Another Twenty-Four Hours, Another Really Random First Draft

Today I sent a brand new play out for some strangers to read. I had not read the lines out loud, or sent it to a trusted friend, or reviewed it any way. I hadn't even read the whole thing myself, start to finish.

This is not, of course, the recommended way to do submissions. But such is the nature of entering 24-Hour Playwriting Contests, at least for me. It had been two years since I took on a play-in-a-day challenge, so at the last minute I decided to pay my fee and sign up for this year's Toronto Fringe contest.

As I've written about before, I know at least some writers who enter these things have a loose idea for a play in mind and then find a way to incorporate the prompts they are given. I like to do the exact opposite and think not one bit about the play until the prompts arrive in my inbox. Prompts like these:

Since the contest is judged blind (meaning the jurors are not supposed to know who wrote any given play), I'll leave out the details of my story for now. But I can say that it is definitely not a play I would have written without those prompts.

It is also definitely not going to win.

It's likely too short for one thing, and is very under-developed. One of the problems with starting from nothing is that if the prompts don't coalesce into an idea you love pretty quickly, those 24-hours can disappear fast. After receiving the prompts at 5pm on Saturday I spent the rest of the evening rolling around ideas, but by the time I went to bed I had only settled on the barest of bones (and yes, I do sleep when I'm doing these contests - I'm a long way from my all-night-is-all-right twenties). So I rolled out of bed at 7 am this morning with just 10 hours left to write and no actual script pages written. Factor in my slow-start morning style, and this was pretty much an 8-hour play - and it shows.

But that's just fine with me. I don't enter these to win; I enter them to be forced into new ideas. A 24 Hour Contest is where Flood Control came from, and Universal Language, and Marks of Birth. None of the original drafts placed in their respective contests, but the revised versions were produced.

So I'll let today's script sit for the two weeks until the winner is announced, then I'll give it a re-read and cringe at the thought that I sent it out into the world at all. After a healthy-dose of self criticism I'll suck it up and fix it, or turn it into something else and send it out again, this odd little tale that wasn't even a whisper when the weekend began.