LeanerFasterStronger - towards the rehearsal draft
Originally Posted by Kaite O’Reilly – February 2012 – www.kaiteoreilly.com
I’m often asked how I rewrite a script. Strangely, this is something I have never come across in the public domain, nor heard discussed in detail at literary festivals and similar events. What follows is my own personal process. It may be useful for others to know, but it certainly isn’t prescriptive, nor can I assume something I have developed over the years might work for other writers. I think the trick is in finding what works for you. What follows is what works for me.
Few, I think, would believe my apparent aimless meandering and vacant staring into space in the days following feedback could be classified as work. But it isn’t all fun. I feel immensely fortunate to write full time, and this, combined with my hardcore work ethic (thank you, immigrant parents), makes the more reflective, apparently passive part of the process pretty challenging.
What I have learned over the years (but I keep forgetting, so have to keep reminding myself) is: it is important to give time to dream, to absorb, to be apparently passive and let the script and related ideas float comfortably somewhere in my un/subconscious. I find if I’m relaxed enough, I start dreaming the script, especially in that liminal place, when not fully asleep, but not yet awake. This dream state allows me to run the scenes on the movie screen of my mind, and I often wake and go straight to my desk without washing or dressing, knowing immediately what needs to be addressed.
Thinking about this, I assume it’s a form of lucid dreaming I have taught myself over the years. I find it works with short stories and plays, as I can hold these in their entirety in my mind and run through from beginning to end, moment by moment. Anything longer, like a novel, is too big to hold in my mind’s eye.
Before I start re-writing and whilst I’m in that mulling everything over phase, I read extensively. Once I’m actually writing, I read non-fiction or journals so that there isn’t an unintentional influence, but before I begin work I like to immerse myself in the medium and remind myself of the the possibilities of the form. This is also important as I work across several forms. Reading as much as I can for several days firmly roots me in the necessary medium and style, be that radio drama, fiction, academic writing, or live performance.
To that end, I have recently acquired a stable of plays, which I will devour over the weekend. The breadth is broad. The intention is not to read work close to my own subject matter and aesthetic, but to remind myself of a wide range of dramaturgies and theatre styles. Here is my weekend reading:
A Map of the World (David Hare)
The Water Station (Ota Shogo)
Butterfly Kiss (Phyllis Nagy)
13 (Mike Bartlett)
Far Away (Caryl Churchill)
Red Sky (Bryony Lavery)
The Prisoner’s Dilemma (David Edgar)
A Year and a Day (Christina Reid)
Disco Pigs (Enda Walsh)
Burn and Rosalind (Deborah Gearing)
Realism (Anthony Neilson)
One of the frustrating aspects of revising a script is not knowing whether the changes will work until you’ve completed the whole draft and can see it in its entirety. You may have a fantastic first third, a taut middle, or a thundering ending, but I’ve found strengthening one part of the script can paradoxically weaken a section which was previously deemed ‘fine’ – or at least didn’t draw attention to itself.
The fact of the matter is, you can’t change one part of the draft without this having repercussions and reverberations across the rest, rather like the ripples from the apocryphal pebble thrown into the still pond. Although it may have many scenes, or structures, or sequences, or sections, a script is still one entity and so all parts combine to make that whole, and each is reliant on the other.