Tag Archives: how to write a play

Writing method trial – the result

There's memes, there's gags, and there's real life. This one is all three.

With luck, this joke will no longer be true of my writing life…

Last month I ran a trial. I was going to take an old project, one that had been through many incarnations, and start over one more time. This time, however, I would be using a new method, gleaned from Rachel Aaron’s book, “2000 – 10000”.

On the wall is the plot overview, beneath it are the two scene breakdowns, then the individual sheets are for each scene.

On the wall is the plot overview, beneath it are the two scene breakdowns, then the individual sheets are for each scene.

The method itself isn’t very revolutionary – at least, not in the way I applied it. I would simply start by outlining the whole plot, then do a more detailed outline, and then break that detailed outline into scenes. Finally I would take each scene and write another detailed outline, and then I would write the script, a scene at a time, from the outlines.

Some of you are probably wondering what the hell I did before now, if this is my “revolutionary” system. Well, like I said in my original post, I wrote by the seat of my pants, hoping that the storyline would work out along the way and end up somewhere satisfactory.

Yes, really.

Being the lazy toerag I am, I took the first three weeks of February writing outlines. I left myself the last week to actually write the play itself. I reckoned it broke down into about eight scenes, four in each half, with a prologue setup. The first day of writing was very encouraging, with two scenes completed in an hour and a half, with a word count of two thousand words or more. This was actually working!

I only got to spend four days that week writing, and didn’t get my two scenes a day, though I was well on the way by the time Friday rolled around. I was confident that I would have this play done and dusted by the end of the first week of March.

Well, this is the Tuesday of that week. I wrote “Curtain” on the final scene of Act Two this morning, in a sort of daze. All in all, I’ve spent around eight to ten hours actually writing. Maybe two work days for real people*. I’ve produced, in that time, over 11000 words, and a complete full-length play, my first in more than a year. I’ve also done the preliminary planning for a one-act play that I intend to have finished by Friday. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

I’m not going to say this is the only system, or even the best system. What I’ve found in the past is that any system will have its champions and its detractors. What works for me may be living hell for someone else. But I know I have done more and better work in the last fortnight than I have in the two years preceding. My next aim is to have three short plays adding up to a decent one-act written and ready for publication by the end of this month – one a week. If I can achieve that, and I think I can, I will have proved this new system to my satisfaction.

What’s YOUR system? Doesn’t have to be a writing system – for a while we had the infamous “Tidy Friday” plan, where everyone in the household cleaned the whole place between four and six on a Friday night, so we had a clean home for the weekend. Tell me the secrets you’ve discovered that lead to an organised life! Best suggestion wins a personalised Certificate of Organisationalism!



*i.e. not writers. Writers aren’t real people.