How to Write a Great Script – how to write a play

how to write a play


Everyone has great ideas but not everyone can easily sit down and put their ideas into words on a page. Here are some basic rules for beginners on how to write a play that gets produced:

  • Decide on the length of the play – ten minute sketch, one act play or full length play
  • Know how it starts and ends and what happens in the middle. Often people have a great start with a great idea but it fizzles away because they’ve put a lot more work into the beginning than the end. A great start captures the audience but a great ending will leave them wanting more.
  • Once you know the length you can decide if it is a one act, two act or three act play and fit the beginning, middle and end into the number of pages.  For example, in a ten minute play, the scene will be set in the first two pages and the characters introduced. Then from page 3 to 7 the story of what happens to them evolves and then from page 8 to 10 the story comes to a climax and resolution. It sounds simplistic, but it’s merely a broad guideline to those who are just starting out writing.  Plays with intervals like two act plays work well if there is a semi climax at the end of act one that leaves the audience wondering what happens next.
  • Decide if it will be a comedy, drama, musical etc. from the outset. The style of writing from the beginning should fit the genre you are writing for.  Comedy writing is often short and sharp with witty lines and dramas more prosaic.
  • Make it easy to produce.  A play with twenty acts and huge cast is highly unlikely to be put on. Ever.  Plays longer than two hours are also seldom purchased. A publisher will generally publish what they think will sell, regardless of the artistic value of the piece.
  • Know who you are writing it for – teens, children, amdram or musical theatre as a start. Schools and community theatres have smaller venues often with budgets that match.  Make the costumes, effects and set easy to set up and change.
  • IMPORTANT!!! Spelling, grammar and layout are fundamental. Most publishers will not accept faults in any of these. Before you submit your play, check with your publisher what layouts they accept and adapt your layout accordingly.
  • Use language appropriate for the period you are writing for and if you are writing a contemporary (modern) script, use contemporary everyday spoken language. It’s very obvious when people write plays with words that, although grammatically correct are seldom used by people nowadays. As an example, in a contemporary play:

John:   I think you’re wrong.

Janet:  Oh, really? Why don’t you prove it?

as opposed to:

Jack:  Your assumption is the incorrect one this day.

Janet: Goodness! I would like you to give me an example that will illuminate me. 

This sort of thing often happens if people are writing in their second language, so if you’re doing that, have someone whose first language is the one you are writing in double check it for you prior to submission.

  • Submit your play to the right publisher.  Have a look at the type of plays they sell and see if your play fits with them nicely. Here on Off the Wall plays, we’ve almost all been on stage before, so we sell somewhat quirky plays that are generally fun to put on. You also get publishers that only publish for specific markets – for example Christian plays.
  • We hope that these tips help you on your way on how to write a play that gets produced. We also accept submissions every year from April to May so if you would like to submit your play


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