Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Read. Read. Read. Then read some more...

 You might’ve noticed that every once in awhile I post about what I’m reading, which you might think odd for a blog about writing and making theatre.

I’m a big believer that in order to write well, one must read.  

A lot. 

If you want to write scripts, then you must read scripts.  Read the bad.  Read the good.  Read everything in between.  Read novels.  Read short stories.  Read poetry.  Read magazine articles and the New York Times.  Read for content (story).  Read for interesting characters.  Read for language.  Read.  Read. Read.

Last week I was at a holiday party chatting with another playwriting teacher and we got to talking about this phenomenon of wannabe writers, usually screenwriters, who’ve never even seen what a screenplay looks like on the page, much less read one, and yet, they boldly dive into writing a screenplay.  Because they’ve seen a lot of movies and how hard could it be, right?

This is crazy.

This is like thinking since you've seen surgery on T.V., you think you can pick up a scalpel and do a heart transplant, right?  How hard could it be?

Of course, picking up a pen or writing on your computer isn’t as bloody as surgery.  No one dies when people write a bad screenplay (but wouldn’t that be an interesting way to prevent bad writers from ever getting started?).

Why is it so important to read scripts while trying to write your own?

When I worked at Ensemble Studio Theater in New York city, my job was to read the unsolicited manuscripts.  There was always a pile of scripts that literally went up to the ceiling.  In fact, there might have been two or three piles.  We’re talking thousands of scripts a year.  I read a lot and I read quickly.  Some of them were from agents.  Some from students.  Some from retirees.  Most were really bad, with an occasional gem.  What I learned from reading those scripts, though, I instantly started to apply to my writing. 

I also learned how important those first ten to fifteen pages are in any script.  But that’s another post.

If you’re a writer, you love a good story.  But you should also love words.  If a good story is the foundation of your house, words are the bricks. 

Maybe commas are the mortar

(Nope, went too far with that analogy…sigh…)

This photo is from the Andre Kertesz exhibit at the Carnegie "On Reading".

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