How to write a play?

The dream of becoming a successful playwright can be exciting as you imagine captivated audiences watching your story unfold on stage. However, seeing the dream through from just an idea to a full-fledged production can be a little intimidating for the beginning writer. This beginners guide will help you better understand correct manuscript formatting, how to deal with writers block and where to submit your work as you head out on your playwright journey.

Correct manuscript elements and formatting

Plays must be written in a standardized form to even be considered for publication or production. The standard placement of character names, action and dialogue also make it easy for actors and others to follow along and margins available for personal notes. The following is a list of the basic elements all scripts should have.

Title page: The front page including the title of the play as well as author name and contact info.
Cast page: List of characters in the play and a brief description of each one
Musical numbers page (if a musical): List of all musical numbers by scene and performer
Act/Scene headings: Act numbers written in Roman Numerals and scene numbers in ordinals
At rise description: Description of how the stage is set when the curtain rises at each new scene
Stage directions

The ability to create an appropriate standardized manuscript can make or break the opportunity for publication or production. Most theaters receive more manuscripts than they could ever possibly produce, so you can be sure they won’t waste time reading through bad formatting. Using free script writing software can help you dodge common formatting mistakes. Freeing your mind from format woes can help you stay focused on creating the perfect dialogue and avoid writers block. It happens to even the greatest of writers from time to time; you just don’t know what to say, or how to say it. Various writers have found the following tips helpful.

Writers block

It happens to even the greatest of writers from time to time; you just don’t know what to say, or how to say it. Various writers have found the following tips helpful.

Keep a notebook handy: Always keep a notebook nearby to jot ideas down as they come whether you are at a stop light, your lunch break or drifting off to sleep.
Skip the beginning and jump to the middle: It is sometimes easier to just get to the spot you want to be and figure out later how you will get there.
Take an exercise break: Getting blood and oxygen pumping through your heart and lungs often leads to new ideas pumping into your head.
Do something else creative or new: Meeting new people or going to places you’ve never been can get you out of a rut and help stimulate your creative side.

In addition to these tips, American poet William Stafford offers this tongue in cheek advice: “There is no such thing as writers block for writers whose standards are low enough.” Believing such advice does not mean you should create ramblings of junk. Instead don’t take yourself too seriously. Allow yourself to stop judging and don’t expect everything that comes out of your head to be profound. Give yourself the benefit of making mistakes, exercising the delete key and filling up a trash can with crumpled paper. The more you write, the more you are bound to come across the idea you were looking for all along.

Submitting your work

Once you have finished your masterpiece and formatted it with free script writing software, you are ready to submit your work. First, decide whether your play is best suited for a high-school, local , the bright lights of Broadway or some other venue. Then, find out what form of submission a specific theater looks for. Some theaters don’t want to be approached by authors and only allow agent-submitted works. Other theaters don’t want to receive your whole script, but prefer a synopsis for first review. As a word of caution, when submitting your play for review, never send out the only copy you have; always keep an extra on hand.

Again, remember that most theaters receive way more plays for review than they could possibly ever produce. But, if you can handle rejection well and don’t get discouraged, you’ll ultimately find a theater that is a perfect fit for you.

This article was written by Jared Jaureguy. Follow him on Twitter @JaredJaureguy.

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