There is one thing I really dislike in theory. Cutting up my words and making things shorter than I had originally intended them to be. It gives me anxiety. And this is especially true with playwriting for me. However, when I sit in an auditorium and hear my words reflected back at me – I can hear and feel what needs to be changed immediately. I can sense the repetitiveness, and catch those words that are struggling to come out of an actors’ lips. They are unnatural when they stutter. Actors have a wonderful way of showing you through their actions a lot of the things you want to convey with “SAYING” or the written word, except the “DO IT” with their bodies. And sometimes, that subtle subtext is all you need. Thus, the dreaded rewrite has turned into something exquisitely gratifying for me. Especially when I get the chance to hear actors repeat my own words to me.
Here’s the thing folks, rewrites are essential. It is the reason why novels are published, movies are made, and open mics exist. Test your material, go to a live audience, read the story to a friend, and pick the sh*t out of it. Don’t hold onto things that will keep you down. What are the unnecessary items? Figure it out and cut-cut-cut them darlings. In the end, your voice will still be in there. Your message will pop. Maybe not in the originally way you intended it to…but it will be there.
So if you’re out there struggling with cutting down your work, just remember this: no two people write the same way. Even if you’re asked to change things up or “condensed” the work — it will still be you. Trust the process, listen to your writing out loud, and let it go. Because once it’s shared, and once it’s out there for the world to see — be it on a stage, on a movie screen, or even on a blog … once it’s out there, it’s no longer yours. It belongs to the collective ‘we the people.’ And you’ll have no control over what others may think of your writing, or you, for that matter. You can just hope that the message comes through.
So here’s an exercise for you:
- write something precious
- edit it to your liking
- give it to 3 people to read
- consider their opinions and notes
- cut cut cut to clarify and clean
- read it out loud to one more person
- cut cut cut again
Here’s a cool place you can submit to: KPCC is looking for stories –