Playwriting

Re-writes

Oh it can be a dirty little word. Re-writes. To “re-do.” It suggests that what was “written” is not good enough and needs to be “redone.” Why should I re-do something that took so long to get on the page in the first place? I don’t need to re-write. Which of course, is the worst attitude to have when it comes to your work.

It is impossible to have your best work come out of you in one go. Can it be good? Yes. Can it be more than good? Sure. Will it be your best? No. Because art takes time. Art benefits from time on the counter. Time away from your brain. I’m amazed at how well re-writes go when I turn my back on something for a day.

The same applies for feedback. Is there bad feedback? Yes. Is there unhelpful feedback? Sure. Will your work be its best without it? No. Your work cannot be the best that it can be in a vacuum. Theatre is a collaborative event – it takes everyone on stage and everyone in the audience to make it happen. Because of that, it’s important to find out how a script plays to an outside observer. Better before it’s finished than on opening night. It may hurt, it may suck but it’s important if you’re going to move forward with rewrites. Particularly if the feedback is right and you’re not.

It happens all the time. Writers can get too close to their words and miss the forest for the trees. That’s where an outside eye can be of use. In the beginning stages I get my feedback from one person. Craig. He is a focused reader, he knows what to look for to in a script and he knows how to frame criticism. I know he has my best interests at heart, which is to make the play the best it can be. He’s not trying to wrench a play to suit his interests, or (as sometimes happens) trying to re-write it the way he would do it.

Recently I got some less than positive feedback from Craig on a draft of a current work. The play needed a major rewrite on the main character. Now, I could have ignored this feedback. To tell you the truth the feedback made me rather angry. How dare he criticize my baby! I could have said screw-you and handed in the draft as is. But then what? What’s more important, my fragile writer’s ego, or a good play?

So I waited a day (always important, never write angry) locked myself in a room and went mano e mano with this feedback. Then I got down to re-writing that main character. As it turned out the “major” re-write only required fine tuning the character’s journey and wants. Which made her a better character. Which made the play better. Which is the point of everything, yes?

Bottom line – re-writes, when used in the spirit of making the play the best it can be, are always going to be necessary.

About the author

Lindsay Price

1 Comment

  • See, I love re-writes. It’s so comforting to be in the
    re-writing phase. I’ve been re-writing for two years and I love it because no one
    else is involved but me. The longer I stay at re-writing, the longer it stays
    out of anyone else’s hands because what really sets me on edge is other people’s
    feedback. It makes me think that I am a disaster at this and I should have
    known better and why didn’t I think of that and a whole lot of other defensive,
    paranoid (yes, the Writer Police are after me), and generally project-stopping head
    nonsense. I really need to be reminded, as your article does, that criticism is
    the only way to make the work better. That even what I think is unhelpful
    criticism can be a help if I look at it positively. And that I really need to
    get over myself.