read. There’s no way the two-and-a-half hour play I wrote is the same story. For me the novel is source material. It is a mine, from which I will extract the metals which I will then shape into the small jewel that is my play.
Holy shit that sounds pretentious. Did you see that? I just called my play a jewel. I gave myself the embarrassment shivers.
I have been attempting to focus on more original work. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a few goals in mind: A play for my horror theatre company, a novel. The work has not been going well. I spent half of September slavishly forcing myself to hit a page count goal on an original script. I got pretty far into it but my enthusiasm for the project decreased by degrees day by day until it just stopped being fun. I didn’t know where the story was going. I was filling pages with padding and fluff in an attempt to stretch a weak notion of a story into 1.5 hours worth of staged entertainment. I was bored. And pretty soon I quit. To my shame.
I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out what went wrong. Why did I get bored? Why don’t I get bored when writing an adaptation? Can I only write adaptations? I don’t supposed there would be anything wrong with that, but I selfishly want to put my name on something that is MINE ALL MINE. But I’m not the kind of writer that has stories and language and characters bursting at the seams to get out of my brain and onto the page. I have lots of little nuggets of ideas. I just need that blueprint to figure out what to do with those nuggets. That’s what the source material does for my adaptations. Original works, however, don’t come with such a blueprint.
And then one of my favorite authors, Chuck Wendig, posted this on his blog. It’s a post about outlining, which is something I knew many writers did but which I hadn’t figured out, because my only real experience with outlining was the version taught in junior high school, and at which I was not very good. But it turns out there are as many versions of outlining as there are authors who use the technique. I had always found the idea of discovery writing – just letting the words flow and seeing where the story takes you – to be very romantic, but for me it just hasn’t gotten the job done. I think it might be time to give outlining a serious try.
SO… I’m going to go back over the stuff I wrote in September and see if I can figure out where it was headed. I’m going to mine what works and from that I’m going to try building an outline. I will try to make it as detailed as I possibly can. I’ll spend some time on this, because the next step will be to take that outline, and adapt it into a play. (See what I did there?)
Should be fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.