You Can Fix It

Did your show get a lackluster response at your first reading for trusted theatre friends?

Or have you not given the reading yet because every time you look at the script all you see are insurmountable problems?

You can fix it.

I’ve watched all four seasons of “Black Sails” over the last year. Season 1 had so many flaws that I literally forced myself to finish it only because someone I trust insisted that the show would improve tremendously in Season 2. It did and continued to do so with each season. It stopped depicting some characters as two-dimensional and disposable and began depicting characters from vastly different backgrounds as complex and recognizably human. No show is perfect but some speeches in this one were uniquely gorgeous. So if a TV show with serious flaws can turn itself around under the pressure of deadlines and ratings and corporate “mainstream” demands, then you can fix your solo show, without a network breathing down your neck and a whole lotta people’s jobs on the line. Thank goodness.

Some tips on how to fix your script:

  1. Do you have a scene that includes a lot of ruminating, opining, venting, etc.? One that reads like a well written journal? Delete that sucker. You can keep the part in which you’re depicting behavior or something active that moves the plot forward or enriches the theme, but remove the part that reads like a…blog. I bet all that writing could be distilled into one narrative sentence or line of dialogue, and your delivery will give it more than enough substance.
  2. Is there a recurring character who comes across as the Bad Guy or the Good Guy? One way to improve any script is by making sure that every character is prismatic or at least unpredictable at one point. That includes the character of you. If you’re a lovable victim or hero throughout your show, you’ve got a problem. Luckily, it’s easy to fix. Add a scene or two in which you’re the most flawed character in the play. Now your audience will believe you.
  3. Work on another script for the sheer fun of it. As I mentioned in a previous post, when I didn’t know how to fix my current script, I started a new one with a goofy premise that made me giggle. It revived my muse and I ultimately realized that I could combine the two scripts, which made all the difference.
  4. Walk away for at least two weeks. It’s okay, you can work on the “fun” script or another creative project that doesn’t fill you with dread/despair in the meantime. It can be tiny: a doodle a day, or a one-line poem, or a single photograph, whatever. You can also take a real break and just absorb other artists’ work. They may inspire you.
    When you come back to your piece after the break, it will be easier to see what can go, what can be enhanced, and what can be restructured. If you decide that only 5% can stay, that’s okay. Every moment you spent on it was valuable because you were making something. Imagine if you’d spent that time destroying something, or doing something you hate, or passively letting your life drift by.
    Naw. We’re here to create. As Martha Graham so famously said, “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” That is how we connect, as artists.
  5. Set a timer to work on it for 20 minutes at a time, tops. I’ve fixed entire scenes in less time than that, especially after taking a break from working on the script. You do not have to give up an entire three-day holiday or spend 3-6 hours per day/night on it. Er, unless you’re on a deadline. The good news is: that deadline will arrive no matter what and it’s getting closer every minute…so the crunch will be over soon and then you can go back to 20-minute writing sessions when you revise. Woohoo!

Another tip: keep copies of each daily draft. I rename every single day’s work with the current date, so I can always go back to a previous date to find something I might have deleted or changed. Yes, this means I have a gajillion files for one script, but it also means I never lose anything I write.

You can also turn on the “show markups” option, but I find that that ends up looking too “busy” and confusing.

Do what works for you.

Always remember: your creative work matters. Every moment that you devote to it is productive and good. Better to have spent 10 minutes creating than several hours destroying/wasting/not-even-trying. The world is a better place for it, and I thank you.

BONUS: This talk is encouraging for anyone trying to make something. It also validates my point about spending less time on something while still working on it regularly.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists by Andrew Price

[Edited 4/11/17. -EL]

Announcement: I’ve set my workshop schedule for the rest of 2017. Take a look! Click on “click for more” under “Group Solo Show & Memoir Workshops.”

Thank you for reading my twenty-second post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.