This month I decided to sign up for the '28 Plays Later' challenge. Essentially, this involves receiving a different challenge each day in February, writing a short play inspired by the challenge, and sending it in to the organizer within 36 hours. I took this on for several reasons. I hoped it would help me work through some general writer's block issues I was having, and build up a habit of fitting writing into my life on a daily basis. I also hoped that it would help me with some more specific issues I was having with playwriting. Most of my writing is fiction, along with some poetry and non-fiction, but I have always also had an interest in writing scripts. Lately I'd been trying to develop some ideas in that area, but found that I was really having difficulty getting the dialogue to flow. As a storyteller, I have gotten in the habit of reducing any dialogue in a story to the bare minimum: a few punchy lines tend to be effective in that context, while long conversations between characters become confusing. I found that I was feeling my scenes were done and not knowing what to add to them, even though they were obviously far too short.
I am now halfway through, with my 14th little play just waiting for a quick final edit. I managed to get through being away at an event where I had neither time to write nor internet access for most of the weekend, which meant sending in one play the Friday night and one the Sunday night within just a few hours of looking at the day's challenge. I have really liked the variety of challenges so far: the organizer does a great job of encouraging writers to try different angles and approaches from one day to another. I have found myself able to come up with a concept and put it into a reasonably complete form to submit every day. Whether I'll be able to continue the momentum with other writing after the challenge is over remains to be seen of course: I have not always been successful with that when doing other challenges such as NaNoWriMo. But at the very least I have reminded myself that I am, indeed, capable of sitting down and writing in a focused way on a daily basis.
As to improving as a script-writer, I'm also a bit uncertain. I am definitely practicing the tools of the art, and although the scripts have all been short, I have written several relatively long scenes. However, there have not been any scripts that I felt were really strongly written, and where there are longer scenes it is often simply because the characters chatter on without anything very interesting happening. I went into this challenge with the idea that I would not worry much about quality, but am suspecting that I perhaps am taking that further than I should, and am not so much avoiding perfectionism as simply doing a half-assed job. There are little bits and pieces in the scripts so far that I like, but nothing that I feel really inclined to come back to after February is over. I tend to send the scripts off with the feeling that I would be quite happy never to look at them again. I hope that I am gaining a bit of fluency with playwriting, but I suspect that part of what I need to do with the scripts I really want to develop, is to go deeper into the characters and the themes of the play, and build the dialogue up from there. Writing plays under the time constraints of this challenge does tend to mean that once the play is drafted out, I don't go back for that deeper look.
I will endeavour to post again after 28 Plays Later is finished.