Lessons from reading plays #2: get feedback, and revise, before you submit

So, as you probably know already, I’m a reader for a festival this spring. The more plays I read, the more I think that everyone should do this at least once. It takes a lot of time, which I know means time away from writing. But it’ll be worth it.

Last time I posted, I talked about a simple way to make sure your characters sound different.

This time, I’m going to write about a problem I’ve noticed in several of the plays I’ve read.

I read a play. It’s not very good. Then I read, in the playwright’s info, that they’ve never heard it read out loud.  Maybe haven’t even shown the draft to anyone for feedback.

Don’t submit a play if you haven’t gotten feedback about it

If you haven’t gotten feedback about your play, it’s not ready to be submitted.

Okay, there are exceptions to this. Of course there are. But basically, if you’ve just finished the first draft, or the second draft, or maybe even the third draft, and you haven’t gotten feedback, your play isn’t ready to be submitted.

If you’ve made major changes since the last draft, and you haven’t gotten feedback, your play isn’t ready to be submitted.

If you’re new to playwriting, and you haven’t gotten feedback, your play isn’t ready to be submitted.

Believe me, the readers will be able to tell. Because some things you’ll have a hard time seeing about your play on your own. You have to have another perspective on it.

If you want to submit your play…

If you want to submit your play to a festival, or competition, or a theater, make sure it’s ready. Even if you’re submitting to some opportunity that includes workshopping. You might figure that if they’re going to workshop your play, it’s okay if it’s rough, right? Not necessarily.

You have to show them that you’re ready to do the work that they want to help you do.

… get feedback first…

There are lots of ways to get feedback. What’s more, there are even painless ways to get feedback. Okay, mostly painless. But the pain will be offset by the joy of being able to better tell the story you want to tell.

Have someone read it

Give your script to someone you trust to read it, and to give you generous and honest feedback.

Have a living room reading

Have friends over, provide them with some snacks, serve coffee (hey, I live in Seattle), hand out scripts, and read the play.

Listen as they read. Make notes of whatever strikes you. Parts of it are funny? Parts are moving? Parts are repetitious? Parts of it make people restless?

Do you get ideas for new scenes, higher stakes?

Ask questions afterwards. For some ideas on painless ways to decide what questions to ask, look at my posts on How to Get Good Feedback.

Write everything down: notes, ideas, answers to questions.

… and make some revisions.

However you get feedback, always remember, it’s still your play. Use whatever feedback will help you tell your story better.

If you had someone read the script, look over their notes. Ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand. Take their notes and work on rewrites.

If you had a living room reading, look over your notes.  Keep the good stuff in your play, edit out what’s repetitious. For the parts that make people restless, go backwards about five minutes worth; that’s where the problem is.

Then submit

Now your play is probably ready to submit.

If you made major changes, you may need to get some more feedback. And make some more revisions.

Yes, this takes time

You might want to submit your play NOW.  Right now. But remember, you’re making your play better. You’re finding better ways to communicate the story you’re passionate about. Which means you’re more likely to get your play accepted.

And even if your play doesn’t get accepted, you’ll make a better impression. People are more likely to want to see more of your work.

The better your play is, and the better impression you give, the better your chances of getting your play accepted.


About playwrightsmuse

Get produced, get published, let your brilliance shine! Follow along as we go through a step-by-step process for getting plays produced with the least amount of heartbreak and wasted postage and printing costs.
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