When is a play done?

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You’ve written a first draft, second draft, and so on. You feel you’ve done all you can do with the script, when it’s just you and the script. How do you know when a play is ready to move on to the next phase?

How do you know it’s ready to go out into the world?

You’ve received feedback

It’s not enough for you to think your play is ready, you need to find out if it resonates with others. That doesn’t mean you have to change your play to suit the whim of every respondent, nor should you. But your play will not and should not exist in a vacuum. That means you have to get some reaction.

If you get positive feedback from at least 3 respondents ( don’t put all your eggs in one basket) consider yourself on the right track.

You’ve heard the play

There’s no such thing as silent reading in theatre. Reading your words or hearing the lines in your head will work only up to a point. You need to hear your play read aloud by others. You need to focus all your energy on listening for awkward dialogue, repeated dialogue, sentences that confuse the readers. You’re listening for how long it takes to set up a character or a scene – are you overwriting or is your script sharing just what it needs to keep an audience on the edge of their seat? A text at it’s best is going to be clean, efficient and orally engaging.

I would suggest you plan on two readings during your process. In fact, I would plan a rewrite schedule like this: 1st draft – 2nd draft – feedback – 3rd draft – reading – 4th draft – reading.

If you’ve heard your play and you’re satisfied the dialogue is clean, efficient and engaging, (or the changes you have to make are cosmetic rather than surgical) feel confident that you’re ready to move on.

What next?

A play is not a play until it’s produced. This is the hardest step for so many writers, especially those who don’t have access to theatres, actors or directors. But in order to fully complete your work, it has to be staged in front of an audience. But that’s a whole other adventure…

Writers don’t need rubber gloves


Spring Cleaning

You don’t have to strap on a pair of rubber gloves or pick up a duster to do some Writer Spring Cleaning. Consider this while you wait for the thaw.

Organize your desk

If you have a specific work area, clean it up. Get rid of those piles sitting on your desk, put any books back on the shelf. Your area doesn’t have to be pristine but it has to be effective. And if you have a “virtual” desk, read on.

Archive your work

Do you keep scraps of old drafts around, or is your hard drive littered with multiple copies? Archive anything you’re not actively working on. Use a program like Evernote if you want to keep files on your computer. If you haven’t looked at a particular play for six months to a year, it’s time to make some decisions. Don’t leave it on your desktop, deal with it. Maybe it needs to go away for good.

Go through your Inbox

Are there emails in your inbox that have been sitting there for over a month? Deal with them. Either write that email or the time has past and delete it. Make it a project to not let your inbox fill up so that you don’t have to make those decisions. For me, when my inbox any more than 10 emails I schedule time to go through them.

Reflect on your Writing Goals

Did you make any writing resolutions at the beginning of the year? Reflect on where you are. If you’re moving forward, revise your goals. Has anything changed? Are you happy with your path? If you’re stuck reflect on why that is. What stops you? What action can you take to get un-stuck?


What does Failure look like?


Failure. It’s the fear of something that hasn’t happened yet. For me it’s a big black pit in my stomach that calls out What if this happens …. What if that happens ….

The fear of failure holds back many a writer. What if they don’t like my work? What if it’s never produced? What if…. Fear of failure can lead to writers stall, writers block, to writers never picking up the pen again.

What do you do to fight the fear? I want to know. We all want to know how others do it.


Personify failure. Create a picture of what failure looks like to you. Give it a name, a look, a way of standing. Turn failure into a character. And then write a scene where you talk to you failure. What would you say to this thing if you had it right in front of you? Make yourself the super hero super shipper of work and take failure down!

If it helps, print the scene up and tear the paper into little bits afterwards. Or maybe develop it further. There’s nothing more theatrical than taking something that isn’t human and put it on the stage.

If a fear of failure is holding you back, don’t stare at a blank page. Write down all your fears. Never leave a fear in your head. What’s the one thing you fear that hasn’t happened yet with the piece you’re working on? What are five steps you could take to combat this fear?

Thinking is Writing


Getting words on the page is vital. If you leave words in your brain, you can’t move forward. 

Writers write, that’s what we do. Words on the page should be your mantra, especially if you’re having difficulty writing consistently. Words on the page makes your writing tangible and concrete.

But rules are meant to be broken. I fully believe in getting words on the page. But sometimes a good think is necessary.

This isn’t general thinking. “I should write something.”  This is specific focused thinking about a work in progress where you let ideas, characters, questions, and plot points run around your brain.

I think a lot when I’m in the middle of a play. It’s an active part of my process because the work is always with me – when I’m grocery shopping, when I’m getting ready in the morning, when I’m trying to sleep at night. I like to have a constant connection with my writing even when I’m not in front of my laptop.

Get your think on

Talk to yourself. Talk yourself through a plot hole. Imagine a conversation with your main character. Imagine the play is being staged, what does it look like, what are the most effective parts? Use your think time to visualize what you’re working on.

Ask questions. Ask questions and come up with a couple different answers. Ask yourself What if? If you give yourself a structure to your think time (like asking and answering questions) it’ll feel less like a free for all and you may indeed solve problems more quickly.

Sometimes you’ve exhausted your time with the page. You’ve written down so many words and none of them are right. You can’t figure out where to go next. Change the method.  Take a comfortable seat, close your eyes and connect to your thoughts. 

My favourite think time is when I’m walking. If I’m stuck and frustrated,  a walk often does the trick. I can let my brain go wild and get some much needed fresh air. Nine times out of ten,  the problem I couldn’t write my way out of unravels itself easily.

And then what?

Write it down. Always have a pen and paper  nearby, or put an ap on your phone (like Google Keep) where you can type in your notes. Thinking is good, and if it leads to writing, even better.

Are you a thinker? If you are, don’t shy away from it because of any “how to write” rule. Make it work for you, make it part of your process. Use every tool at your disposal to get that draft done.


Ten Automatic Writing Prompts


Start the new year off right…. and write! Sit down right now and use one of these automatic writing prompts. Before you start writing with purpose, warm up. Get your brain used to the idea of writing. Give yourself a small win. Get words on the page in a warm up and it will be easier to do when you start on your project.

Automatic Writing

The goal is simple. Give yourself a topic and a time limit. 2 minutes works well. Write for the entire time limit without stopping. If you don’t really like the topic, write about that. If you get stuck, write about being stuck. If you have to repeat the words “I am stuck” over and over you have fulfilled the exercise. This is an act of writing exercise not a content exercise. All you have to do is get words on the page.

Ten Automatic Writing Prompts

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. What did you do last night?
  3. My ideal day is…
  4. The greatest superhero power is…
  5. The thing that makes me angry is…
  6. Is TV bad for you? Why or why not?
  7. Friendship
  8. If I ran the world I would…
  9. Smoking
  10. I firmly believe that…





The Ten Best Writing Warm Ups


Every writer needs to warm up. We need to get that brain into writing mode, make sure the muscles are limber and ready to get to work.

I use warm ups especially when I don’t feel like writing. Instead of walking away from my desk, I do an exercise. Nine times out of ten by the time I’m done my warm up, I’ve changed my tune.

Here is my top ten list of writing warm up exercises. Do one every day before you start a project. Or, do one every day when you don’t have anything to write about. You’ll still be working on your craft, you’ll still be moving forward. It’s all writing.


1. Automatic Writing
I talked about this one a couple of weeks ago. Give yourself a time limit, a topic and go. Don’t stop, don’t self-censor, get those words on the page.

2. Personify an Object
If you ever have trouble creating characters, use this exercise. Take an object – a discarded coke can, a rock, a toy car – and get specific with it. If that object could talk, what would it think? What does it do all day? Write an inner monologue for this object. Write a character profile for them.

3. Prompt – picture, headline, object
Start collecting items to use as a prompt. Look at a picture and as a warm up exercise, ask 10 questions about that picture. Writing is all about the specifics and questions are a great way to dive deep. Focus on the who, what, where, when, why? And then try to answer those questions. There’s no right or wrong here, the best answer is the one you come up with.

4. Play a piece of music and write
We all need different stimuli to work. Some respond really well to music – do you? Throw on a piece of music at random and start automatic writing. What characters come to mind? What emotions does the music stir up? What locations do you visualize?

5. What’s going on outside your window
Easiest warm up ever. Every day look out your window and write down your observations. Be specific. Don’t just focus on what you see. What else is there?

6. Write a description of an object or person
Again it’s all about being specific. Take one person and describe them in utmost detail. Describe them using the five senses. Find the one word that describes them perfects. The one action that would tell a stranger everything.

7. Write a response to something you read, a tv show/movie you saw, a play you attended.
Your point of view and your opinion are useful writing tools. Start developing them in full. Watch a tv show and then write down your response. Go beyond “I like, I didn’t like.” Get specific with what’s happening, why you react in a certain way, who are the characters.

8. The Half page monologue
Monologues are key to the theatrical form. Get in the habit of writing them. Go to google news, find a headline, decide on a character who comes from that headline and write a half page monologue for that character. No more though, this is just a warm up.

9. The one location two person scene
After the monologue you need to become an expert on the two person, one location scene. For warm ups, stick to a page. Take two characters put them in a room and have them talk to each other. Define the relationship, define the want. Which one will leave at the end of the page?

10. Write in a specific form
Warm ups are a great place to experiment and explore. On Monday, write your one location two person scene. On Tuesday re-write the scene as a historical romance. On Wednesday, try absurd. Thursday, make it a children’s show. Friday, a musical.


17 Questions to Ask Yourself in the Dog days of Writing

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When you’re closer to the end of a draft than to the beginning it’s time to hunker down and get specific. Look at the play you’re working on and answer these questions. If you can answer every one with confidence, you’re nearing the finish line.

  1. Why does the world of the play matter?
  2. What makes my story specific and unique?
  3. How does each scene advance the journey of the play?
  4. Is there anything I’m holding on to in the script, even if it doesn’t advance the journey? Why?
  5. Is there any time I repeat myself? If so, why is it important to the story to repeat that information?
  6. What style am I writing in?
  7. Why is this style necessary to the world of the play?
  8. How do my main characters change from the beginning to the end of the play?
  9. What are the flaws in my main characters?
  10. What makes my main character specific and unique?
  11. Why does the main conflict matter?
  12. Who is my audience?
  13. What do I like about my audience?
  14. How do I want to challenge my audience?
  15. What do I like about this play?
  16. What do I love about this play?
  17. What challenges me about this play?

Create Your Own Feedback Sheet


You’ve received some feedback. The best scenario is that the feedback is useful, helpful, and practical. It inspires you to get to work right away. The sky opens, the hallelujah chorus plays and you know exactly how to move forward.

This does not always happen.

In fact it rarely happens. For many writers, the reaction when they get feedback is What do I do with this? What do I do now?

Avoid this by creating your own feedback sheet.

Don’t hand your play off to a respondent with a Tell me what you think! Give your respondent direction. Give your respondent context. Give your respondent a specific job as they read your play. Not only is this going to make it easier on your respondent (most times if a respondent fails to give feedback or gives crappy feedback it’s because they have no idea where to start), it’s going to give you a clear picture of what’s working, what’s not and where you need to put your focus during rewrites.

The Feedback form is divided into two parts.


1. Answer this question: Where are you with this draft?

Is this a first draft? Have you been working on it for a month or a year? Are you happy with what you’ve written? Are you frustrated? What do you want to accomplish with this play? Let your respondent know exactly where you are with the draft.

Eg: This is my second draft of “The Waiting Room.” I’ve been working on it for three months. I really love my beginning but struggle a lot with the end. I want this play to really hit the audience. I want them to be dazed when they leave the theatre.

2. Give the respondent a job.
Instead of asking “What do you think?” give a specific job to your respondent. Give them ONE thing to accomplish as they read your play. Ask them –  “Do you think the ending is satisfying, why or why not?” Ask them –  “Is the main character is loveable or hard to connect to?” Ask them  – “Did you get the plot twist?”  Come up with ONE thing you want your respondent to answer.


In Part two you’re going to avoid asking for likes and dislikes. These are opinions and they’re subjective. Just become someone “likes” your work doesn’t mean it can’t be improved and just becomes someone “dislikes” your work doesn’t mean it has value. Instead ask your respondent for Impressions and Questions.

1. Impressions are important because they tell you what stays with the reader. And what stays with the reader is what is going to stay with an audience. It could be a moment, an image, a character, a tone, a line of dialogue. What resonates? Ask your respondent for 2 to 3 Impressions.

2. Questions are important because they give you something to answer. They give you a task to accomplish right away. That means you’re not sitting staring at your feedback wondering where to start. You have forward motion. Ask your respondent for 3 questions.

When you give a draft to someone for feedback include your version of this Feedback sheet. By doing so you’ll up your chances of getting that useful, helpful and practical feedback that will move your work forward.

Never Forget The Audience


Who are you writing for?

This is an important question when you write. Who are you writing for? What do you want them to get out of your work? How will they be affected by your work?

No matter what kind of writing you do (unless it’s a private diary hidden in a drawer under lock and key) there will always be an audience. It could be an audience of one reader or a theatre full of expectant folks waiting to hear your words. Writing does not and cannot happen in a vaccuum.

Writing is an act of communication.  It’s a two way street.

Many writers miss this point. They’re self-involved in the process – I must express myself. I must tell my story. When a piece doesn’t go well, they blame the audience –  They’re not smart enough, they don’t understand me, they don’t get what I’m writing.

Writing is most effective when the writer focuses outward instead of inward –   I must communicate my story.  There has to be an audience. And more importantly, there has to be a relationship with the audience.

Who do you see when you think of your audience?  

Do you have a specific type of person in mind? A specific group? We are in an era where writers can easily cut out the middle man and hone in on the specifics. Your audience does not have to be a nameless faceless crowd. You can converse via twitter. You can have facebook fans. You can start your own email list and talk to them directly. Gone are the barriers between writer and audience. But it also means there’s nowhere for the writer to hide for good or for ill. Gone are the days where the writer can just sit alone in their room banging away at the old keyboard and never give their audience a second thought.


Write a letter to your ideal audience member. How would you introduce your work to them?