Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not so done and dusted

I'm reading back through the last few posts and had to have a little smile when I read the one called 'First Draft Finished'. That's funny.

I went back and re-read the 'finished' first draft, prior to submitting it, and found a hundred holes. Had a great talk to the mighty Peter Matheson - all hail the insightful dramaturg - and set about the rewrites.

For a little while there I didn't think I'd finish it. Thought I'd be handing in a half-baked work-in-progress today. But a weekend with my derriere nailed to the bench outside and my laptop plugged into the mains, got me there.

The first draft is now finished. hurrah! I've submitted it to QTC and now await the first workshops and their feedback.

It feels good. All loose threads have been tied and the play has a nice circular feel to it. I'm sure that in a couple of weeks I'll be appalled at the state of it as I enter the second draft process. But, right now, right this minute, I feel great.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I woke up in a sweat this morning - from a dream about the play.

I'd arrived at the first workshop, expecting to see a director - Michael or Jon - and the actors. Instead I walked into a crowded room, at least 100 people, and I didn't know any of them. I could see Michael Gow standing under a spotlight, talking to the crowd, opening up discussion about my play. And then they began ...

'I don't get it.'
'Why would Martha say that? It makes no sense.'
'Who wrote this rubbish?'

I was looking from face to face as they loomed over me, shiny and plastic, criticising.

'It's a new draft,' I tried to say. 'I didn't think anyone would see it. I didn't know it was going to be public.'

I thought I was going to vomit. The vulture faces started spinning and ... I woke up.

I know it was just a dream, of the classic anxiety variety, but I also know that I will be in a cold sweat when I do have to walk into the room for the workshop. The thought of being revealed as a charlatan, a wannabe, a hopeless case, a useless writer ... I feel sick thinking about it. It's as bad as going for an audition.

I know I will be able to deal with whatever's said in the room, with whatever feedback I get, once I get it. If it's bad, I'll work through it and try to improve. I can't imagine that it could be as harsh and unconstructive as my mind dreams it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

First Draft Done

Done like a dinner. Like a dog's dinner, perhaps. But I've written 'The End' and am taking a pause.

It's Easter Sunday and the house is quiet, the only sound is the wind in the trees and the hum of traffic. I miss the children and doing the Easter egg hunt. But I've finished this draft. Hurrah!

I've doubled the length of the play, which is what QTC wanted. I haven't re-read it yet. That will be this afternoon's mission. To find the holes and the loose threads. And to see whether these characters have arcs and journeys.

I've been plagued by doubts. Fearing that it's all too melodramatic and huge. That the fairy stories within the stories will be repetitive and boring. But I've kept pushing through. Because this is just the first step in the process. This draft (or the draft that I'll have after a week of working on this one!) will be workshopped at QTC and then I'll go away and write another draft, and that draft will be workshopped, and then there'll be a final draft and that's the one that will be performed and judged. So, if this draft is flawed, which I know it is, and even if it turns out that I've gone in the wrong direction and it's worse than the original, it won't be the end of the world. I still have time and two more drafts to get it right.

I'm a little bit of a perfectionist (ha! understatement of the week), so it's important for me to give myself room to fail.

And now to find a chocolate egg and celebrate ...

Friday, March 21, 2008


A productive day's writing and I feel as if I'm getting out of the woods at last. I think I can see a way through to the end. It's too soon for me to articulate it - it might dissolve if I do - but it's a good feeling.

I've been thinking about titles as well. 'Ned's Story' is way too wishy-washy.

I'm toying with 'Tinder' as a title. I like it because it implies (for me) that the characters are flammable, that they could explode at any moment. And it's not just the characters. Their home is a tinderbox. The air crackles and sparks.

And the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale 'The Tinderbox' has become a key element of the play. I love how surreal it is. The dog with eyes as big as spinning towers. The soldier who gets wealth beyond his dreams thanks to the witch, and then kills her anyway. The morality is completely warped and twisted.

Stories within stories. Kind of like this blog - writing about writing.

This play has its hooks deep inside me. I think about it all the time. Not about writing it, but about the characters. Why they do what they do. what happened to them before this time I'm writing about. What will happen afterwards. I certainly don't have the answers. Not yet anyway.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Perils of Having Children

Well. I now know why yesterday was so bloody hard ...
Remember my post last week about the children and the vomiting bug?
I wasn't immune.
I've been up all night getting intimate with a porcelain bowl. Not pleasant.
(I must admit though that I sat on the toilet floor feeling really relieved as I realised that I had an excuse for writing poorly.)
Unfortunately, despite the party being cancelled and me spending a whole day in bed, I've been unable to write a word today. My brain is mush.
I'm just hoping that the worst of this gastro is over and that there'll be no more hanging over the toilet tonight.
Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hard Slog

Today has been a long, hard slog.

It's good to remember that writing isn't always easy. That there are times when each word is sweated and laboured over. and they're still not right.

Today has been agony. I was up before 6am to make the most of my writing time and I wrote until 4pm, with barely a break. And I don't know if there's a single usable sentence in there. ARGH! I feel like I've made the play worse instead of better. It sucks. I've sent it to Peter (dramaturg) with a cover note telling him not to expect much. Because that was my pact with him - that I'd email every Friday with whatever i'd managed to do during the day. No matter how little and crappy it is.

So now I'm just trying to stay calm and think positive. QTC asked me to write more. My original play was only 38 pages (single spaced) and would have performed at about 50 minutes. I think. It's now 68 pages and most of them are different (albeit crappy). So I've done what was asked. If only it worked and I was happy with it.

I've got two more Fridays to get this draft finished. I feel like shit but I'll try not to think about it and wait until I reread it in a few days and see if there's anything salvageable then.

In the meantime it's my little girl's birthday and we're having a slumber party this weekend. 9 girls sleeping over tomorrow night. Fun, fun, fun!

I haven't made a cake yet or organised any party things. Can I get away with pizza and icecream?

And then there's the cub scout fundraiser before the party. I'll be working on a sausage sizzle around the time I should be decorating the house and icing the nonexistent cake.

Ever felt like it's all too much?

That's how I feel right now.

Enough whinging for one post. Sorry!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sick kids and writing

News flash: sick children aren't good for your writing.

Both my children came down with a vomiting bug at the same time. The good news is that I get it all over with quickly - rather than having them take it in turn to be sick. The bad news is that I can only hold a vomit bowl under one child at a time. Joy!

Mopping floors and walls and doing loads of stinky laundry is not conducive for writing. But it doesn't stop you thinking about writing.

And thinking about it is half the work. So I have lots of new ideas and am excited about getting the chance to start getting them down.

Roll on Friday, writing day ...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dreamworld or Fantasy World?

I was supposed to go to Dreamworld (a theme park) with my son for his birthday today. But my lovely family agreed that I should stay at home and write instead. So they've gone off for a celebration, while I sit here at my laptop. And no, I'm not wasting my time blogging when I should be writing a play! (Well only for this second, anyway.) I've written one new scene and am sitting on the deck looking at the rain and thinking.
Thinking about this world that I'm trying to create. The crows are caawing in the gum tree next to the deck and leaves are drifting down with the gusts of wind. It's all a bit surreal, but probably only because I'm in such a surreal world in the play.
The other thing that's bothering me is this tension and friction between being a writer and being a mother. Hmm, no. That's not right. You can be a mother and a writer easily. You give birth to a child and you're a mother. The difficulty is trying to be a good mother and a writer. Not going to Dreamworld feels like a terrible thing to have done. Specially now that it's raining and I'm imagining Peter and the three boys trying to stay dryish and have fun. I don't think Jack will miss me - he'll be having much too much fun with his friends - but Peter could do with my help and some adult conversation. He carries a heavy load when I'm unavailable for parenting because I'm trying to meet a deadline.
And that puts an added burden on me - because if I'm neglecting my family then it had better be for a good reason. I'd better be writing a shit-hot play to justify the time that I'm away from them.
And, on that note, I'd better get back to it.
I have to make every second count.

Friday, March 7, 2008

First day of writing and some history

Yesterday (Friday) was my first full day of writing. What joy! A whole day of writing and enough words not to run out. I wrote three new scenes for my play and spent the afternoon trying to fit them in and seeing what changes they made. The good news is that they seem to belong in the story, the bad news is that I'll need to rewrite the whole last third of the play ... It's good that I like a challenge.
Starting writing this blog now, means that I've skipped over the back story that got me this far. I thought this might be a good chance to give a quick overview of how this play came to be.
In 2006 I started a Masters in Playwriting at QUT. I went into it for all the wrong reasons: it was fee free, which was the only way I could go back to Uni; I didn't have an undergraduate degree and this was one where they'd count my years in theatre as the equivalent of a BA; and I was writing a novel and my dialogue sucked. I thought that writing a play (all dialogue) would force me to get through my block and help me fix the novel. So, I felt like a fraud from day one of the degree. The only things I had going for me were my loves of theatre and literature/writing.
Because I'd never written a play before and felt like such a phony, I chose to start writing the play collaboratively - working with actors. I was fortunate enough to have three talented and generous actors agree to work with me. (Dan Eady, Kaye Stevenson and Peter Cossar) I had an idea for the play and I'd sketched outlines of the characters and the actors helped me to fill them in. Once we'd been through a workshop process, I went on and rewrote and redrafted the play to make it fit better with the idea I had in my head.
I passed the MA and the play I wrote earned me a spot at the most inspiring place I've ever been - Varuna, the Writers House in the Blue Mountains. While there I worked with the lovely dramaturg MaryAnne Gifford and threw away the play I'd been working on and started again on a new version that ventured further into the fairy tale world I'd imagined. During that week I wrote Ned's Story.
And it's Ned's Story that has brought me here.
There you have it, in a nutshell.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First meeting with dramaturg

I had my first proper meeting with my dramaturg today. Peter Matheson is lovely. Surprising really as the first time I met him - at the awards announcement, when I was on a high and being congratulated by all and sundry - he came up to me, introduced himself, and said 'You've got a lot of work to do'. And that was it. He turned around and vanished back into the crowd! Hardly a reassuring start. But the gruffness must have been all bluster.

So ... today. My head is exploding with ideas. That's the way I think it should be after you've spent time with a dramaturg. He wants me to extend the fairy tale imagery and beef up the symbols. Stop running away from them.

Right now I have a wet man crawling from a pool of water, half drowned, and the letters. Piles of letters. Flying letters. And, of course, the axe. There's a house falling down as a boy learns to stand. And he wants me to find some more symbols for Martha (the mother in this story).

He's given me the challenge of writing two new scenes tomorrow. I can't wait. But first there's 'puberty night' at school. Yup, I have a child in Grade 6 and kids and parents are invited to attend puberty night together at the school. I imagine there'll be a lot of snickering and blushing. And that's just the parents!

Tomorrow (Friday) is my first Friday off. I've gone from a full-time position to four-days a week, so that I can have a dedicated writing day and get this play through it's next three drafts. I can't wait to start. I just have to make sure that the laundry and washing up don't lure me away from my laptop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Coming down from cloud 9

It's been two weeks now since the finalist announcements. The flowers have wilted, their putrid water tipped into the garden, and life is returning to normal. Well, as normal as it gets.
After the euphoria and the excitement, there's now a growing panic. I need to do a new draft by when? (31 March)
What if they don't like it as much as the original? What if I'm kidding myself and I'm really a crap writer? Argh! (Sound effects of screaming as my brain knocks itself against the bony edges of my skull, trying to escape from the horror.)
Once I start writing again, I'm sure I'll be all right. This is a normal process for me. I panic at the thought of trying to write a new draft but, once I've started writing, I usually come good.
Fingers crossed for this time.