Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Contaminating the writing process...

A lot of my students and clients are currently in the middle of writing their first working drafts of new work.  Something about the fall season and the urge to hunker down that writers pick up on, not to mention my MFA program's requirement for every student to turn in a working draft of a new full-length script by mid-December.  

So I feel compelled to once again remind all writers out there that it's so important to keep your developing draft to yourself as you work your way through it for the first time.  In my view, it's imperative that you protect this private process from all outside influence.  Other than sharing with a professional and experienced mentor or script consultant, you should embrace as a hard and fast rule to always keep your journey through that first draft a private experience. Otherwise you risk seriously contaminating your writing and your own artistic vision of the story you're creating.

Nothing can destroy a first draft faster than to show pages to your close friends and other well-meaning people in your life.  They'll want to and even feel obligated to give you feedback.  But the moment you allow people to give you input, you won't be able to get it out of your head, whether it's positive or negative.  It's contamination either way.  You've let others into a place where they should never be allowed to enter. 

Resisting this urge to share your first draft discoveries helps build an increasingly stronger and more intimate connection between you and your material.  It's as if your relationship with your characters were taking on the deeper sense of trust and mutual confidence that you would have with real people.  What's happening as you pile up pages is that your script becomes increasingly yours and your characters' own secret and your unique source of strength.  This, in turn, produces an energy which helps propel you through to the end.  Even when you're stuck on something and go through a few or many days of feeling lost, the experience remains a private one, shared only with the people inside the developing story.

The time will come soon enough when it's necessary and useful to share your script with others and hear what they have to say.  In the writing of your first draft, however, it's just as critical that you don't.  

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I'm the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.  Our last residency ran July 21-31, 2016 and we are now considering applications for starting the program with our January 2017 residency that runs January 6-15.  I'm also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter) a professional script consultant, and the author of The Playwright's Process.

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