I hate act two.
Act one is like planning a party, imagining the guests you’ll invite, the food, the decorations, your ensemble you’ll wear. Act two is picking up dirty napkins and loading the dishwasher. It’s no fun.
But I’ve promised my laundry list of tricks to survive act two hell.
1 – Step back. Ask yourself why the heck did you want to write this play in the first place? What did you want to say? Is that what you wrote in the first act? No? Then what did your act one actually say? Is that enough for you to finish? Or would you just as soon abandon it like the last three plays…
2 – Stop. Act two is the place all the seeds you planted in act one are supposed to pay off. The devil whispers that you’ve planted duds and you should pull them out and start over. Do not listen to this voice.
Go back and read act one. Note the gifts you’ve given yourself – the possibilities for payoff in act two, the unexplored qualities of character that sneak out in dialogue, all the clues you left behind for you to find.
3 – Next, ask yourself what you DO know about act two. Write those things down. It’s likely that you know one scene that needs to go in act two. Write that scene.
4 – Give yourself permission to write a really bad scene. The more lousy, the better. Of course, what happens is usually there’s something wonderful buried in that muck. And you can dig it out tomorrow and use it to start that new scene.
5 – Don’t throw anything out. Make a separate file for it. Or stick it at the end of your script. You’ll probably never need it or use it. But it’s nice to know it’s there. A writer’s security blanket.
And one last word of inspiration:
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the
unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Hans Hofmann (1880-1966)
Abstract expressionist painter