So yesterday I did indeed hand in my entry for the Toronto Fringe Festival's 24 Hour Playwriting Contest. I was thinking of blogging throughout the contest, but decided against that pretty quick - a few Twitter updates were all I managed. But before the whole experience disappears into an even blurrier memory than it already is, I'll outline how the 24 hours played out for me (Since judging for the contest is done blind and is going on right now, I'll avoid making any actual reference to the content of my script). Besides the Twitter updates these times are all approximate, but roughly speaking here's how my day o' play went down:
6pm-7pm Arrived at the Fringe Beer Tent and asked a volunteer where the playwrights should be for the contest launch. Was told the launch would be inside the Fringe Club (which is not what the email said). Went inside, where a sign directed me back outside. Confusion ensued. Luckily, another waiting playwright noticed my confusion and invited me to join he and Waiting Playwright #3 at their table so we could all be confused together. Pleasant chat followed and it became clear we were indeed in the right place as more confused playwrights gathered and a sign-in station was set up, ending said confusion.
7pm -The 24 hour clock starts As sixty or so playwrights salivated, the rules were announced. But we knew those. Finally, they got to the good stuff - the four things that had to be included in our final script. My plan had been to not think about what I was going to do with any one item until the last one had been read, but after the first my mind started racing anyway.
7:05-7:15ish The feeling of urgency not yet setting in I lingered to say hello to an old friend from work and a new friend from Twitter, both of whom were participating in the contest. One of them used her phone to go online and look up the definition of item number three.
7:15pm-7:45pm During the subway ride I pulled out my notebook (urm, paper notebook, not a laptop) and wrote one item apiece on the top of four pages. Brainstormed all the various ways that the announced items could be interpreted and what kind of people/situations each of those things would be relevant to.
7:45pm-8:20pm During the bus ride, started fleshing out two different ideas I'd had based on all that brainstorming.
8:20pm-8:30pm Stopped at Rabba for butter tarts and a loaf of bread. Had third idea.
8:30pm-9pm Tried to chat with Steve about his day (still no sense of urgency), but he just wanted to know what the four things were. He acted as a sounding board for the three ideas I had. I was leaning toward the second, but talking to him brought me back to the first (which was actually the mind-racing one that began as soon as item number one was announced).
9pm-9:05pm Called my mother and left a message. She wanted to know what the four things were too, so I told her answering machine. (Did speak to her later in the night though I can't recall when).
9:05pm Fired up the computer. Mildly annoyed to see the four terms were posted just a few minutes after 7pm via Fringe Toronto's twitter account. So, there was absolutely no need for me to rearrange my day to be downtown? Ah well, TTC rides always get my creativity going anyway.
9:14pm Tweet: "Into hour three of the 24 hr Playwriting Contest... I think I have a loose plot, but only outlining will let me know for sure..."
9:15pm-10:15pm Despite tweet, only outlined for a few minutes before starting first scene. Got two pages in and liked them, but still don't know what came next. Decided I fired up the computer prematurely. Wandered back out to the living room to return to fleshing out the idea on paper. That didn't work well either. Wandered from office to living room multiple times, wondering if I'd chosen the right idea after all.
10:15pm Decided I was being drawn to the living room by the company of cats and Steve as much as the paper notebook. Moved the laptop out to the living room. Planned to write with the TV on in the background, which is much more normal for me.
11pm-12am But this wasn't really writing. Mostly watched The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
12am-1am Still lounging in the living room rather than working in the oh-so-clean office, I decided to treat this like NaNoWriMo - turn off the internal editor and just type. Slowly, ever so slowly, things started to flow...
1am-4am Got just over halfway through the story and was actually feeling good about it. Had been doing some editing as I wrote, but not enough to slow me down too much. Writing-wise I could have kept going, but by 4am my body was getting a little annoyed. Decided this was as good a time as any for that extended nap I was planning on taking.
4am-4:30am Getting ready for bed took awhile since the moment the computer had shut down I knew exactly what should happen next to lead toward the ending I wanted. Paper notes were made in case morning brain failed to remember.
6:30am-7am Steve had set his alarm for 6:30am (because that's the time I asked for). He got up and got the coffee going. I hid in the bed protesting the morning for another half-hour.
7am-7:30am Coffee. Updated Steve. Did I mention coffee?
7:40am Tweet: "After two hours of sleep I'm breakfasting then will be back at the 24 Hour Playwriting contest."
7:42am Follow-up Tweet: "After a VERY slow start last night, the play started flowing just after midnight. Hopefully I can keep riding that train this morning."
7:45am-11:30am Apparently I could still ride that train. After re-reading and tweaking what was already there I got 95% of the way through the story. Steve helped by bringing lunch so I didn't have to stop. (Has it come across that Steve is awesome? Because he is.) So why stop writing? Because I would soon be missing my in-house critic as Steve had to leave at 12 for an appointment to donate blood (See? Awesome).
11:30am-Noon Steve read what I had and I told him what the last scene and a half would hold. He pointed out a few awkwardly phrased lines and was, as always, the embodiment of encouragement.
Noon-12:55pm Wrote the last scenes. The ending turned out differently than what I planned.
12:56pm Tweet: "First draft of Fringe play finally done - but I edited as I went so it feels more like draft 2.5. Now to read it aloud!"
12:57pm-1:30pm Read the script aloud to myself, timing it. Doing so pointed out some more awkward phrasings, and gave me a time of 18.5 minutes. Only length requirement was "a reading time of 45 minutes or less" so I appeared to be in no danger of disqualifying myself.
1:30pm-2pm Showered, all the while wondering if there was any way this story could be expanded on - because 18.5 minutes seemed really short.
2pm-3pm Stalled, puttering around the house and contemplating a brief nap, all the while hoping inspiration for an additional scene or two would spring out of the air.
3pm-4pm Decided I'd feel like an ass if I didn't get this in on time due to printing problems, and so gave up on making major expansions and printed a copy (which I already knew was going to be a drawn out process involving switching computers). Slowly read the hard copy for any more typos. Fixed said typos and fiddled with the phrasing of a few lines. Reprinted the altered pages.
4pm-4:15pm Steve came home so I asked him to read the final few pages that weren't there for his first read. He did, said he liked them, but I sensed hesitation. With prompting he admitted that he liked the ending I had told him about better than the ending I'd actually written. When he explained why, I was inclined to agree. Poop.
4:15pm-4:30pm Changed the ending reprinted the last three pages. Showed them to Steve who thought they were much better - I was again inclined to agree.
4:30pm-5pm Got the package all paper-clipped together and in an envelope and prepared to leave the house, which we did at 5pm.
4:53pm Tweet: "Thought I was done the Fringe play a few hours ago save checking for typos, then on BF's advice made a change to the ending. NOW it's done." (sent just before I shut down the computer to leave, as opposed to the moment I actually finished writing)
6pm-ish Dropped the envelope in the box at the Fringe's Advance Ticket Office with an hour to spare.
This has been ridiculously long already, so I'll save my actual thoughts on the experience for another day.
I'm registered to take part in the Toronto Fringe Festival's 24-Hour Playwriting Contest. I've thought about entering before, but this is the first year I've actually taken the plunge. On July 1st all participants (there's a maximum of 60) will be in the Fringe Club Beer Tent at 7pm to hear about four things which must be incorporated into their play. We'll then have until 7pm the next day to return with a hard copy of our shiny new script in hand.
Because you can't submit by email, I'm actually thinking of this as more of a 20-Hour Playwriting Contest. I figure I'll need to be happy with the draft by about 3pm on Thursday to have ample time to check for typos and spelling faux-pas, fix any formatting I've ignored in the rush, print out and re-check a clean copy, and get me and it back downtown from Etobicoke.
With time so very limited, I'm trying to get as ready as possible in advance. So far the list of things to do includes:
De-clutter my workspace, which is an ongoing battle for me
Vacuum & sweep in the office so I'm not tempted to clean when I'm supposed to be writing
Buy a back-up printer cartridge to avoid an ink-related disaster
Alert my family that I will be incommunicado during that time
Read some plays to get in the zone
Work on some of my other scripts, also to get in the zone
Ready the snacks!
One thing I won't be doing is any sort of pre-writing. I don't know if other people may be brainstorming loose plots or characters, but in the true spirit of 24-hourness, I won't be giving a moment's thought to a potential story until after the 7pm announcement (that's what the transit ride home is for!)
I'm not really gunning to win this thing, or even place. I will be thrilled beyond belief if I simply complete a script in the allotted time that makes sense, has distinct characters, follows an actual story arc ... that sort of thing. In the past I've managed to write pretty well under pressure, but it's been a few years since my last NaNoWriMo, so it'll be interesting to see how this goes...
I'm a playwright, blogger, and nonfiction freelancer with a particular love of stories for young people. That leads naturally to an interest in literacy, education, and the role of the arts in schools.
I dabble in puppetry, read a lot, and get very excited about things like Joss Whedon shows and Doctor Who. I also love animals and nature, and tend to wander around outside taking pictures of birds.
So in short, I'm going to post a LOT of different things on here. Sorry about that.