Relative Motion: evolving story part two
From that one page short story, the play had now become a play. With dialogue and everything! Wow. I then sent off that very rough first draft to a few people to read and get a little initial feedback. The play then needed two areas of expansion:
1) A second act. The story really did end quite abruptly and there was more story that just needed to happen.
2) A focus on whose story it was. What was the POINT, why did I want to share, what ultimately did I want it to say.
These last questions were instrumental throughout the development process and came off the back of an email I received after that initial draft was sent out. A very wise friend of mine wrote back saying "yes I've read it and what kind of feedback do you want?" I found this incredibly frustrating. I didn't understand what he meant. On the one hand, I wanted him to tell me it was good, that I was amazing, that this was surely on the road to success. On the other, my inner critic wanted him to confirm that I had no right writing anything and the story was shit.
Obviously, neither of these mindsets is particularly helpful. And also most first drafts are bad. They should be!
It's taken me the last two years at RCS to fully understand why he sent those questions back and also why it's so important to ask for targeted feedback. This might be a whole blog post in its own right to be honest. But let me try and write as succinctly as I can here. My first draft went out with one intention: a play about a relationship told from two points of view. Feedback can vary drastically depending on whether I send it out with two questions:
What do you get from this play?
My intention with this play is X. Does it achieve it? Why or why not?
That's what my friend was asking. If the first, then he could respond saying he was told a story of a relationship from one person's point of view using physics as a frame. If my intention had been to tell a balanced story then I was failing at my goal. The answer to one question gives me insight into what I am actually writing; the second showcases the fact that I have failed at a goal and either I need to re-evaluate the goal (what I ended up doing) or I needed to re-evaluate the entire story structure.
Those questions weren't meant to be frustrating or evasive. Asking questions along with asking for feedback allows your assessors to give you feedback that's the most helpful to you, the writer. The way you ask for feedback on a first draft when everything is still clear as mud is going to be very different to draft seven when you have a much clearer idea of what it is you are trying to say and how you are trying to say it.