If, like me, you're an enthusiastic hobbyist when it comes to creative writing, the leap from scriptwriting for pleasure to getting a full-length play up on its feet can seem an enormous one.
But if I can do it, anyone can, which is why I thought I would share some tips discovered from my own tried, failed, and very occasionally successful forays into the world of scriptwriting.
After lots and lots wintery nights fannying about with my script Robbie's Date, The Courtyard Theatre in London liked it enough to organise a team to put it on for a five-day run next week. Although I've had a few shorter plays produced, this is the first one I've told all my friends about, so the queasiness has already set in. But of course it's always a good feeling to see the fruits of all that typing away, hunched over your laptop, culminate into something more tangible.
So here are my tips for making the leap:
Make sure you genuinely like your script
It's almost impossible to be really happy with something you've done yourself. But does the script best represent your writing? Has it got passion? Are any boring, overwritten bits definitely gone? Have you had enough feedback and done enough re-writes to be confident that this is your best attempt?
All this makes a heck of a difference if you end up meeting producers and directors - you need to be able to punt your own stuff with conviction.
Be prepared to get a bit DIY
While it's definitely worth sending your stuff to the likes of The Royal Court and The Bush on the off-chance you've written a total ground-breaker that'll blow the thousands of other scripts they receive out of the water, don't overlook smaller scale opportunities with fringe theatres and theatre companies. Arts charity Ideastap is a good place to look for script shout-outs.
I ended up getting Robbie's Date put on because I'd been involved in a short play evening at The Courtyard. Afterwards, I asked the producer if he'd be interested in reading my full-length script and luckily he was happy to organise a slot, as well as a director and actors to put it on as part of the theatre's new writing season.
It helps, with the DIY approach, if you're not bothered about making money with your script. A lot of fringe theatre is profit-share. If I make any money from Robbie's Date I'll treat my husband to a Nando's, but I won't make any plans beyond that.
Short plays can lead to longer ones
It seems you're more likely to make an impact at a theatre if they've had a little taster of your work and preferably met and hopefully liked you. By getting involved with The Courtyard's new writing evening last year, I had a good flavour of what the theatre was like, the sort of writing they seemed to advocate and the audience it attracts and I hoped my play might be of interest to them. I also knew my play would be relatively uncomplicated to produce which I hoped would make the case more convincing.
Be more sociable
While I suspect actors meet and work with new people as often as they change their pants it's a bit different for aspiring writers when you're used to it just being you mooching around on your laptop. It can also be a bit embarrassing to tell people about your projects in case they turn out to be rubbish. But if you've got a script you're fairly pleased with it can only be an advantage to get in touch with people in the industry personally to find out what they're looking for. The word "networking" might make you feel sick and you might think that playwriting should be a pure meritocracy, but the greater your reach the more likely you are to find out about opportunities where your script might fit. So suck it up and get out there, man.
My play Robbie's Date is on at The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, London 20-24 January.
Image by Wharton Center / Wikimedia Commons