The Playwright’s (unofficial) Guide: Home Truths

Every story begins differently.

Sometimes it’s an image. Sometimes you’re led by a character.
Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you might already have a plot from start to finish (this is the rarest, so consider it the holographic Charizard of the literary world: not many people have it, and those that do won’t let you look at it bastards).

Home  Truths Character  |  Plot  |  Dialogue  |  Putting It All Together | Workshopping

There’s a common misconception that, across the board, writing is an easy gig. You write the thing, proof the thing, hand it over and onto the next. As a tutor once said, however, writing is in fact the easy bit: it’s what goes into it that makes it hell. You are the expert of the world you’re putting to page. If there are faults in that world, that’s on you. That’s quite a lot of pressure when you think about it, so it’s any wonder so many writers turn to booze (this may or may not have also been a tutor suggestion when things get rough).

So whether you’re new to writing or well-established, these posts will (hopefully) either be surprising or refreshing.
…Or wildly insulting, depending on how you look at it. So to kick off, let’s face some home truths.

Everyone has a weak spot.

Everyone’s first draft is shit.

If you don’t talk to yourself, or read your words aloud, you’re doing it wrong.

Cold reads are the fucking worst (and the best).

Find the time to write.

Don’t be a control freak: share the damn workload.

Critique is necessary to your work; opinions aren’t.

Never be afraid to fail.

Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Did you survive? Then you passed the test! Now if you can stomach these, you’re ready to move on to the next round: plot. As a tidbit to tide you over, and especially if you’re having a bad creative day, repeat these truths to yourself. Hell, stick them all over your home, animals and loved ones to remind you that when things are going wrong, you’re not alone. And, as the series continues, I’ll explore the above in greater detail, so you can stick those on top of the ones you’ve stuck all over your favourite people and possessions.

Disclaimer: I’m a theatremaker and playwright grad, so these tips are a mixture of other people’s advice and my own. This all began because of this post over at CoolBeans4 (and then promptly forgot again until this post last week), so if you don’t like it, blame them (please don’t).

9 thoughts on “The Playwright’s (unofficial) Guide: Home Truths

  1. I enjoy the reminder that everyone’s first draft is shit. I know my work needs a lot of work after I write it, but I’m always so discouraged to write in the first place because of this. It’s a good reminder to just get writing. I really need to do that. Chapter 3 needs written.

    1. First words out of my tutor’s mouth. Not the most inspiring start to the year, but strangely the most reassuring.

      Self-editting is the devil. One of the things I learnt perhaps a little too late in my postgrad was that I needed to write everything out of my system – stage directions, motivations, unnecessary dialogue – and then come the redraft, cut aaall of that out. But it until it’s out of your head, it just stays in there and gets in the way. So yeah, it’ll be shit, but it’s better to have a shit first draft because it left your head than a shit first draft because you self-editted.

  2. Love the Pokémon reference! You have some good tips here and I’m looking forward to more! I think my weak spot is describing things and doing it in a nice way, so that’s definitely something I’m working on in my edits.

    1. Thank you! Honestly, I’ve never met anyone who has a solid plot to kick things off! Not that they don’t exist, just…y’know, I don’t believe in their existence 🙂 Knowing your weak spot is such a crucial aspect of developing your craft, so congrats on knowing it this early on! I’m always amazed at writers who either think they’re great at it all (no one is) or identify the wrong thing, and wind up neglecting the actual problem.


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