As a Valentine’s Day surprise, I thought I’d share a scene from early in Maggie’s romance with David in the Chronicle. And I also thought that it might be interesting to share not the text that’s actually in the book, but, instead, one of the in-house development documents from late in the process, which became the scene in the book. Let’s start with the scene and then talk about it.
So—not the format you’re expecting, right? Here’s what’s going on, and maybe this is a good window into the process.
Teleplay format is a useful tool, even if you’re writing a novel rather than making a show. A teleplay isn’t the finished product, it’s a guide for the creation of the product, you’re describing what the finished product will be. So for one thing, it allows you to write substance without the pressure (and I doubt I’m the only one who feels this) of getting the form perfect. It also allows you to describe in simple, plain language exactly what you’re seeing in your mind’s lens. Thus, when a scene is being a problem, or if I have doubts about it, or if I’m not quite clear on the blocking, or any of a number of other use-cases, what I’ll do is take the text and convert it into teleplay format, work with it, and then convert it back into “novel format.”
In this case, this scene was originally drafted quite early in the process and became a late addition. Throughout the process, as ideas and images for possible scenes crossed my mind, I’d take a quick pass at writing them, whether or not there was any intention of them going into the book. Some of those drafts were pretty complete; others were the proverbial back-of-the-napkin sketch. But they all went into a folder, and that gave me a grab-bag into which I could reach if I needed something.
That was fortuitous, because when Poseidon and Galactica (parts one two of the Chronicle) came back from my editor, one of his notes was that he wanted a few extra scenes developing the early Maggie-Abigail friendship and Maggie-David romance. No problem. I just had to reach into the grab-bag, and in the case of this scene, I had a draft which could be a good starting-point. But even after milling it through a couple of redrafts and about a dozen iterations (see this for more on the iterative writing concept), something still wasn’t quite gelling. So I converted it over into teleplay format and worked it through a few more iterations in this format. Eventually, I felt that something had now clicked and everything had fallen into place; the pictures above are the final teleplay version before it was converted back into novel format and subjected to a couple more iterations before finalization.
In a sense, this process is like adapting one’s own novel for the screen, and then re-adapting one’s own teleplay for the page. In doing so, you take the scene apart to see how it works and reexamine it from other angles, in another and more clinical, abstract context. And that’s the value of it. What I’ve described isn’t the right tool for every situation, but it has its uses.
None of which changes how much I love seeing the couple in this early, happy state. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Hug your special someone. ❤️