Over the last several days I've received over 15 books through the mail so that I may assist some students in cutting lit for their respective interp events. A few hours a day I make time to sit down and enjoy my reading material. Sometimes it's a great read, other times it's not. After getting through a few books, I began to wonder why I change up my style of cutting for every script.
In light of this, I have created some basic rules for myself to follow. Every person has a different style in how they cut, I'm just offering some light into my style.
READ THE BOOK!!!
Too many times I've spoken to coaches and students about their literature, asking questions about why the piece was cut the way it was, or what the original, main intention of the literature was. You'd be shocked by how often I'm told "Oh, I just skimmed through the book and found my favorite parts, spliced them together, and BAH-DA-BOOM!" ... No.
Ok, even I am guilty of this sometimes, I admit, but it's a really nasty habit to get into. Every once in a while you can employ this technique and it might work well for you the one time, but often times, we lose out on some real gems along the book that we miss out on because we didn't pay close enough attention. Other times we don't fully develop the story/character properly for those 10 minutes, and you fall short of being able to fix this issue if you've never read the book the full way through.
Find the climax!
Locating the climax in the literature seems, often times, to be the easiest of the checklist, but I'll tell you right now that sometimes finding a proper climax is a lot more difficult than you'd expect.
Sometimes you may not want to go with the obvious climax choice. Sometimes, the way the cut presents itself, the "Lit Climax" doesn't fit with the "piece climax", so you must create your own. Othertimes, maybe you want to take an original spin on a selection that may have been performed before, or that people know of (holocaust, someone famous, etc).
Cut to the climax
Now that you've identified the climax, you'll want to do a skim through (not long after originally reading the book) and find your bearings in the book. Figure out a way to pull the parts that will ultimately make sense in leading up to your climax. You never want to find yourself with a cut that includes a scene that offers no build or tension for the rising action. Every word you say, any movement/blocking you give the performance must be ultimately connected to the overall theme.
Add in more than you need
I tend to be one of those people that, once I start, it's near impossible to get me to stop. I start finding all these little passages as I'm skimming the book, and ideas start flowing. Instead of pushing them aside to get your current task done, pull up a blank doc and start transcribing these passages. Start writing your ideas as you are transcribing these lines- give yourself some clue of what you were thinking when you thought of the idea.
Once you're done with the rough cut, two things should have happened:
1- Your cut script is WELL over time (DI 10 min. would be anywhere from 800-1100 words, HI = 900-1500, Duo = 1000-1500).
2- You should have a doc of extra ideas or spins your piece could take.
Read through the script you've pieced together already and see how it feels. Sometimes what you had originally planned for the cut just doesn't work out on paper. However, presumably, you have some pretty great character/story building passages, and you have a doc full of other potential ideas... start to move these parts around on a new doc, connect the pieces, and see if you can create a new puzzle of the pieces of writing you've saved yourself. Sometimes, and almost anytime you've seen a successful piece anywhere, the best things happen by accident.
My overall bit of advice- do not allow too much time to expire from reading the book the first time and having the final stage of cutting begin. It'll throw you off course and make you question whether you've remembered all the best parts of the book - a lesson I learned darn well today.