How to Write A First Play

Tips on Play-Writing for Beginners

Some simple guidelines on structuring the writing process, designing a plot and eliminating writer’s block when writing a first paper or play.

 

There are numerous how to books on writing plays and play writing technique but every budding playwright should begin by familiarising themselves with Aristotle’s Six key elements of drama.

Play Ideas

A play should not be about a character, a situation or a theme. It should be about all three. Great plays are all encompassing and include all those elements. The important thing for the author is to write about what is feel meaningful to him. If a writer isn’t moved by his/her own story then no one else will be.

Plotting the Plot

The first time writer should not be worried about how to format their script or whether their dialogue is of Chekhov standard. Instead they should concentrate on designing their plot. At first it may seem the new writer is shackling their creativity. A new writer just wants to write and so planning the story may seem limiting at first. In fact it will give the writer added focus and eliminate the risk of producing a half finished first play. A writer must have a beginning and an end for there is no journey without a destination.

The Physical Process of Writing

Don’t begin writing the script until the plot has been worked out and planned. So much time can be wasted by writing endless pages of dialogue that then have to be rewritten because of plot changes. Imagine trying to build a house and changing the plans half way through only to find the house is already built. Getting attached to dialogue is one of the most dangerous traps for the first time writer.

Getting Into a Routine To Help With Creativity

Making a regular time for writing will mean that the process becomes habitual. Setting realistic targets such as a couple of pages a day is far more productive then trying to hammer out a whole act in one night. Keep a diary to track progress and set targets.

Eliminating Writer’s Block

Using the habitual writing method as described above (and having a solid plot outline) will minimise the chances of this occurring. What works best is to continue to write even if devoid of inspiration. It might not be the greatest stuff but it will lower the chances of getting into an unproductive rut.

A Summary of Tips For First Time Playwrights

  • Playwrights should write about what is meaningful to them
  • Get that plot in ship shape before they start anything else
  • Get into a writing routine
  • Rewrite, cut and edit

Once it’s finished the writer should put the script in a drawer, leave it for a week and not think about it. The writer should wait a week at least before reading through a script after completing it. There are numerous outlets for new writing including writing for theatre in education. For more tips on play writing and some advice on what literature is available please read An Introduction to Play-Writing Books.