Quality Online Guides

How To Become A Professional PlaywrightÖ Fast!

Author: Howard Jenkins

How To Become A Professional PlaywrightÖ Fast!

Book Series: Professional Writer Series


INTRODUCTION

Do you have dreams of becoming a playwright? Do your delusions of grandeur plague your mind at night and make you want to be the next Oscar Wilde or Tennessee Williams? You are not alone. Many people have dreams of becoming the next great playwright of our age, but itís no easy task to complete. Millions have tried before and failed. We understand that you donít want to be like them, so thatís why youíve come to us.

This e-book is merely the beginning. What you learn from us will be with you throughout your playwriting career. From understanding what goes into a play and how it differs from everything else, to getting into the business and making connections, and even learning how to make some money off what you do, youíll learn what it takes to become a professional playwright. Letís get started.

UNDERSTANDING THE APPEAL OF THE STAGE

For thousands of years people have been going to the theater. So deep is manís love for the theater that we only have to look toward the ancient societies of our cultures to see how it has formed who we are today.

Therefore it is understandable why people are still drawn to the stage today. Just like we flocked to see a stage production of our favorite play thousands of years ago, today we go to the likes of Broadway, off-Broadway, state theaters, community theaters, and even our son or daughterís school play. Wanting to perform and wanting to help others perform is as natural as building friendships and constructing societies. In fact, one could argue that they often go hand-in-hand.

While the advent of television and IMAX theaters may make it seem that stage plays and musicals are no longer popular, the reality couldnít be further from this false truth. Today you can go out at any moment and find a stage play near you. And while many people focus on the actors and the set decorators, there is one person who is the most crucial to make any stage play a reality: the playwright.

Why People Go To The Theater

As mentioned before, these days we are inundated with things such as television shows and movies. YouTube videos have become the go to choice for many young people especially when they are looking to get an entertaining fix.

Yet people still go to the theater in droves. They always have, and they probably always will. Keep in mind that thousands of years ago there was no way to have video. When someone wanted to see a show, they went to the stage. Stage actors were the movie stars of the day. While many of their names have been lost to history, there is no doubt that in their heyday they were celebrities of the highest order.

Today there are also many famous stage actors. While few may be household names, to their fans they are like a god. To become well known in the theater world, an actor must show a huge range of talents, unlike they would even have to show for the movie screen. These talents include not only acting, but also dancing, singing, and the ability to perform multiple times a day without fail. One could argue that being a stage actor is much harder than being a movie actor, because it demands the same level of performance over and over again.

This is a huge appeal for those who go to the theater. And while actors must give their all every single time they perform, every performance is going to be at least a little different. The playwright, or the mastermind of any play, can only do so much to direct how things go in the play. It is up to the actor to interpret the lines, and with the director they can come up with a multitude of ways to convey a single word or action.

Ask any theater enthusiast why they go to the play, and they will tell you one of the following: they love the thrill of seeing something be interpreted multiple times, they enjoy feeling so close to the performers onstage, and they love the delight that comes from seeing a live performance. While IMAX theaters can overtake your senses and make you feel like youíre part of the movieís world, it is the stage that truly wraps you up and it, and creates a world that is wholly your own as well.

A Viable Art Form

Today the theater world enjoys the status of high art. With its combination of writing, directing, and performing, many people see stage plays as the perfect source for seeing live beauty take shape before them.

Hilariously, the theater has not always been seen as an artistic form of expression. In some ancient societies, for example, the theater was meant for the lowest common denominator. But it was through the theater that people challenged authority, created new genres, and reminded the world that there was nothing wrong with enjoying a little acting here and there.

Those looking to become playwrights understand that they have a lot to live up to. Itís not just about putting words on the page and hoping someone interprets them correctly. A good playwright can convey their ideas with as few words as possible. While directors and actors will interpret them at will, the playwright still holds a lot of control in the production of any of their plays.

Anyone looking to become a playwright should understand the level of art that goes into any piece. While there have always been playwrights who wrote to make a quick buck, the days of the stage being someoneís bread and butter are pretty much over. To make the commitment to become a playwright means having an artistic drive that says they want to see the works performed on the stage over and over again. Yes, this means that there is a little narcissism thrown in. But most art is narcissistic at its core.

Why People Want To Be Playwrights

Undoubtedly if you are reading this then you already want to become a playwright. But you may not be able to put into words why exactly this is. Simply put, playwrights are not only attracted to the format of writing a play, but also seeing it come to life before their very eyes. Most screenwriters are not attached to their works when they go to be filmed, unless they also happen to be directing or producing.

For the writer working at the early stages, however, this is a bit different. Playwrights are often heavily involved in the actual production of their plays, to the point where they may be in a co-directing position. There is an element of control and leadership here. They are not divorced from their works. While famous playwrights whose works are performed multiple times all over the world will never know about most of them, the budding playwright who is working at the community theater has lots of ample opportunity to see the works grow and change before them.

There is also the sense of being connected to a lost art. One cannot even compare what itís like to be a playwright to being a novelist. The novelist is seen as a recluse who does not interact much with anyone else in their line of production. Playwrights, on the other hand, tend to have very public personalities. One may even call them extroverted.

This isnít to say that a novelist canít be extroverted or that a playwright doesnít want to spend all their day in one room. Obviously personalities can mix and match in any career or line of work. But there is something particular about the stage that attracts a certain kind of person to write plays for it. Spend some time around a prolific playwright, and youíll see what we mean.

Brief Overview Of Whatís To Come

Becoming a playwright fast is easier than you may think. The theater world was made for people to become quick up and comers. As a supportive atmosphere that is built on community, the theater wants nothing more than to see you succeed in telling new stories in new ways.

But before you can jump right in, there are a few things that you should know. Today weíll take a look at all the aspects of becoming a professional playwright. From understanding how to construct a play from a technical level, to networking, to getting funding for your first show, and expanding your name so many people want to perform your plays, weíll show you how to get started, and how to make progress quickly.

Pull out your pen and paper. There is a lot to take in today, and we have no time to waste. After all, you have a big, wide world that is ready to be conqueredÖ by you!

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLAYWRITING AND NOVEL WRITING

Most people who get into playwriting start by either writing novels or short stories. This is because most schools push this on young students. Not that thereís anything wrong with it. Many famous playwrights are also novelists or short story writers. There is plenty of room for both to grow and prosper in the literary world.

It is important to recognize that they are two very different writing formats, and expressing the same story in either fashion is going to turn out very different as well. This is because different thought processes are used for each. There are certain considerations that must go into playwriting that do not exist in novel writing.

Dialogue Is King

When you think of writing a novel or short story, what do you think of? Odds are you are bogged down in the narrative Ė or conveying what is going on in the scene, from the actions to the senses. While there are other aspects to telling the story in this form, you often do not hinge on them as much as you do the narrative.

Meanwhile, when writing a play, you have to think of other things. There is very little to no narrative in the script. Instead the actions are dictated by your dialogue and small bits of stage directions. Even then, the stage directions are only if they are absolutely vital. For the actions are not actually up to you Ė they are the realm of the director and the actor. How they act in conjunction with your dialogue and the tone of your story will depend on how they wish to interpret it.

Having a good hand at dialogue is paramount if you want to be a professional playwright. Conversation must come naturally to you, or at least in your head. The dialogue you give your characters will flesh them out and carry most of the story. Dialogue is so important because not every action can be seen on the stage. In movies a director can use a close-up to show something that is happening on a minute scale. When it comes to plays, not even the people in the first row may see one character slip something to anotherís pocket. Never mind the people in the back row.

Use your words, and not your actions, as they say. If the audience canít figure out whatís going on through the words that have been used in the play, then you havenít done your job correctly. Everything, from how a character feels or what plot developments are happening, must be obvious from what a character says.

This is why dialogue is king when it comes to playwriting. Good dialogue will make or break any play. How well you tell a story through the words that are spoken on stage will determine your career. It is not only the story that you have in your head, but also how you convey it with the words that come out of the actorís mouth.

Stage Direction

That is another big difference between playwriting and writing novels. With a novel, the only actors are the ones that exist in the imagination. True, unless you are writing a script for a specific set of actors, most of them are in your head as well when you write a play. But at some point there will inevitably be a real person to act out a character in your mind. Never before in your writing career has it been so important to see exactly what you want in your head. Novel writing allows for a lot of vague thoughts. Writing for the stage, on the other hand, requires you to know exactly who is going to be standing where.

Keep in mind that you are not the director most of the time. You do not need to know exactly where everyone is going to be at any given time, but you must have a good idea of where they are in relation to each other in any given scene. Choreographing your scenes is more important in playwriting than in writing novels. A novel reader will take your word for it when you say that so-and-so is doing such and such with another person. Actors and directors, however, need clear and concise directions to work from.

In order to give good directions, it is important to know how the stage is typically set up. The most basic form is knowing which is stage left and which is stage right. Keep in mind that these directions are told from the actorís point of view as they look out into the audience. So if an actor is standing center stage facing the audience, stage left means that they move to their left. This is an important distinction, since most people get confused and assume that itís from the audienceís point of view.

You must also understand the term blocking. ďBlockingĒ is how the actors arrange themselves on the stage so they can not only interact with one another but also be seen by most of the audience. You do not want one speaking actor to stand in front of another speaking actor. While most blocking is figured out by the director, itís up to you to set the stage so to speak. Do not tell one character to move stage left if all of the other characters are already on the left side of the stage. Track where youíre keeping everybody so you have a good idea of who should be where. Scripts that are easy to work with are a lot more likely to be put into production by both producers and directors.

Pacing

Pacing is another thing that varies greatly between playwriting and writing a novel. In a novel, pacing is easy to establish when you use things such as narrative and dialogue together. How good you are at pacing a novel is another matter entirely. But when it comes to playwriting you really only have one choice.

Plays that are longer tend to be broken up into acts, much like how a chapter represents a part of a book. However, a lot can happen in one of these acts. In fact, many playwrights use the same pacing of acts in all of their plays. Take the following for example:

Act I - the setting is staged and the characters are introduced. The audience should have a good idea what every character is like and what their relationship to each other is. This is when the conflict is introduced. Perhaps something is stolen, someone is killed, or a character just has her life turned upside down. By the end of the first act, everything should change in the world of these characters. Things may seem hopeless, but there is a sliver of hope. This is what keeps the audience engaged and ready to move on to the next act.

Act 2 - for the sake of this example, letís assume that this is a two-part play. However, Act 2 may be a bridge between more acts. In this concluding act, a solution is found to save the day. The characters have grown in who they are, and even if things have changed they are for the better. The audience has gone on this adventure with them, and is totally pleased with the outcome.

If you are using more than two acts, then all your acts in the middle must act as bridges. They should have their own mini climaxes that keep the audience engaged, and offer hints of character development here and there. If youíre using multiple acts, itís a good idea to weave in some twists and turns. This delights the audience, and keeps your pacing moving at a steady rate. If an act does not offer anything in terms of plot or character development, then it should be cut out.

Now that you know how to properly pace, write dialogue, and know how to set up your stage, itís a good idea to know what genre youíre going to be writing in at first. The genre you debut in will often set your own stage for the rest of your career.

GENRES

Genre is as old as storytelling itself. In literature, genre is seen as a category to benefit readers. It allows the average reader to find the exact kind of story that he or she is looking for.

When it comes to plays, genre works in much the same way. Namely it allows a potential audience to find the story they want to see acted before them. Have you ever perused a list of movies playing at the local theater and debated what to watch? Odds were good you picked one or at least narrowed them down based on their genres. If you donít like thrillers, you probably crossed them all out before looking at what was left.

Plays work in the same way. In big cities itís not hard to find a play that is in a genre of your choice. In smaller community theaters, however, usually there is only one play going on at a time. These playhouses tend to focus on the most popular genres such as mysteries, comedies, and ďclassicsĒ which soon enter a genre of their own. They have to pick the plays that will get the most seats in the audience.

Before you start writing any plays, itís important to understand genre and how it reflects on your works. By understanding genre, you will be a lot more likely to appeal to directors, producers, and yes, the audiences themselves.

Below we take a look at the three most popular stage play genres and a few others. Yet we recommend you take a close look at the first three and try your hand at one of them. Odds are that one of them appeals to you; after all, they appeal to most of society.

Mysteries

If you want to captivate an audience quickly, mysteries are the way to go. As one of the most tried-and-true genres of any adaptation for the past couple thousand years, the mystery genre is known for wowing audiences and keeping them on the edge of their seats. Naturally they have seen many different incarnations over the ages. In ancient times, the stage mystery was often presented as a straightforward whodunit, even though the audience usually knew who did it already.

Fast-forward a couple thousand years, and the mystery has evolved into more elaborate whodunits. The Victorian era ushered in a variety of plays that centered on not just situational irony, but also keeping the audience in the dark. Audiences quickly learned to relate to the main character, and try to figure out the plot along with them. One of the greatest joys of the mystery genre is the self-satisfaction of figuring out the ending long before itís revealed to you.

Today, the mystery genre comes in many different forms and sub genres. In movies and books, mysteries are usually divided between cozy mysteries and thriller mysteries. In the cozy mystery, the audience is given an unlikely hero, such as an elderly person or quiet person with disabilities. The mystery theyíre trying to solve may still be fraught with peril, but is presented in a small town atmosphere and involves the day-to-day life of those living in smaller communities. The word cozy comes from the idea of the audience being pulled into this familiar yet dangerous world that everyone can relate to.

Thrillers, on the other hand, are much more fast-paced and rely on suspense and action. Theyíre often presented in adventure format, and if itís a visual presentation may rely on many special effects. Therefore most stage plays tend to hinge on the cozy mystery as they are easier to cast and cheaper to produce. They are also more easily accessible to broad audiences, as those who do not like suspense or thrillers can still be pulled into this world.

Writing mysteries can either come naturally or you can learn how to do it on your own. It helps to already be a fan of the genre, and this goes for any genre that you may plan to write. But even if writing comes naturally to you, there are still some things that you should research and study.

Understand that the crux of the mystery is the reveal at the end. There is no such thing as a mystery that does not end with the reveal. Agatha Christie would not have made it far in life or her career if she did not include those twists and turns that beguiled her audience, gradually leading up to the big reveal in the end.

Before you write any mystery, itís important to know the ending before you even begin. Otherwise you may be looking at a lot of rewriting down the road. You should also know what crime has been committed. Was it a murder? This is the most likely culprit as it instantly tugs on the audienceís heartstrings. But especially for cozier mysteries you can get away with a heist. If itís a comedy youíre writing as well you may be able to make a large show out of petty crimes and instead focus on the way the characters react to the situation as the crux of your entertainment value.

Pacing is never more important than it is in a mystery. You must keep your audience interested, and this means leaving clues and hints along the way. However, you donít want to drop so many clues at once that you no longer have any more to show later on. Instead, leave them like breadcrumbs throughout the story. Part of enthralling your audience includes making them think that theyíre one step ahead of you. But as satisfying as it is to be ahead of the author, the audience still wants to be surprised in the end. A master mystery writer can balance this very well.

For something with broad appeal, it never hurts to start with a mystery.

Comedies

Some of the most memorable plays in recent history have been comedies. Indeed, in times of economic depression and general hardship of the poor, the comedy often reigns king as it brightens spirits and lets people escape from reality for a little while.

However, the comedy is often one of the hardest things to write. It requires a lot of self-reflection and the ability to look into the heart of man and drag something funny from it. While you donít have to be a comedian to be successful in writing comedic plays, it sure as heck doesnít hurt.

There are many sub genres of the comedy genre. The two you are most likely to see performed on the stage include slapstick and satire. The main difference between them is that slapstick is physical and does not take much brainpower to process. Meanwhile, satire often looks at current events and shows how ridiculous they are through dialogue and character interactions.

You will often see that slapstick is considered a lower form of comedy, while satire is considered to be more highbrow. However, that doesnít mean one is better than the other. You are just as likely to be successful with slapstick comedy as you are with satire.

Slapstick may be considered harder to write because it does not rely on much dialogue, and instead on the physical charisma of the actors on stage. This means you must portray in your script the exact actions that you want your actors to take. Itís one of the few times you can get really involved in your directions.

Audiences who enjoy slapstick comedy the most are usually the working class of smaller communities. This is because they are usually very tired by the time they get to see the play, and want to do nothing more than to sit back, relax, and not think about much when they laugh. Slapstick comedy can be considered a gift to many communities.

Satire, on the other hand, is often used to bring certain political issues to the forefront of the human conscience. These can be as broad as a totalitarian regime, unfair taxes, war, or even death. Yet they can also be as concentrated as small town matters and squabbles, family dynamics, or what goes on in certain professions.

Perhaps one of the greatest comedies of all time is Oscar Wildeís ďThe Importance Of Being Ernest.Ē The basic gist of it is that two men pretend to be a man named Ernest in order to woo the women of their lives. They do it for money, fame, and the Victorian ideal that every man be hilariously miserable. In this play Wilde takes a look at the ridiculousness of the aristocracy and translates it in a way that most audiences can relate to and understand. In it he also lambastes love a little, and certainly courtship.

At the end of the day, a comedy is supposed to make your audience laugh. It can also make them think about new ideas. When you read a comedy, you should let your natural humor come through in both the dialogue and the actions. But while comedy seems like itís easy to write, many warn that it requires a lot of wit and wisdom in order to make your ideas translate into humor. But if you can craft a great comedy, youíll have a very bright future indeed.

Tragedies

What is the opposite of a comedy? Truly, it is the tragedy. And in a tragedy, a life lesson is learned at the end of the play. Usually a tragedy is something that could have been prevented earlier in the play, but due to circumstances or the inability to communicate, everything goes to hell, so to speak.

The greatest tragedy of all time is Shakespeareís ďRomeo and Juliet.Ē In the end, both of the lovebirds die. This is what separates tragedy from a genre romance. In an actual romance, they wouldíve lived happily ever after. But since they die, especially in a preventable way, it is a tragedy.

The tragedy of this play hinges on a failure to communicate, both between the Montagues and Capulets, and also between Romeo and Juliet themselves. There is also a crux of the plot that hinges on Romeo not receiving communication from someone looking for him. Because of all these failures to communicate, two young lives are cut short, and by their own hands.

Of course, death isnít the only way to have a tragedy. A character may lose everything theyíve ever held dear, but still be alive in the end, learning the difficult life lesson. Perhaps an entire empire falls. Historical events are often presented as a tragedy.

No matter what kind of tragedy you may want to include at the end of your story, it is important that it does happen for a reason. These are often morality plays, but you also donít want to beat the lesson over your audienceís head. Instead, the master playwright will be able to weave the lesson into the story in such a way that the audience doesnít even realize theyíre learning it.

Tragedies do not have to be sad, nor do they have to be solemn. But they oftentimes are, and people who go to see tragedies especially want to have these emotions. Some people feel better about their own lives when they see how destructive others can be. Itís a part of human nature. Call it schadenfreude if you want. Regardless, someone who likes to read about the darker sides of life and how it can ruin someone elseís life will do very well in tragedy.

Other Genres

Of course, youíre not merely limited to mysteries, comedies, and tragedies. There are other genres to look at, and they may come in different formats in the usual three-act play. They may be introspective like a memoir, or they may hinge on special effects to create a great adventure or thriller. The only reason we did not go into adventures or thrillers is because for the budding playwright they may be too hard to sell right away, as they often cost more to produce.

Truly you are only limited by your imagination and your ability to put the words on paper. Pick a genre that you enjoy and try to translate it into a stage play. You may be surprised at what you come up with, and you may even veer into a different genre entirely. Knowing your audience is half the battle. But weíll get more into that later.

GETTING STARTED WRITING PLAYS

So we talked a lot about what goes into creating a play. But what if you just want to jump in and start writing? Indeed, the best way to get better is to start doing something yourself. You canít become a better writer if youíre not writing to begin with. Donít be like your friend who goes to cafťs, opens their laptop, drinks an expensive coffee, and merely talks about writing to their friends. Be the person who actually writes. This is the only way to get ahead in the business.

But how do you get started, and therefore get ahead eventually? Itís not just about practice. Itís also about research and knowing what direction you want to go in.

Read, Read, Read

This is the same advice we would give someone who wants to become a novelist or short story writer. If you want to write plays, you have to read them. This is the only way to become intimately familiar with the format, and know what is expected of you.

Someone who isnít willing to put in the hours reading isnít someone who is willing to put in the hours writing. But we bet that you love reading plays anyway. The type of person who is drawn to writing the script, especially for the stage, is someone who has enjoyed reading plays most of their life. Perhaps they got started in high school English class with reading Shakespeare. We bet that your first exposure to a script was something different indeed. Perhaps there was a spark that pulled you in and made you take notice of a new and exciting format.

Whatever the reason, one thing remains true. Even after you become a master playwright, you will still always have to be reading more and more plays so you can get an idea of whatís out there, whatís trending, and what new innovations are being made in the format.

Begin in the genre that interests you most. If you want to write comedies, it doesnít hurt to read some of the greatest comedic playwrights of the past few eras. This not only includes Oscar Wilde, but also Shakespeare, who wrote many great comedies such as ďA Midsummerís Nightís Dream.Ē While comedic styles have changed drastically over the centuries, many people still enjoy these authorsí plays because the lessons are the same and nothing has really changed in the realm of the world. Families still heckle us, and outrageous situations happen around every corner.

You shouldnít confine yourself to just one genre, even if thatís all you want to write. Itís important to read other genres as well. Learn from Masters of any age. Donít just read as someone out to enjoy the play, either. Actually study the lines, the directions, and anything else that sticks out to you. Highlight anything that piques your interest and try to understand why it works so well on you. After you have done that, youíll be ready to incorporate it into your own writing, and thus enthrall the next person to read your workÖ just like you were enthralled with the work before you.

The professional playwright is someone who has read many, many plays in their lifetime. Itís also a simple matter of respect. The more knowledgeable you are of your craft, the more the people you are trying to sell to will respect you, and the more that they will feel that you are respecting them.

Write, Write, Write

But itís not enough to simply read. You must also write a lot as well. In fact, you will write a lot of bad stories to begin with. Think back to the stories you wrote 10 years ago, 20 years ago. We bet that they are nothing like the stories that you can read today. They were probably more amateurish and just all around not as good. This is because with more practice comes more proficiency. Just like very few people are master baseball players when they first start out, very few playwrights write their greatest work on their first attempt.

Donít be afraid to write these duds. This is how you learn, and this is how you improve. The more effort you put into it, the shorter amount of time it will take you to become more proficient. Donít sell yourself short, and the talent will start to come naturally to you.

Materials

Thankfully there are not many materials that are needed to be a writer of any kind. These days most playwrights choose to work on a computer. However, itís just as trendy to use a typewriter or to even write longhand.

One thing you may not think of, however, is a simple pad and pencil. You may even want to invest in an audio recorder of some kind. This is because most writers will have their great ideas when theyíre not anywhere near a computer. Itís a good idea to have these ďanalogĒ types of materials so you can write things down on the fly.

You have probably heard many horror stories from other writers. Those who were out shopping and suddenly had a great idea when they watched one person interact with another. Yet they had nothing to write their story down on, and soon the idea was lost to time. Donít worry about it as long as you have a pen and paper with you. The moment idea strikes you, pull out your pad to write them down with your pen.

For those who are more visual, it may behoove you to buy a small model of the stage, as well as some dolls that you can mold at will. This will help you with your blocking within the story. You can see where you want your characters standing or sitting, as well as where they may be in relation to one another. This is especially helpful for people who have a hard time imagining it in their heads. As we mentioned before, choreographing your scenes is never more important than it is in the stage play.

PUBLISHING YOUR WORKS

Itís no secret that if youíre reading this that you are also interested in becoming a true professional. This means someone who not only has published plays, but those that are performed as well. While you will not always have control over the latter, you certainly have control over the former.

This is because there are many ways to publish your own plays by now. Gone are the days when writers were chained to editors and publishers in fancy places and wearing fancy hats. Of course, you are welcome to go down this path still, although there are not as many publishers left who like to publish plays.

There are, however, many stage play journals that cater to those who are looking for plays to read. This is an excellent way to get your foot in the door when it comes to credibility. You may think of them as being the old guard that vetoes or verifies a playís worth. If you are accepted into one of these journals, you can put that on your resume, which may help you sell one of your plays to a local playhouse or even theatre. For those having trouble getting their foot through the door, this is an excellent way to establish your credibility.

Before you submit, make sure that you read over the journalís guidelines. This isnít so much about your actual work anymore, as it is about the way you present yourself. Publishers want you to conform to a certain standard, and failure to do so right away will get you looked over. So do it right, do it often, and donít get discouraged if you are rejected. All of your favorite playwrights have been rejected at one point or another, especially in the beginning stages of their careers.

E-books

The recent self-publishing boom has meant many people being able to publish their works and making money off of them. While itís always been possible to self publish, vendors like Amazon make it easy for you to achieve.

However, itís not easy to simply do. Unless you are willing to pay for someone to format your script for you, you need to learn some basic HTML skills and be prepared to do some trial and error formatting for your script.

Itís also good to have a nice cover. Many self-publishers are able to achieve this in their own copy of Photoshop, but there is a learning curve to that as well. After all, you want to have a professional looking cover that speaks to people looking to read your play. It should reflect the genre of your play. On top of all of this, you want to make sure you donít look as homemade as much as possible. This means have your play properly proofread, or even better, beta read by somebody you trust.

You donít have to spend thousands of dollars in order to see your script in print. In fact, it may be better to spend next to nothing at all. This way, in case things do not work out, youíre not out that much money. Donít think of it as thinking negatively. Realize that you are running a business, as any business is likely to fail. How much it fails, and how much money youíre out, would depend on how much you put in up front.

E-books do not cost anything to produce at all. You can simply upload it to Amazon or your other vendor of choice, and hope to see some sales soon. Voilŗ. Youíre a professional playwright.

Of course youíre hoping to see a little bit more than just some money. Any playwright worth their beans will want to see their works performed on the stage. While we cannot guarantee that self-publishing your script will mean that it is performed in any playhouse around the world, it is a way to get it out to readers who would enjoy your genre or your work in general. As we will discuss later, this is a good way to build up some word-of-mouth reputation.

Hard Copies

If you want to put your play directly into the hands of those who want it, you may have to shell out a bit of an investment in order to hard copy your script. This is the way people used to do it before the advent of e-books. They would have their scripts properly formatted and sent to a printer to be professionally bound. However, this must be done in certain increments, such as in the hundreds. This can cost a pretty penny and there is no guarantee that you will give away or even sell so many copies.

But if youíre someone who likes to pound the pavement, and make personal connections to those youíre trying to woo, then having a few printed out isnít a bad idea. You can keep them in the trunk of your car or even in your purse if you carry one around. Having something tangible to give to prospective buyers is a great way to show how serious you are about your endeavors.

Who knows? Maybe one day these initial prints will be so valuable that people will bight at the chomp to get your signed autograph on one of them. Or at least thatís a dream many playwrights harbor. While it probably wonít happen, it never hurts to dream. Dreaming is what leads us to getting those initial jobs and investments that end up leading to a life full of everything we wanted.

There are, however, more direct ways that you can get yourself right on the stage if thatís what you want. Indeed, many playwrights care more about seeing their works actually be performed than bought. If this is your goal, please read on.

JOINING A LOCAL PLAYHOUSE

One of the most effective ways to get your name out there and actually see you works be performed on the stage is to join a local playhouse. For years the local community playhouse has been the get together spot for those who want to only perform in their local area. Perhaps they have dreams of grandeur, and perhaps theyíre actually very good actors, but for the most part they are inclined to stay where they are and only see this as a hobby.

Playhouses are usually run by volunteers, although there may be a paid director, and even a board if the outfit is large enough. However, many of these playhouses, especially those in larger towns, are willing to pay for a good playwright to give them an original work. Even better if that playwright is from the area.

Joining one of these playhouses may be difficult or easy depending on where you live and the needs of your area. But getting in with one of these companies is paramount if you want to make a living as a professional playwright. Just be aware that you may have to work into the position, but if you truly love the theater, then volunteering your time for a little while will be quite rewarding.

Finding A Community

The first thing you need to do is a search for a community that you can join. For those who live in rural areas, there is often only one playhouse around. But for those who live in larger cities or have their eyes on regional companies, it may behoove you to do some comparing and contrasting first.

Even if you only have one playhouse in your area, you should still do some research into it. This is especially true if you have not frequented it much, either because youíre only now getting into plays, or you just moved to the area. Knowing what youíre getting into is very important, especially if you want to make a living as a professional playwright.

First, find out how frequently they perform. For small playhouses, is not unusual to only do about two shows a year with a run of two weeks to a month and only on the weekends. Most of these people are volunteering and thus putting in their valuable personal time. Theyíre doing it because they love it. In turn, the community will show up either because they love going to plays, or because they want to support their fellow townsfolk.

If thereís a performance coming up, you should definitely consider going. This will give you an excellent idea of the kind of people you may be working with in the near future. Watch how they advertise, produce their play, and act on the stage. Whether or not you actually go to a play, you should still look up the kind of plays they have done in recent history. Do they seem to favor tragedies? Comedies? Or do they mix-and-match and try new things throughout the year? Knowing this will give you the opportunity you need to know how to best approach them with your work.

Getting To Know Everyone

Most playhouses are happy to take on new members. Usually itís just a matter of showing up to one of their meetings and saying you want to join. Of course, you will be expected to help out around the place, even if youíre not writing for them yet. This may include helping to build sets or even acting in the next play itself. Please keep in mind that you will probably be doing this pro bono. The point of this, however, is not to make money off them. Itís to get to know them and what they like to do in the theater.

Donít be afraid to be upfront with them about what you really want to do. In this case, it would be telling them about your love for playwriting and wanting to see your plays performed on stage. They may very well be delighted. If they donít have a play writer on staff already, you may be looking at one of your plays on stage within the year.

It may be easier to give them a play you have already written, assuming that it meets their standards. But after youíve done them for a little while, you may find yourself wanting to write a story especially tailored for them. At this point you will know what their strengths and weaknesses are in terms of putting on a nice production. Perhaps theyíre terrible at comedy, but are good at keeping up the tension for a nice murder mystery. Play to their strengths, and it will also reflect well on you.

Even if there arenít many people involved, it may still take some time for you to work up to being the head playwright. Especially true if itís a paid position, which hopefully it will be. At the very least they should offer to pay you a one-time fee for the right to perform your play on stage. This might not mean a very lucrative position for you, but it helps you get your foot in the door and some words on your resume.

When you broach the subject, remind them how much fun youíve all had together so far. Tell them that you had a great time getting to know who they are, and you think youíre ready to take your relationship to the next level. Spitball some Ideas at them and find out what they think. These should all be ideas you currently have ready to develop. With any luck, they will agree with you, and be ready to take on one of your works for their next production.

Your work isnít over yet. Now some of the real challenges begin as you see firsthand what itís like to be a professional playwright. This includes learning how to make some money not only for yourself but for the playhouse as well. Many playhouses donít make much money. They are lucky to make up the production cost in ticket sales if they do at all. You may end up having to help them get the funds that they need in order to put on your play.

Whether or not you are looking to make some money with a playhouse, there are some fundraising tips that you must know. Weíll cover that in the next section.

HOW TO RAISE FUNDS TO PUT ON YOUR PLAYS

Money makes the world go round, and this is especially true in the theater world. If youíve ever had the opportunity to put on a play, then you know how much money goes in to set design, costuming, advertisements, and even paying for some personnel. For places that donít have their own stage, they must also rent a venue to perform in.

How do these places make money? How can you make the money to fund your own play if you decide to put one on yourself? These are all important things that you must consider before you even start out to do so. In this section we will look at some huge fundraising tips that will get you on your way to making the money necessary to put on the play of your dreams.

Your Own Money

If youíre thinking in the long term, or have been doing this for a while, then you know what you probably should do. Simply put, you should start saving up money to put on your own production. When you already have the money to invest things become much easier.

Of course, this is not possible for many out there. Economic recessions and the inability to save prevent people from putting up their own capital to fund their own plays. Many financial advisors would also advise against this, as the likelihood of making the money back to produce your first play is slim to none. Youíre basically paying for exposure and the ability to say that you have done it. While this can be emotionally invaluable, it does not make much financial sense. It makes much more sense to band together with others and find another way to raise the money.

Pooling Resources

One thing you can do is team up with the others to raise the money from your own capital. This may mean bringing in another producer to help you put on the play. Just keep in mind that when youíre working with producers you will have to deal with their opinions as well.

Instead the easiest thing to do would be to join a playhouse and help them raise the money to put on your play. Many of them will already have a budget to work with, and you can start from there. If itís a lot less formal than that, then all of you can pool together your own resources and see if itís enough money. Just donít bank on this.

While pooling resources is all well and good for small productions, it doesnít make sense for you to all lose out on some money either. Just because youíre not losing out on as much as you would as if you were doing it yourself, still doesnít mean that itís a viable solution in all circumstances. Itís time to turn on the charisma and look at other avenues for revenue.

Community Donations

For smaller productions it makes more sense to ask for community donations. This can be done through a number of community sources, such as the library or even the post office. Naturally you want to take it to whoever is in charge and make sure that itís okay with them for you to ask for money. Set up a donation box, or leave a phone number where people can donate money.

It never hurts to have some fund drives. Get your cohorts together and put on a car wash, bake sale, or other avenues of interest to get people signing on with their donations. One thing you can do as a playhouse or group of thespians is offer acting classes in exchange for donations. For small communities, however, it may be a better idea to do something with broader appeal such as a silent auction or the aforementioned carwashes and bake sales.

Finding An Investor Or Other Sponsors

The problem with fundraising is that you never know how much money youíre going to get. You may make way more than you need and be able to hold some over for the next production, or you may come up empty. This is why it usually behooves you to get a sponsor or other benefactor of some kind. This is also how most play companies in larger cities get their funds.

Sponsors come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually other companies. Banks, grocery stores, and other shops and services that are keen on donating to the community are great places to start. Remind them how important the arts are to the community and how hard it is to get funds for something as pleasant as that.

Investors tend to be individual people or patrons. Once upon a time most playwrights made their money not from selling their plays but from having benefactors who supported their livelihoods. While the system is largely gone these days, itís still not unheard of for an artistic person to have an investor who is really a patron.

Patrons are great because thereís a steady flow of income, especially if they like what you do. And they wouldnít be your patron if they didnít like what you do. Just donít bank on them paying for your whole livelihood these days, especially as the cost of living has gone up quite considerably in the past 100 to 200 years. But having a benefactor may mean the difference between having one small part time job and being able to do what you want your free time when it comes to your art, or having to work many jobs that leave you no time for writing it all.

No matter how you go about getting the money to produce your play, make sure that you have a budget and that you stick to it. Thereís nothing worse than putting on a play that goes over its budget and thus stretches out a wallet that never existed to begin with. Itís a good way to set up for failure and to make it difficult to work with you again in the future.

BUILDING A REPUTATION AND NETWORKING

So letís say that you have done a few plays in your local community. Letís also say that you have published your plays and they have even been bought and performed in some areas around the world. Thatís pretty fantastic, right? This means that people like you work and that you are starting to build a name for yourself. If you want to be a professional, full-time playwright, then you really need to capitalize on this and know how to market yourself.

Networking

Networking is how most people make their connections in the business world. And in this case, you are treating your playwriting as a business as well. It may be difficult to get into the art world at first, but with diligence and a flair for interacting with people, you will soon discover just how easy it can be to make some powerful connections in the industry.

Where do you start networking? Start by joining any local writers groups, or even national chapters that focus on playwriting. These will often offer invaluable resources to help get you started on the road to working. They will usually charge a small fee, but that is in order to weed out the people who do not take it seriously and may otherwise inundate their networkers, thus scaring them away. In this case we would say that any fee is well worth the price.

When you are networking, make sure that you have a portfolio or your resume on hand. If you have published before, always keep copies of your book with you. This way you can hand everything over on the spot, as opposed to just giving out your business card and hoping for a call back that will probably never come. Itís not that these people donít want to talk with you. But they are a lot more likely to remember the people who give them something tangible to work with right away, as opposed to those who did not seem prepared.

Word Of Mouth

When it comes to getting actual eyes on your work, word-of-mouth is your most powerful resource. It is word-of-mouth that drives all modern masterpieces around the public domain. When someone of great influence reads something of yours and loves it, they will then tell everyone that they know in their large audience. This will start a chain reaction of more and more people reading your works and becoming fans.

Or, you can start off more slowly. Perhaps nobody of great importance reads your script and loves it, but maybe many smaller people do. In turn these people will tell all of their friends and family, and slowly a trickle will funnel in full of new fans.

The more people who know about and enjoy your work, the more likely you are to get noticed by somebody of influence. These people of influence may include high profile actors who will rally for your script, producers looking for something new to put on, or even investors who want something new and different, perhaps the next big thing. The more eyes you get on your work, the more likely this is to happen.

How do you make it happen to begin with? You can sit around and wait for somebody to download your script off Amazon, but donít count on it. Instead, you should be peddling your own work. This means advertising it to places like Google, sites that focus on people who read plays, and even getting into mailers that go into the inboxes of those looking for plays. You may have to spend a little money doing this, but like all other advertisements, itís usually worth it.

Maintaining A Reputation

These days, most playwrights canít live on one play alone. You should always be writing a new play, waiting for someone to like your next thing. If you have a hit, donít be quick to replicate it, but keep in mind what people are positively responding to. Write something similar to it, but not something exactly like it. You want to build a brand for yourself as an author, so investors and the people who like to perform your plays will know exactly what to expect from you. This doesnít mean that you canít expand your horizons once in a while, but in the beginning you should focus on keeping people happy.

Your reputation in this business is everything. How well you do down the road will be determined by your reputation. We know that it sounds daunting right now, but with some faith, determination, and a lot of practice, you will soon be building a reputation that you can bank on with investors and playhouses alike.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into becoming a professional playwright in this day and age. This is not surprising as things have dramatically changed since the Victorian era, considered to be one of the heydays of playwriting.

But it is not impossible. If you were taking notes while reading this book, you will have noticed that there is a lot of opportunity out there for new up-and-coming playwrights. Itís not even impossible to become a professional quickly. However, you do need to have some established connections, and a resume that looks shiny isnít a bad idea either.

Letís briefly go over what you need in order to be a successful playwright these days. First, you must understand the appeal of the stage and why people want to go see shows to begin with. Next, understand the genres that you love and want to tell. Know what their beats are, what their pacing is like, and what the audience expectations are.

Once you have your first real copy of the script, you can choose to either publish it or try to get it to be performed somewhere. You can also do both. If you want to have it performed, your best bet is to join a local playhouse and get started there. Itís also a great opportunity to make some valuable connections.

Whether your dreams take you to Broadway or youíre content to simply share your works for free, itís never too late to become a professional playwright. Keep your nose to the grindstone and your eyes on the latest trends, and you too will soon have a legacy that is worth sharing with your descendants. Good luck!