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Preparing to Direct a Play VS. Preparing to Write a Novel

I’m creatively full this month, and feeling like the luckiest girl around. While querying my YA adventure retelling (which was selected for Query Kombat, made it to the agent round, and got four requests including two *wild cards!* So grateful!), I’m working on two new creative projects. Working on new things is the best way to handle the waiting of querying, am I right?!

​​I’m finding some fascinating (to me) connections between preparing to direct a play and outlining/drafting new novel. The play is STONES IN HIS POCKETS by Marie Jones, an Irish dark comedy which will go up at Keegan Theatre in September & October 2017. The new novel is a YA fantasy, working title SISTERS FROM THE SKY, about two sisters who escape from a deserted island. So, these projects are totally different, but I’m still looking for the creativity connections between the two processes.

Part I: What is it, why, and what is there to enjoy?

Before I direct a play, I need to define it. Who is the audience, what is the genre, style, setting, character? How does this play line up with the great theatre canon? Next I try to answer, why this play now? This is the key question for me to answer in getting excited about a production—in articulating why I’m even doing the project at all! This doesn’t have to be something political, though we often think that with our obsession lately with current events. Why this play now is often about identifying a universal truth the characters in the play experience, that’s relatable to people today. Specifically, a truth that may be relatable to my intended audience. A less common question, but one that’s very important to me: what is there to enjoy in this play? I am not a fan of arguing plays, for example, because I don’t enjoy listening to people argue without end.

In starting a new novel, I was already thinking about what it is: the genre, style, setting and character. I already know (pretty much) which other novels this manuscript could be peers with. But I hadn’t yet articulated why this story now or what is there to enjoy? Once I put those questions to my novel brainstorming notes, some character and plot points became much clearer in my plans. After all, why write a novel if it’s not going to matter in some way right now, or if there’s not going to be anything enjoyable in it?!

My notes on the play and the novel (subject to change):

The Play: Irish dark comedy, high theatrical style (two actors play all the roles), set in County Kerry, two under-achieving yet ambitious 30-somethings.

Why this play now? Because the play explores what happens when people trivialize other people, especially when they don’t understand the other.

What is there to enjoy? Endearing characters, poetic language, comedy, surprising theme, and the skill of the actors in playing seven roles each in a rapid-fire style.

​​The Novel: YA fantasy, duel POV, set in the city of Oasion and surrounding territories, two totally opposite sisters.

Why this story now? Because the story explores the love-hate relationship that can form between siblings or close friends, and juxtaposes both points of view.

What is there to enjoy? Two very different voices, swoony romance (times two!), engineers, artists, magic, mystery. —Basically I put all my favorite things into this manuscript.

How would you answer these questions for your current WIP?

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog for more connections I’ve found between the directing and writing preparations, including some thoughts on the age old question: which comes first, the outline or the story?

Query Kombat Thank You!

P.S. Super-special THANK YOU shout out to all the Query Kombat Kontestants, judges, supporters, and our hosts Laura, Michelle and Michael—especially Michael, who picked my entry twice! This was a huge learning experience, and I met a lot of wonderful people. I’m going to be following along with this crowd for a long, long time! #QueryKombat

P.P.S. The images here are inspiration for Ireland and island stories!

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