Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Return of Threshold Theater's November Playwriting Challenge (Year 2) - REVISED


And after a nine month hibernation, we're back for round two!

November is traditionally a month when all sorts of writers sign up for challenges to finish the Great American Novel or that unfinished screenplay - why shouldn’t playwrights get in on the fun?

The goal is simple: to get you to prioritize your own playwriting, even if it’s just for a little while each day, every day, for a whole month.

Even if you only manage it every other day, or a couple of days a week, that’s still progress.

If you’re like me, you can sometimes be so good at putting off your writing until another day that you can look up and find weeks have gone by without you writing a single line of dialogue.  We want to get out of that habit and replace it with a more creative habit.

And if you manage to write every single day of the month of November, then there’s an extra little prize for you at the end (read on)

Our challenge was created as a bit of an homage to a similar writing challenge that my friends at Red Theater in Chicago ran for several years in which I took part (so far I’ve mined the material I developed there for two full-length plays and a ten minute play).  Since they’ve sadly discontinued the event, and Threshold Theater is devoted to the development of new work and creating a community of writers for the theater, we thought, “why not revive that November playwriting challenge idea and do it here?”

How it works:

Everyone who wants to participate in the challenge goes to the Threshold Theater donation page and puts in $15 (https://www.givemn.org/story/Kssucf)

(This is sort of like putting money in a pool for March Madness or an Oscar party, but this time, you're betting on yourself as a writer.)

(If the payment is a problem for you, contact us at ThresholdWritingChallenge@gmail.com - we don’t want money to be a barrier to people participating in the challenge - we’ll make something work to get you in.)

When you’re making the donation, click the "Add A Dedication" checkbox and make a note that says “Writing Challenge”

(You can also feel free to uncheck the box at the bottom of the form that pays the credit card fees, just make it $15 even - up to you)

After putting in your entry fee, drop us an email at ThresholdWritingChallenge@gmail.com to let us know you’re in.

Threshold Theater will take 20% off the top, which will go towards supporting the artists in our new play reading series and future productions.  The remaining 80% of the money collected from the entry fees will go into the pot to create that prize at the end I mentioned before.

The writers that manage to write something, every single day for the 30 days of November, will split the money at the end.  That, of course, is an extra reward on top of the main reward, which is that you prioritized your playwriting and wrote a whole bunch of new material in November.  (And everyone, whether they write all 30 days or not, will get that “new play material” prize.) (Every year I did this challenge through Red Theater, I wrote all 30 days and ended up getting my $15 back at the end as part of my share of the kitty, so it was basically free writing encouragement :)

First rule of the challenge - it doesn’t have to be good writing, it just has to be writing.

Part of the point of the challenge is to get you to just make decisions and run with them, blast past your internal censor and just put something on the page. One writer has likened it to doing improv with your keyboard.

Everything you write will, by the circumstances of its creation, be a first draft.  You can always go back and “fix it” later :)

Each day you will have a writing prompt.

I will post the writing challenge on our challenge blog at https://thresholdwritingchallenge.blogspot.com/

I will also email everyone participating with the text of that day’s challenge and a link to that blog post (which will come in handy later…)

(The plan is to give you two or three days’ worth of prompts in advance, so if you want to keep writing or get a head start on the next day’s work, you can.  The more writing the better.)

You can write to the prompt, or ignore it and write something completely different.  Up to you.  As long as you’re writing.

The point is just to give yourself the space and time to write something new.  

Doesn’t even need to be a complete scene, you could just have the beginning and the middle and not have any idea how to end it, the rest of the idea may come to you another day down the road.

As long as you have something written, that’s a good day.

If you’re just not able to get anything going one day in November, and all you can come up with is:

“Lights up

CAROL dances across the stage and disappears

Lights down

The End”

That’s fine

(Obviously we want to avoid 30 days of that but that’s enough of a placeholder to count for the day’s writing: Lights up, Something happens on stage, Lights down, The End - that’s the baseline we all start with as our escape hatch for the day, challenge yourself to do more)

The daily check-in to keep us all honest and for me to be able to track who’s writing each day will go like this:

You’ll get the prompt for November 1st in advance of that date.  You’ll write on November 1st.

By 12 noon, Central Time, on November 2nd, you’ll share your work with us in one of the following ways:

You can email us the script at ThresholdWritingChallenge@gmail.com

You can post the script as a comment on the blog entry for the day’s challenge at https://thresholdwritingchallenge.blogspot.com/

You can post your script online on your own blog or website (or post it as a Google doc) and post a link to it in a comment on the blog entry for the day’s challenge at https://thresholdwritingchallenge.blogspot.com/

You can email that link to your posted work for the day at ThresholdWritingChallenge@gmail.com

We're changing the deadline time for submission to 12 noon this year, rather than 8am.  

Because many of the writers last year were in other time zones, both earlier and later than Central Time, and it seems cruel to make the folks on the west coast have a 6am west coast deadline while the east coasters could have until 9am when the deadline was 8am Central Time here in Minneapolis, so we're going to shift the deadline to the middle of the day.  

You can always turn it in early, but 12 noon Central will be the cutoff and that way no one has an unnaturally early morning to make the deadline.  

I've been told by others in the company to choose one time (in this case, 12 noon Central Time for everyone) rather than a variable one by time zone, just so there's no confusion and everyone has the same shot at the same target.

So, submit your writing of the day for November 1st no later than 12 noon Central Time on November 2nd.

Then get working on the writing for November 2nd, to be turned in by12 noon Central Time on November 3rd.

And so on...

And we’ll all go through that process daily until 12 noon, Central Time, on December 1st, for the November 30th challenge.

(And don’t panic the first couple of days when we’re all getting up and running.  We’re not going to be sticklers while we’re all fighting technology and working out the kinks on November 1, 2 and 3… Just post as you’re able and keep us in the loop by email on what’s going on if you’re having trouble, need tech support, etc. :)

Then December 1st, I’ll sit down and make a list of all the people who logged in with writing work every day of the month, and I’ll double check it with you all, to make sure I didn’t miss anybody.

And then we’ll split the collective 80 percent of the entry fees for the challenge between those prolific writers who all remain standing at the end of the month.  We'll get further contact details at that time for the best way to get you your money.

I have always had a tremendous amount of fun doing challenges like this, and my aim is to make it fun and inspiring for all of you as well.

An overview of how things turned out last year (our first) is here if you're interested.

Honestly, I was expecting maybe half a dozen writers from the Twin Cities metro our first time out last year in 2021. Instead, we got 10 writers in Minnesota, plus 33 other writers from 20 other states, 2 from Canada, and 2 whose location was unknown.  I look forward to seeing how many writers (and from where) we have on the roster this year.

If you’re interested in participating, put your $15 in the prize pot via a donation through Threshold Theater’s GiveMN page (https://www.givemn.org/story/Kssucf) and send us an email at ThresholdWritingChallenge@gmail.com to let us know you want to take part in the challenge.

Deadline to sign up is October 31, 2022 - 11:59pm, Central Time

(Donation needs to be entered no later than 11:59pm 10/31/22; but if you don't get around to the email part of it to notify us until later, that's fine - I just need your email so I know where to send you the prompts every day :)

The fun (and writing) begin November 1, 2022.

Happy writing to you all!

Matthew A. Everett
Literary Director
Threshold Theater
(He/him/his)

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