The first 25,000 words

The director and cast of INFORMED CONSENT at InterAct Theatre.

Let’s start with some local theater reporting.  The winter season has kicked off, and I’m pleased to report about some wonderful things happening right now in the Philadelphia area.  I saw two intriguing shows in the past couple of weeks: Informed Consent at the Lantern Theater and Marcus/Emma at InterAct Theatre.  Neither was perfect, but both kept me on my toes.  I saw a reading of Informed Consent at PlayPenn in 2013, so it was fascinating to see what was done with it, particularly in light of its recent popularity nationwide.  Marcus/Emma was written by local playwright (and Orbiter 3 member) Mary Tuomanen, and a day without supporting a local playwright is a day wasted, which is something nobody says.  We think it, though!  We think it.

I’m considering seeing Waiting for Godot, which opens this weekend at Curio Theatre and is directed by recent Martinis with Nick interviewee Dan Hodge.  But if Chekhov is more your thing, my buddy Mark Knight is in a production of The Seagull that opened at EgoPo Theater last week.  Choices galore!

Playwrights Nicholas Wardigo and Joy Cutler, hanging out in the lobby of the Drake.

Happy to report that my new novel, The Lost City of the Metal Men, is progressing nicely.  Two weeks ago, I finished the first 25,000 (about 100 pages or one-quarter of the book).  It took me about nine weeks; I don’t know if that’s slow or fast, but it sounds like it should be normal for your average novelist.  It might be a little fast for me, but like anything else, all the practice from the first three novels is paying off.  Funnily enough, I often say that if I can’t write a solid draft of a play in six weeks, I don’t have it.  That’s how I knew I was in trouble with my last play which took nearly a year.  Writing a play isn’t the same as writing a novel, but I’m hoping the faster pace with Lost City is a good sign.

My habit is to rewrite as I go.  A lot of writers will tell you not to do that; that you should pump out your first draft without looking at it, and then go back to the beginning with a gallon of red ink.  Speaking for myself, I can’t go more than twenty or thirty pages without itching to bang it into my trusty Mac Mini.

In case anyone cares, I write the first draft by hand, typically in coffee shops, and then on my days when I’m at home, I type it up, rewriting and researching all the stuff I left blank.  I like to think I’m going to crack up some scholar in the future as he goes through my notebooks and reads idiocy like “Look up top-ten songs of 1933,” “Research latest gramophone model,” and “What year was Bazooka Gum founded?”  By doing it that way, my typed copy is automatically a second draft.  And then, when I get a good chunk (like, say 25,000 words), I read through the whole thing and edit it to make sense.  There’s consistency stuff, sure, but it’s amazing how off-track your voice can go when you’re in the trenches.  You’ll start off sounding like a 1930s female mechanic, but a hundred pages later, you’re a 1970s soy bean farmer with a penchant for cross-dressing.  It happens.

This is the point where you’re pretty damn glad you have an outline, which is something I want to address next time.  In the meanwhile, go see some Chekhov.  Or Beckett.  Or anything.  Because theater rocks.


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