I just finished the first draft of my one-act horror play Rosie, Bloody Rosie, and it is awful. It’s not all awful, I think the first half has a lot going for it, but I can tell that the last half was just me throwing stuff on the page…. But you know what? That’s okay, good actually. You can’t have a second draft until you’ve had a first draft. And most of my scripts start off pretty terrible in the beginning. When I start something, I have an idea of what I want to write (example: horror play with lady serial killers), but the shape of the play? The character development? Oh, so much of it isn’t there in the beginning, for me at least. For me, I have to write and just get it all out. There’s a place I’m aiming for and once I take off I basically just shout out what’s going on until I get there. Not too clever, not too pretty, but it gets the job done.
And then I get to start rewrites! I get to take out the hundred times I say the same line over and over, and take out all the ellipses, which there are many. For me, my writing happens more in rewriting. That’s when I figure out what I’m actually trying to say. I mean, this week I’ve done a ton of rewrites on Under The Gods’ Golden Cleats, after hearing my actors rock the scenes out. It wasn’t until I hear them doing it that I realized what I needed and didn’t. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t written the totally garbage version of it so many months back.
So flounder, wander aimlessly, let it be bad. Because you can change it, you can fix it! And you will, but first drafts aren’t about getting everything right, and when you take the burden off of it, you’ll find you can finish them much faster!
Trust me, first drafts stink, that’s what they’re there for.