How to Get Started with Playwriting

Writing is not a secret talent that is exclusive to a small portion of the world’s population. William Faulkner, author of famous works such as As I Lay Dying, suggests: “Don’t be ‘a writer.’ Be writing,” meaning that it’s not the title that makes you a writer, but the action. If you are interested in becoming a playwright, stop holding back! Here’s what you need to get started with playwriting and how to tell your story.

Transferring Ideas to Paper

This must be one of the hardest steps of the process: transferring your ideas to paper. While characters and scenes can seem so vivid in your mind, they can lose their luster when you try to explain yourself in words. Don’t let this part of the process discourage you, as many writers suffer from such a challenge — even the experienced ones!

To aid in getting ideas from pen to paper, consider getting to know your characters first. What motivates them? What’s their past like? And, most importantly, what is their role in your story? From there, you can get down to the nitty gritty, like personality traits, but nailing your big picture first will help you get your point across more clearly.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

If you’ve never written a play before, there might be some common mistakes you could make simply due to inexperience. For instance, keep lines in dialogue short. Many new writers will write several long lines during dialogue, but this typically isn’t how people talk in real-life. Make lines short to keep the story realistic and moving along.

If your story idea is comical, don’t try to write your play around jokes you’ve already come up with; it could come off unnatural as your characters begin to develop. Focus on your plot and let the jokes come as a result. Alternatively, if you’re writing a serious piece, try to avoid being too obvious and overbearing. Otherwise, your audience could get annoyed, even if they don’t disagree with you.

Creating a Schedule

Scheduling is everything when it comes to writing because it is so easy to let the days go by without a single word being written. Create a schedule, like to write three pages a day, and stick to it! Even if you don’t feel like writing, devote that time to your craft. Doing so will allow you the opportunity to keep your mind on your work, and you have a better chance of actually finishing the play.

Formatting — It’s Important!

While formatting doesn’t seem like it would matter, it’s of the utmost importance when it comes to playwriting and screenwriting, especially if you want to be taken seriously. If you were to ever submit a work to a company, they’d toss the play out without giving it a second glance if it’s not formatted in the right way. So, pick up a playwright formatting book and learn how to properly organize your story. You might find that doing so helps with your creative process too!

When you’ve finished writing, editing, re-writing, and editing your play again, and you’re ready to submit it, look toward your local theatre company. Even if they aren’t accepting original screenplays for consideration, they would be more than happy to point you in the direction of someone who is. Good luck and happy writing!

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