10 things to do once you’ve finished writing a play

Getting your script finished sometimes seems like an impossible task, but it’s a brilliant feeling when you’ve got a completed draft staring back at you. Yet the big question is: what do I do now? In this piece, Kimberley Andrews shares all the options you and your wonderful new script have…

You’ve done it! You’ve finally got to the end of your script! Perhaps you took part in #WrAP2018 and wrote the whole thing in January or maybe you’ve been working on it for what seems like all eternity.

Either way, there are few things more satisfying in life then ceremoniously typing out the phrase ‘The End’ as you hit the milestone of finishing your play. (Wahoo!)

Image by SilentMind8 via Flickr CC

But then what, hey?  Once the initial jubilation of getting your play finished wears off, it’s easy to feel daunted by the possibilities of what you should be doing with it. And whilst there’s plenty of information out there on actually writing the script, there are no hard and fast rules about what to do next.

With that in mind, here are our top 10 tips for what to do once you’ve finished your play:

1. Step away from it

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That’s it step. away. from. the. laptop. This might seem counterproductive since you’re feeling all buzzy about getting your play finished, but taking a break can help give you a perspective on where you want to go with it – or what needs editing.

It doesn’t have to be a long break, especially if you’re working towards a submission deadline, but reading a book, catching up with friends or just zoning out in front of some trashy TV puts some distance between  you and your play and helps you to see things with fresh eyes.

2. Redraft it

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This might sound obvious but don’t even think about doing anything with your play until you’ve redrafted it (and for professional opportunities, we’d recommend sending nothing earlier than your third draft).

Tackle the big stuff first, otherwise you’ll find yourself spending weeks tinkering with commas and minor details instead of grappling with the important stuff.

(Also, watch this space for a LPW online redrafting course that will be available to our members soon).

3. Get some feedback

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Once you feel you’ve made all the edits  you can, it’s worth getting some feedback to get another perspective. At this stage, try asking someone you know (and trust will be honest with you) to have a read of your play and to tell you what they think of it.

Unfortunately, most literary departments don’t offer feedback to writers and many don’t accept re-submissions,  so you’ll be wasting an opportunity to submit to them later if you send in an early draft.

If you’re stuck for someone to read your play,  you could consider our script consulting service or why not put a shout out on Facebook and do a script swap with another writer?

4.  Polish it

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Once your play has been suitably redrafted, it’s a good idea to go through it with a fine toothed comb and polish it to perfection.

While you’re busy with the creative stuff, it’s easy to forget small details such as formatting, page numbers and grammar; but these things are so important.

It might sound cheesy, but you are also presenting yourself when you send off a script, and you want to put your best foot forward.

You also want to make sure your play is as easy for a rushed literary manager to read as possible – so checking formatting details is doubly important.

You can find some great information on formatting your script on BBC Writersroom but the biggest tip we can give you is to be consistent!

5.  Workshop it

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Workshopping your play can be a really valuable way to test run it before you show it to an audience.

During a workshop, you’ll benefit from seeing your play up on it’s feet and you can also get actors to improvise around any problematic areas in your script.

Essentially, all you need for a workshop is some actors, a space and your script (a director is helpful too, particularly if you don’t fancy leading the workshop yourself).

The downside of this is that it can be costly and seem like an extravagance if you don’t know whether the play will be performed.

A good alternative to a workshop is to join a writers group (or start your own!) where you can have your work read out and discussed – you might even all be able to club together for some workshop sessions with actors.

6. Organise a reading

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There’s nothing quite like seeing your play up on stage and in the absence of a fully staged performance, a reading is the next best thing.

Invite the right people and who knows, your play might get picked up for a production.

And you can find out more about putting on a reading in Sam Sedgman’s piece here.

7. Pitch it

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Once you’ve got a script that you’d eventually like to see the light of day, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how you’ll pitch it to other people.

Pitches come in all different shapes and sizes: from the few sentences you write in an introductory email, to a full one-page outline, to the blurb on a flyer, and even to a conversation with a potential producer.

Also, spending some time trying summarise your idea is a great way to flag up any holes in your plot that you might need to revisit before you start submitting.

Write a few different variations of your pitch for different situations and do practice verbal pitches in the mirror (or to another human!) – the last thing you want to do when someone says ‘tell me out your play’ is answer with a giant ‘errrrr…..’. Awkward.

8. Send it to theatres

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The obvious choice of things to do with a finished play is to send it out to some theatres or apply for opportunities you’ve found on our website.

A common mistake is to send your play out to anyone and everyone, especially since you can do so by email these days and don’t have to shell out for hard copies!

Do your research and target the theatres you’d really like to work with first; it might be that you get a snippet of feedback and decide to redraft before sending it out to anyone else – or you never know, you might even get produced at your dream venue.

If you’re not sure which theatre is the best fit for your piece, look out for our members’ resource coming soon that will give you some advice on this one…

9. Produce it yourself

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Producing it yourself might sound like the most daunting of these options but it’s a sure fire way to get your work on stage – and that’s why you wrote it, right?

It also needn’t be as scary as you think – you don’t need to hire out the National or tour the whole country with it; you can hire a small venue and work on shoestring budget.

There’s no doubt that self-producing is hard work but it’s definitely one of the most empowering things you can do as an aspiring playwright.

10. Leave it in drawer

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This one sounds ridiculous but probably slightly tempting when faced with the gargantuan task of getting your play out there.

That said, there are instances when leaving it in a (probably metaphorical) drawer and getting on with your life isn’t such a bad thing.

Perhaps you wrote this play just to master the craft of playwriting; perhaps writing this play just provided a springboard for something bigger and better, or maybe you just don’t connect with the idea anymore.

There is no shame in recognising when it’s time to draw a line under something and move on – and nothing is wasted when you are developing and learning your craft anyway.

Just don’t let the reason you leave the play in a drawer be that you’re scared of the unknown or don’t feel you’re good enough. You’ve come this far, and you’ve already realised a huge goal by writing a play.

This is just the beginning!

Featured image by We Heart It via Flickr Commons  CC License

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