A couple months ago, I rewrote a stageplay.
It wasn’t my stageplay, originally. It was chosen to be the focus of a musical theater class I’m taking. Unfortunately, it was no Shakespeare. A couple of my friends and I agreed we might like to see a revamped version: something a bit funnier, less corny, and more character-driven. So, keeping the plot intact, I rewrote it. I typed it into Scrivener’s stageplay template, added a scene or two, and edited the dialogue. I figured out a character arc for the main character, one that destroyed the play’s corniness and strengthened several characters at the same time. I added as many jokes as I could, without destroying the emotion. In fact, several of my posts from September came from (or went into) this project. I had to put my novel-editing on hold for a little while, but editing something else allowed me to return to my own work with a more objective view. The project had enormous benefits.
However, the teachers of the class didn’t feel comfortable with the changes. Each student already had a copy of the script— to change it now would mean forcing everyone to unlearn and relearn their lines, based on my changes. Furthermore, the class was based, rather strictly, on a videotaped production by another group. Thus, in order to change the script, we would be riding without training wheels, without the video to back us up. And anyway, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the script, as it was. In fact, the teachers were actually aiming for a script that would be easy to work with, in terms of acting. My script required a bit too much skill, skill that some of the younger actors might not have been able to achieve in a short time.
So, my script was trashed. It wasn’t the right thing for this class— they wanted me as an actor, not as a writer. While a revamped script would have been nice for the older students, it wouldn’t work for all the students, the way the teachers wanted to teach.
Honestly? I didn’t mind. It would have been great to get some writing onto the stage, but I’m not looking for stageplay creds. It would have been interesting to see if my writing would have the depth it needed for actors to interpret it, but I can see that for myself, if I take a bit of time to look. And while it took a lot of work to get it where I wanted it, all that work spanned a single week. It wasn’t as if I had thrown months away on this project.
Most importantly, I learned. I learned how to stop corniness. I learned how to structure and place a joke. I learned how to make dialogue count, to add antagonists when one is needed, and why plot structure is so important. I learned how to create a sense of progression in travelogue style stories (I hope, at least— I may have done a shoddy job with that). I learned to format a stageplay (which was Greek to me, even with Scrivener’s presets). I learned to take my own advice and reread old posts to make my current work better. I also learned to work with a deadline, finishing quickly without sacrificing quality. I learned a lot.
If the script I wrote was denied, does all that learning go to waste? You’re all smarter than that, I’m sure. Everything I learn, from anything I do, sticks with me whether I succeed in the endeavor or not. Especially in something like this, where it had nothing to do with my writing whether it was accepted or not, that learning will come in handy.
In fact, it already has. Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on a semi-serious film project, to be enacted with a handful of friends. Now, film is not stage, and I had to learn a lot of new material just to figure out how to brainstorm the project, but having prior experience in scripting, formatting, and time constraints helped a bunch. Despite having written the complete script in two days, it’s one of the best short pieces I’ve written, in terms of dialogue, character, and miniaturized plot structure. (And I can tell you now, taking the extra thirty seconds to make sure your dialogue isn’t boring is amazingly fruitful.)
And even if this project doesn’t work out, I will have learned something. I will have put more knowledge behind my efforts this November in NaNoWriMo, not to mention the editing that will continue through December. No work is ever wasted. Indeed, failure is one of the best things that can happen to you, as long as you learn from it.
The only thing better? Learning from success.