I did a playwriting course in 2008 where I was lucky enough to meet Sir Lord Roy Williams, playwright extraordinaire, and very nice chap.
One of the many interesting things he said was that before he writes a script, he writes the whole story out as if it were a novel first. (This from memory, so I may not be remembering it exactly right, but this was the gist.)
At the time, I remember thinking this seemed a very labour-intensive way of writing a play - to start off in prose before you get to the script. And I thought no more of it.
Until I gave it a try, whilst lounging louchely* on a foreign beach mere weeks ago.
And do you know what? It works. It really works.
This has been my problem: I start writing in order to find out who my characters are, and where they, and what the story is. And this works, to a point. It makes dialogue the starting point, and I feel like the characters come to life from the off. And it works much, much better than when I try some 'A loves B, C is having a sex change, D is taking up darts' kind of plotting.
Because in that 'A does x, meanwhile B does y' scenario of outlining, I get bored. And it feels like I'm trying to get some people to do some stuff for no good reason. And my dialogue goes to shit.
But my approach naturally has some drawbacks: namely, I get half-way in with no idea of where I'm going. (And, as other more sensible writers have pointed out, this is not a good place to be in.)
So I found that by writing something, properly writing it, a story emerges through the prose much more strongly, but in a natural way. That keeps me interested enough to want to write the script for it.
And the proof that this works? Well, I managed to write a wee 15-minute script over a couple of days. When you consider the last 15-minute script I did took about 18 months (in a very torturous route, but still, I'm not even kidding), this is a RESULT of the highest order.
So I'm a convert. That is to say, I'm going to be giving it a go from now on...
And refreshed from foreign climes, I actually have some ideas again, so this is all to the good...
In fact, I think my darts/sex change epic farce melodrama is on course to be better than Pinter. Much better.
(Joke. I can joke again! Thank god for holidays, eh...)
*By lounging louchely I mean, of course, sitting with half the sand on the beach stuck to me because of tons of factor 50 sunblock and gallons of DEET which does absolutely nothing to stop the little bastard mosquitos biting me on the ankle. And looking awkward about the whole thing. But still, you get the point.