Monday, November 23, 2015

Writing Scripts For Theatre Part Three - Formatting and Submitting

This is the final post in a three part series on writing scripts for theatre. In part one, 'Setting the Stage' I talked about key points to consider before even starting to write. In part two, 'Actually Writing' I lay out some basic ground rules for writing. In this part we will look at how to format our play and I offer some options for submission. Read on! 


-       Scripts should be typed in a simple font like Times New Roman at size 12. Some publishers want double-spacing, but most accept 1 or 1.5 spacing as long as there is an extra space between separate characters’ dialogue. (Double return)

-       The character name comes before their dialogue. (Do not use quotation marks.) Make the character name stand apart from the dialogue: ALL CAPS, bold or BOTH.

-       all stage directions, including entrances and exits, need to be set apart from the dialogue. Some publishers prefer parenthesis, others use < > around the directions. Generally speaking, stage directions should be italicized. Song titles are treated like other stage directions. The song lyrics themselves are usually found on a separate page at the front or back of the play.

-       Page numbers begin with the body of the play, NOT on the cast page or any other pages.

      Other pages may include:
-  Title page                      - Scene/Acts headings page (optional)
     -  Cast list                         - Musical numbers page (for musicals)
-  Props list                       - Production notes
-  Original cast list (optional)

Sample formatting:

ACT ONE Scene One

Alice discovered at rise, sitting centre stage.

ALICE: Where am I?

Enter Hatter

HATTER: Why, you’re in Wonderland of course! Here, let me help you. (helps Alice to her feet)


-       Who are you submitting to?
-       Small professional theatre companies usually prefer small casts.
-       Schools often like larger casts with potential for extras (More females than males.)
-       Follow the basic formatting principles already discussed, but make sure you check each individual company’s (publisher’s) guidelines.


Play Submission Helper: submit plays to their database if you are looking for someone to produce your play.  (I have never used it but it might be something to look into)

Doollee - a constantly updated list of plays and publishers. This is an awesome resource.

TreePress – self proclaimed ‘online marketplace’ for plays. You can submit plays into their database. Sort of a ‘self publisher’ for plays where they act as a distribution channel.

PLAY PUBLISHERS *(not a complete list)

Big Dog Publishing 
Brooklyn Publishers
Dramatic Publishing
Eldridge Plays and Musicals
Heuer Publishing         
JAC Publishing and Promotions    

Norman Maine Plays
Original Works Publishing 
Pioneer Drama Service
Playscripts Inc. 
Samuel French

*click on the link above for links to all these resources and more. 

Other posts in this series:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Building A Readership

Authors want readers. This statement seems like a no-brainer. How can you go about building that readership? Let's explore some of the ways you can build that platform and increase your readership.

 1.    BRAND – is the promise to your readers. It's what they can expect from you. Build brand through all your online and off line platforms by maintaining consistency in the way things look. This applies to the font, the colours - even your signature.  (Ex: Stephen King’s name looks the same on every one of his books.)

2.     WEBSITE - this is a must. Think of it as your online hub. It should have a booklist, a ‘coming soon’ section, and a sign up for an email newsletter.

3.     SOCIAL MEDIA - Be social, don’t do social! Your FB Author page is for more than just advertising. Be interesting. Do giveaways. Ask questions. ENGAGE your audience! Also, cross promote between social media. For example, ask a question on FB but have participants answer on twitter. Don't forget 'goodreads'! It's where readers hang out!

4.     NEWSLETTER - Your email list is an invaluable resource. It is the place where you make the rules and where you can talk directly to your true fans. I recommend Mailchimp, but there are other places to set up a newsletter such as Aweber. There are tons of ideas to help build your list, but here are just a few: 1. Offer an incentive like a free gift for signing up. 2. Offer random giveaways to those who are already part of your list. 3. Host monthly contests on your Website or FB page and announce the winner at the bottom of your newsletter.

5.     CROSS PROMOTE with other authors of the same genre. Talk about them, give away their stuff… etc. (In both newsletter and on social media) Also make sure you are cross promoting and adding links to box sets, anthologies, etc. If doing a collaborative series, make bookmarks, rafflecopter giveaways, FB ads – keep a separate page or landing spot for each series.

6. STREET TEAMS - these are fans who commit to promote you and your new releases. Reward their loyalty through exclusive contests, special offers like deleted scenes, or anything that makes it worth their while. Invite the high click-throughs on your email list to be on your street team. Invite people through your newsletter or at the back of your book. Use a separate newsletter, a yahoo groups, a separate private FB group, or a password protected page on your website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Semantics of Publishing For the Hybrid Author

There are so many options for authors these days, especially when it comes to finding a publisher. The traditional 'agent-publisher' route is not longer the only scenario. While there is still value in such a method, writers have truly become the 'authors' of their own destiny. However, many people mistakenly break it down into two broad camps: Traditional vs Self-Publishing. In reality, there is a lot more to explore, and often the meaning of these words get skewed by whomever is bandying them about. Let's take a closer look, starting with some definitions.

-       the 'big five' or New York Publishers
-       small presses (academic, boutique etc.)
-       digital only publishers
In all of these cases, the author does not pay any kind of fee. Instead, authors get paid by the publisher for the work under contract, usually through royalties, which sometimes includes an advance.

- Generally speaking, authors are assured of a quality product and have the backing of the company's distribution channels etc.
- There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. 

- Authors have minimal control over their own work. There are restrictions on the cover, launch dates etc. 
- Less of the profit goes to the author since he/she is also fueling the larger ‘machine’ of the publishing company. 

-       fully assisted publisher (sometimes called 'vanity') In this case, the author pays for services rendered which may or may not include professional editing depending on the contract.
-       DIY – This is true 'do it yourself' direct to createspace, lightning source etc. You pay as much or as little as you wish for professional editing, covers etc. but it is up to YOU to find the experts you need.
-       Community publishing (wattpad, blogs etc…) This is still 'publishing'.

- Authors can make more money because they are keeping the majority of the revenue.
- They can make changes, corrections, and updates as needed. Nothing is set in stone. 
- Authors get to set their own pricing and do special offers.

- There is the loss of quality control offered by the ‘industry’ as in professional editing, cover design etc.
- With more choices, authors also have more responsibilities. They must pay for anything that is out sourced like professional editing, covers etc. 
- The opportunity to learn from rejection and revision is lost. Both of these 'negatives' are actually fantastic teachers and help a writer to grow. In the end, sometimes people publish too early. 
- Distribution tends to be more difficult because authors must rely on their own networks. 

-  ‘Indie’ used to mean 'independent publishers' or small, boutique presses, but the meaning has shifted in recent years. Most people now understand the word 'indie' to mean self published.

  These are small publishing houses that work from a modified traditional model.
-  'family style' support because there are usually a smaller number of authors in the collective.
-   Some distribution and marketing advantages.
- There are still some gates to get through so quality of product is usually assured.
- More flexibility in terms of pricing and sales etc. because authors tend to have a closer relationship with the boutique than with a big publisher.

-  Edits are usually not as comprehensive and in the end authors still have to take responsibility for the final product.

So what is the point of all this?

Hybrid authors are on the rise. Many authors are combining two or more of the above options - a smart move especially in today's changing publishing industry. The hard truth is that in order to make money as a writer, most authors need more than one stream of writing income. They are learning to take advantage of the 'pros' from each subset to offset the cons of another.

For example, a traditional book might increase the credibility, reach, and sales of an indie book, while the indie book might bring in the bulk of the actual income. Connections made through a boutique publisher could lead to outsourcing opportunities for a self published project. Re-releasing titles after their contracts have expired, or retaining the ebook rights while selling foreign rights, are just a couple of other options. Don't be afraid to dip your toe into more than one puddle!

No matter what you choose, your time is always best spent writing more books!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Writing Scripts for Theatre Part Two - Actually Writing

I hope you remember the three key points from part one of this series on writing scripts for theatre:

1. A play is NOT a movie!
2. Plays need to be performed
3. Dialogue is everything

Now let's get to actually writing the script...


Must sound authentic - for the character and for how people really converse.
-  Should not become a substitute for showing with actions when appropriate.
-  Must never become an information dump. Avoid exposition!
-  Should illuminate the characters
-  Should advance the plot 


-  High stakes: Each character should have something at stake - a consequence if he doesn't get what he wants.
-  ‘Ticking clock’ – something that puts the characters under pressure to get what they want.
-  Make each character speak in a distinctive voice. If you have trouble with this, try imagining a specific actor - even if it's someone who will never play the part.

The INITIAL CONFLICT is key to the rest of the play. The basic ‘three part’ structure works best for plays. Keep it simple.

-       Beginning – exposition - intro to characters and conflict
-       Middle – complications (longest part) 
-       End – resolution (wrap it up)


Use subplots to add depth and interest - but be careful not to get too complicated. Subplots must:
-       have a purpose
-       be well developed so as not to confuse the audience and to maintain interest
-       tie together in the end.


-       Scenes’ are smaller sections that take place either in one ‘location’, or during one ‘time stamp’.
-       ‘Acts’ are often separated by an intermission. Each Act usually also contains its own ‘point of no return’.


-  Observations and discoveries must be turned into speech.
-  Important background information must be shared during conversations.
-  Do not rely on an elaborate set to create your setting. Locations and setting must be part of the dialogue.


-  Actions must be ‘big enough’ for the audience to see and understand what just happened. The stage is not the place for subtleties like a single tear rolling down a cheek.
-  Stunts and action scenes must be simple enough to work EVERY TIME!
-  Breakaways, special effects, costume changes require timing that must be written into the script.


 Motivation: Write characters that want something which puts them in conflict with other characters. (Overarching and from beat to beat.) *Beats are units of action within a scene.


-       Avoid too many directors’ notes. Allow the director/actors to make artistic decisions.
-       Always read your script out loud. Listen for unnatural speech, tongue twisters etc.
-       Round table readings are SO IMPORTANT! Don’t miss this step.
-       ‘Walk through’ your script. (Read it while walking through the actions.)
-       Keep set and technical requirements to a minimum.

Other posts in this series:
 - Part one: Setting the Stage