My latest great idea has nipped me in the ass, it's cold out, and my kitten just wants to cuddle. These are the reasons I haven't been writing on the blog as much. If you've taken up the Creative Cleanse journey, then you know that this week is all about doing absolutely nothing. It's the week of stewing, marinating, escaping into wonder and relaxation and allowing the synapses to fire at will. Doing nothing is terrific. But I wanted to let you in on how doing nothing is manifesting in my latest creative process. It's a new part of my process that I usually don't have much use for: research and preparation. When I wrote my book, the research had already been done. I had lived the last ten years of my life and therefore had many things to draw upon. But now, in this fictional, thematic, quasi-complicated play I'm writing (did I tell you I'm writing a play?), mama needs to go beyond what's in her head.
If I'm not careful in this phase, I can get stuck plodding and planning. The research part can suck the mojo right out from under my flappy little wings, so it's important that I gather my information, sources, references, photos, articles, what have you, and start getting my words down on the page as soon as possible. It's a fine balance between hanging out in no man's land and hittin' the road. Tricky balance, but not impossible.
To help me, I am taking up Steven Pressfield's suggestion of starting with The Foolscap Method. He uses this to write a novel, but it could be used for anything. You distill your story down to its essence, identify the theme, narrative device, and climax and then get to work writing it. Right now I'm filling up on imagery and statistics and random facts like the state motto of New Hampshire. It can feel like a jumbled mess as I try to fit all those pieces together. But with this method of getting the story's essence onto one piece of paper, I'm actually making more connections and uncovering more ideas for the story than had I not used it. Here's what it boils down to as I understand it:
- As simply as possible, write down what happens in Act 1 / Act 2 / Act 3. Every story has three parts, so even if the play doesn't split into three acts, it will split into three major events.
- Choose the narrative device. I'm choosing whose point of view we're getting as the story is told as well as the mechanical devices within the play. This piece will use words, movement, and music to tell the story, so deciding how those parts will communicate the story forward will be key.
- Decide on the theme. I had my theme before I had a setting, a character, or even a decision on whether or not this would work best on film or stage. The theme will have a bagillion layers and nuances to it, but choose the theme now and let the color come out in the writing.
- Pick the inciting incident and climax. The inciting incident is what sets the story off (found in Act 1) and the climax is the ultimate precipice of the story (found at the end of Act 2 before the denouement).
Here's what my Foolscap Method for my play looks like:
Quick and dirty, but it clarified almost everything for me. Soon I'll get to work breaking down each act and writing until my little fingers fall off. But for now: nothing. Research, preparation, kitten snuggles, and a whole bunch of nada.