By Benn Farrell – UPDATED: June 8, 2019
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s a cliche I used to heartily believe, but when it comes to my development of a new stageplay, I find the cliche changes to “You can teach a old dog to do old tricks in a new way.”
When I began developing my latest stageplay, still only in its first draft, I fell back on a technique I developed in college. It still famously works for me, and because of it, I was able to pump out the first draft of Hook and Ladder within six weeks.
With my ghost writing services, I would love to help anyone having trouble getting started with their creative writing project. I’d be honored to help you get the ball rolling, and this technique I have developed to get started can be transposed to writing fiction, non-fiction, stageplays, screenplays, television, etc; possibly even instructional guides. If you feel I can help you get your special creative writing project on paper, visit the Work with Me or the Ghost Writing Services pages of this Web site to learn more and don’t be afraid to reach out.
For now, here is how I am usually able to get started on a new creative project.
When I was in college and aspiring to be a filmmaker, I took a couple of playwriting classes while I was immersed in the performing arts of the school and the community. By then I had already written a handful of screenplays and had my own methods of development, especially ones that were linear given I started on a typewriter and not a laptop like today.
However, when I had finally made the switch to writing my scripts on a laptop, I had learned a key technique in my creative process when developing a new play or screenplay which I still use today. Even after graduating, my former instructors invited me back to workshop their writing classes to share what I had learned and achieved by that point in my writing life.
The technique I had learned, having moved away from the non-linear jail house manner in which writing a screenplay to which a typewriter shackles you, was easy to convey to new students. Every aspiring playwright or screenwriter has a story to tell for the stage or screen. In either of these mediums, usually whoever is writing the play has one, two or several scenes played out in his or her head even before they start writing.
When I was younger, when I had a new play idea, I would take weeks writing the back stories of each major character so I had a firm grasp of their life by the point my story started. After that, it was about actually writing the script. Some stage and screen writers say the two hardest words to write when starting a new project is FADE IN. I agree. It is the hardest task to write the first words of a new play, whether you have done all your background homework or not.
So the technique I decided work best for me to get past this ended up being quite easy. Eventually, I learned to refuse to write the first scene of my script first. Instead, I focused on writing all the vivid, exciting and plot turning scenes I had in my head first. Sometimes, I would end up writing the climax of the entire show as an actual scene on paper. Sometimes I would write the last scene of Act I just so I knew where I would leave my story to have the audience come back from intermission interested in knowing what’s going to happen next.
If I had any scene which I could see clearly in my head and know exactly what was going to be conveyed as far as content, that is exactly the scene with which I started to write first. Now these scenes were hardly immaculate, and for the most part they would eventually be re-written several times over as the rest of the script started to come together during my development process. However, those scenes served a key purpose in my script writing process as a whole. Composing the rest of the script around my most vivid scenes made completing the first draft far easier than writing from point A to point B.
Think of it as designing a connect the dots challenge, which we all did when we were kids. You have a series of dots with numbers on them, and the challenge is to use a pencil to start from dot No. 1 and draw a series of lines connecting each dot in the right order until your entire picture is completed. When you’re finished, you’ve actually drawn something. This is now the cornerstone approach I use to writing all my scripts. The scenes which are most vivid in my head are what I write first. All the other scenes between them are simply me connecting the dots with necessary plot points to get to what are ultimately my strongest scenes.
Like I said, those key scenes were usually rewritten, because as I started to get into connecting them I would usually come up with little character tweaks or maybe a new subplot or a beat or two which didn’t exactly connect to my next vivid scene. However, it would improve the dynamic of the story as a whole.
One of the worst things you can do as a writer is have such a huge ego that anything you’ve written prior to your final draft is considered gold. I have written plays which started with what I thought was my strongest scene in the entire show, and by the time I got done with it, going through all my techniques, that first scene I wrote actually became the weakest and I inevitably ended up cutting it from the final draft.
Remember, your final work is a work of art. Art belongs to its audience not to you. If you get to a point where your art is now living on its own, do not make excuses for not cutting material which may have been the cornerstone of the whole thing. That is a move based on ego, not for what’s best for your finished product.
Once again, to get started, right the most vivid scenes that are in your head first. Then to get your first draft finished, all you have to do is play connect the dots.
If you feel I can help you with this technique and would like to have me be your ghost writer for your special project, please reach out and Work with Me so we can discuss how I can assist you with your start today.