To write a play, you need to have a passion for the performing arts. Talent undoubtedly plays a role in a playwright’s career, but that’s not all you need to become a successful playwright. 

You don’t need talent to write a play. If you’re looking to write professionally, you must develop your skills, and bring unique elements to the table, especially if you’re planning on making a playwriting career. Talent is helpful, but it doesn’t beat skill as far as usefulness goes. 

Read on to discover the talents and skills it takes to become a successful playwright with the ability to turn your ideas into a reality.

What Do You Need To Write a Play?

To write a play, it helps to have a creative mind, and have good time management and planning skills. It also helps to be dedicated, ambitious, and possess fair organizational and interpersonal communication skills to write a play

Writing a play, naturally talented or not, is a lot of work, regardless of the length of the play. 

A playwright needs to possess time management skills to write and edit a good script before actors begin rehearsals. They need to ensure the actors know the script and change things that need altering during rehearsals.

Organization and interpersonal communication are essential when working with a team. A playwright can help to organize casting calls to find actors that portray the roles the way they envisioned. 

It also helps if they have organizational skills to secure a venue, permission to perform at said venue, secure funding for the show and pay the actors. Although much of this is ultimately the responsibility of the director and producer.

To backtrack to the beginning stages of a performance, a playwright needs to have an idea. They must have a creative, original, engaging story with good writing and dialogue, exemplary grammar and spelling, and correct stage directions and overall formatting.

If a playwright wants to take their script to the stage, they need to confirm whether or not their idea is marketable. This happens when a playwright presents a script to a producer or a theatre

A playwright will only really make a substantial profit if the show is popular, and the theatre will likely only show it in the first place if they believe it has the potential to be successful. 

Playwriting: Talent vs. Skill

Some people have an innate ability to express themselves and a natural affinity for language and creativity, as well as natural storytelling prowess. However, it’s a skill anyone can learn and be just as good as someone with innate talent. 

In fact, even naturally talented people must work to improve their talents and cannot rely on talent alone. Nobody has ever learned as much as they can learn, which is to say that there is always room for improvement. 

Even the greats need a refresher sometimes.

Here are some now-famous writers that started with a rocky writing career to boost your confidence and show you that anything is possible if you’re willing to learn from your past mistakes. 

The best ways to improve your literacy and write a great script are the following:

  • Read a lot of anything you can get your hands on, including plays, screenplays, novels, and short stories. Fill your mind with writing you like and dislike so that you will develop a feel for what direction you want to go in as a creator.
  • Find a writer you like and whose style you want to emulate, and in doing so, you will strengthen your personal style. This will also show you what your future work might look like from the audience’s perspective and what they’re likely to pick up in your script.  
  • Write a lot. Like reading, write about anything and everything, as much as possible. This will allow you to hone your literacy skills, as well as your presence in your writing, and allow you to develop a personal style that will be distinct in your productions. 
  • Seek criticism, as no good piece of writing was well-received by everyone. Nor was every great piece of writing done perfectly. Every bit of criticism is an opportunity to grow as a writer and improve your script.
  • Don’t get attached to your first draft. The fact is, you will have to make edits and cuts, and some of them will be harder to make than others. Sometimes you have to make hard choices to improve the content of your script. 

Aspiring playwrights can also improve their abilities by taking theatre, writing, or playwriting courses, such as those offered on Udemy. These are affordable and allow you to deepen your knowledge of scriptwriting and formatting, editing, and character development and dialogue.

Other Jobs Playwrights Can Consider

Being a playwright allows you to hone your talents and develop skills that could be extremely useful elsewhere, inside and outside the theatre.

Playwrights can transition over to or take on other jobs, such as:

  • Editing jobs. 
  • Screenplay writing for movies and TV shows
  • Writing novels, poetry, speeches, or articles.
  • Advertisement scriptwriting, or copywriting.
  • Critiquing other theatre productions.
  • Theatre coaching and teaching writing and editing.
  • Producing or directing plays.
  • Acting or voice acting.

Playwriting gives you some practical and versatile work and life skills. 

However, it’s common knowledge that, unless your production is in very high demand and generating a large amount of revenue, a playwright likely won’t be able to make a living purely off playwriting.

This is why a playwright might consider switching jobs or simply taking up an extra job on the side to make ends meet and have a backup plan if their production doesn’t make a profit. 

Doing multiple jobs within a theatre setting can allow a playwright to save money on hiring other people. For example, a playwright with a knack for editing and directing can be responsible for all of those, thus spending less money on outsourcing editors and producers. 

Writing and acting in a one-act play can also give playwrights valuable acting experience, which can land them several jobs in the future. Here are some examples of playwrights that perform and direct their own work on stage. 

Conclusion

Innate talent is a headstart when it comes to playwriting or any creative pursuit for that matter. That being said, talent isn’t everything. The most valuable things you can bring to playwriting are a vision, ambition, and a set of skills.

These skills are networking, organizing, and excellent language and editing skills. Anyone can become a playwright if they’re willing to work at it. 

Categories: Playwriting

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.