Every Word Counts

JCF’s Christmas Play
Pages, 10/12/05: 3
Current Total: 26

Seems like I did a whole lot of writing last night, but it resulted in not a whole lot of progress. I guess that’s because I went back and did some rewriting of existing material to make what was coming work.

It’s funny. When I’m writing a novel, I don’t worry about going back and restructuring things while I’m writing. I write myself a note to do it, and then when I reach the end of a manuscript, I go back through and add the fixes.

I can’t seem to do this with the play, though. I have to have everything just right so I can go on. It’s a totally different type of writing.

Also fits in with the theory that, the longer a work is, the easier it is to write. A novel is not tougher to write. What it is is longer. In the literary hierarchy, it looks something like this:

A novel is easier to write than a short story.
A short story is easier to write than a poem.
A poem is the toughest literary form to write well.

This is because, as you get shorter in length, every word counts. The less your word count, the less opportunity you have to stretch out for a literary lope. Every word appreciates in value and must do much more work.

I suppose to finish the framework, we should insert “Play” between “Novel” and “Short Story” and then mention that haikus are the toughest poems of all to write (unless you’re going to attempt a sestina). True, lots of people write haikus, but how many of them are for comic effect, and how many are truly great, being the literary equivalent of an atmopsheric photograph that is the true province of the haiku?

Note also that I didn’t mention limericks. There are no good limericks. Even if they’re clean.

Back to the play. Though I’m restructuring the first scene, I haven’t quite decided just how far to carry the new version. One idea tells me to blackout after a big dramatic moment, and then come back to it in the next scene. The other is to keep the scene going and let it play out naturally, I’m thinking of going with the latter. It’ll mean the difference between three and four scenes in the first act, and I’m not sure I want to push the audience’s TV-reduced attention span that far.

I know, musicals have lots of scenes crammed inside of an act. They change them almost as often as they change songs. But this isn’t a musical.

Although I suppose now that I’m writing songs, I am equipped to do a musical without a collaborator (notice I said equipped, not qualified). I could be like Meredith Wilson, doing my own songs and book. Of course, he supposedly went through 70-plus songs until he hit the right combination that gave us The Music Man as we know it.

No. Forget it. I’m not going there.

Listening: Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, “God Give Me Strength” (via iPod Shuffle)


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