Been ages since I’ve done a tips article, do time for another one of these. This, however, is specifically designed to go against the grain. There is a lot of advise out there that I wholeheartedly endorse, but I’ve been over that before. However, there are times when I think the theatre industry doesn’t tell aspiring writers things they ought to know. There are even times when popular advice is counter-productive.
I have no intention of getting into arguments with other people on what is and isn’t good advice, so I will as far as possible refrain from pushing my own preferred techniques as the “right” way to do it. Much of this advice is how to navigate the world of playwriting rather than simply writing the play. And where I do talk about playwriting, it’s mostly to tell you which rules you don’t have to follow if you don’t want to. Here we go. All controversial, I sincerely hope.
6 tips the pros don’t tell you
Most advice on becoming a playwright comes from the theatre industry. And what they say is mostly good. But you must remember that what they are saying is in their interests to follow, not necessarily yours. And what’s convenient to them doesn’t always do you good. Here are six ways I believe it is in your interests to do what the pros in theatre rarely mention.
Experience beats feedback hands down.
I’ve already gone into this in a lot more detail in my post about national playwriting competitions, but it’s worth repeating here. It is becoming increasingly difficult for aspiring playwrights to get feedback. Most competitions are unable to (or, more accurately, unwilling to) give feedback on losing entries. Script reading services that used to be the staple of every new writing theatre have been massively cut back. Some places do still give feedback – be grateful for what you can get. A lot more places believe that they’re doing you a favour by keeping you in the dark as to what you did wrong.
But, to be honest, the debate of feedback versus no feedback is a bit of a red herring. What is unbeatable is seeing for yourself how your words work on stage. There’s no shortage of books and courses that will tell you the importance of things such as letting dialogue flow naturally, keeping a suitable pace and ramping up the tension as the play go on – and whilst all of this is correct, actually explaining how to do it is a bugger. It’s much more effective to get some people to go through the words you have written and find out how well dialogue flows, pace progress, tension ramps, and a whole load of other things that can only really be learned through seeing it on stage.Continue reading