After-the-Fact Log of My 24-Hour Playwriting Experience

Friday July 3, 2009

See earlier post Preparing for 24 Hours of Frantic Playwriting

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:

JULY 1st

  • 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.

  • JULY 2nd

  • 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.

  • 4:30am-6:30am

  • 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.