Firsts and adaptation

Keeping Time

Firsts are always hard. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a first post on some blogging platform or another, but I’m hoping this one will stick. I intend to check in here every week with some words on something I’ve done worth sharing, which will hopefully mean I will make myself have interesting weeks (or become experienced at making dullness shine), so let’s launch straight into it.

A fortnight ago the University of Leicester‘s Creative Collective (their Facebook) ran a Book in a Week challenge. The aim was to compile a book of “poetry, short stories, other creative writing and art work” concerned with the theme of ‘The Future’, with a view to publication by Inspired Quill (run, incidentally, by my friend Sara). Like most writers, I work best under limitations, particularly time constraints. This is why many of my Proteus pieces (more on which anon) have been handed in at the eleventh hour – I find it very hard to write freely. Luckily, I knew exactly what my piece was going to be – a adaptation of Keeping Time, a sketch I had written a year ago.

I’m a regular in LUTheatre and have particularly taken advantage of Proteus Productions, which is a fortnightly show consisting of brand new sketches written and performed by members. I’ve done about eight now, nearly all performed, and will likely continue to contribute writing, although lately I have shifted my focus to direction. The great thing about writing for Proteus is the immediate reaction to your work, and the ability to judge areas for improvement.

I was recently in a bad place concerning my contribution to the theatre society, and to help me out of it I compiled my sketches to date. (I tried to print it out as a memento, but don’t get me started on the demise of booklet printing.) Assembling and merely scanning the old stuff showed how much I have developed as a writer, the variety of stories I told and highlighted a few constants. Even before this though, I knew Keeping Time was something I had to revisit.

What is it about this piece? It wasn’t my most popular, but it was the one closest to how I wanted to be as a writer, a mix of drama and humour, using concepts in order to focus on human relationships. It’s also one of the longest pieces of dramatic writing I’ve done, at least before I start this play that’s knocking around my head. Perhaps most importantly, it was a natural piece of science-fiction, and I often daydream about being a sci-fi short story writer. Therefore, I have long resolved to adapt it into prose.

This turned out to be tricky, and you’ll have to wait until it’s been published/rejected to find out whether it works. It was a tricky balance of preserving as much as what happened on stage (NB: the stage experience, not the script – scripts are lifeless things, and rarely make for interesting reading) while also making it read like a short story. I realised the hard way how long it had been since I last wrote a short story, and I was never much for description, so it was quite painful at times and I relied too much on copied sections of the script for my taste. I’m reluctant to look at it now (and haven’t done since I finished it) but I know it could do with another draft. Still, it was a good thing to try, even though I’m not sure what I learned. I know I haven’t been put off entirely, thought. One of my future projects flips the process – adapting Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a promenade performance.

I have put the sketch up here if you want to read it. I’ll keep you posted if I ever hear anything about the short story. Next time I hope to tell you about the progress of my play. Mainly because I want to make progress – I’m procrastinating like hell, and everything’s piling up since it’s the end of the semester.

That was my first post. Lessons learnt? Next time, fewer links and parenthetical phrases.