This article originally appeared on Helium. Enjoy!
The Play’s the Thing…
You want to become a playwright. Perhaps you’ve written a few one acts or worked on a play in a class. Perhaps you’re an actor, not happy with recent roles and you’ve started writing your own. How do you make that step from amateur to professional?
For most playwrights, the transition is fairly gradual. You start writing, you keep writing, you get a workshop, maybe you win a competition, you get a production and the process begins. If you’re not at that point yet, here are some things to keep in mind.
WORK ON YOUR CRAFT: Read plays, see plays, write plays. Create a writing routine. Are you writing every day now? Do you carry a note book with you everywhere to jot down ideas? How do you come up with ideas? Do you have a method? How many play ideas do you have? Do you know what kind of plays you want to write? It seems simplistic but writer’s always find time to write.
DO YOUR RESEARCH: Become an expert on playwriting. Become familiar with the work of other playwrights. Find out what theatres are producing new works. Which theatres produce the types of plays you like the write? What kind of theatre is going on in your community?
CREATE A NICHE: For some writers, the hardest thing about starting out is getting noticed. There are many more playwrights than there are theatres. How are you going to stand out? What makes your writing unique? Writing in a very specific niche is one way to make yourself different.
CONNECT WITH OTHER PLAYWRIGHTS: Join a playwrights group. Go to readings. Take a class. Volunteer at a theatre. In this age of social media, there’s no reason writers have to exist in isolation. Get on Twitter, start writing a blog, start commenting on other writer’s blogs. Make yourself known in the community.
CONNECT WITH THEATRES: More often than not, productions happen because of connections people make. Make yourself known to the theatres in your city.
GET YOUR WORK OUT: Your plays do you no good at home in a drawer. Get your plays out into the world. Submit to companies (the ones you’ve done your research on) enter contests, organize readings.
FORGET AGENTS: Unless you have a connection, it’s not necessary when you’re starting out and it’s not necessarily going to help you. It’s a notion that spills over from the film world that everyone needs an agent. Focus on creating connections, that will serve you better.
FORGET PUBLICATION: Play publishing is not like book publishing. For a play, the publication is generally the last step in the journey of a play, not the first. Productions are more valuable at the start of your process.
WORK HARD: There’s no easy path. There is no standard step by step process to playwriting. It’s not like making a cake. Some writers will do all the right things and never make it. Others will hit out of the ball park with their first play. It’s an especially tenuous choice now as the economy worsens and theatre are taking less and less changes with their seasons. The only certainty is that you’re going to have to work hard, and work hard every day. That’s how you move forward.
LOVE WHAT YOU DO: But here’s the silver lining. If you love playwriting, it doesn’t feel like hard work. If you have a passion, if you have a desire to communicate that passion, then do it. The theatre can be a magical, inspirational, life changing place. I love being a playwright and there’s no other job I’d rather have.