8 of the Best Ways To Get Your Play Published
Written by: Rose Helsinger
Date: March 24, 2020
Congratulations, you’ve finished a draft of a play! I wish the hard part were over, but the road to publication is its own difficulty. Lucky for you, PerformerStuff is here to break down eight ways to make the road to print a little easier.
Work on your editing skills.
One thing publication companies look for in a final draft is little to no spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to go through your script line by line and check your work. Websites like Hemingway Editor and Grammarly are great at catching little errors. In your first couple rounds of self-editing, think through your story beats with this in mind: why are my characters doing what they’re doing? What are my characters saying, and more importantly, want to say, but not saying in each scene? What do my characters want, and how do their actions reflect these wants?
Give your play to the people you trust.
If you’re satisfied with where your draft is, and you feel your characters are consistent, then it’s time to bring in a second pair of eyes. A crucial step in the process and this is where playwrights often feel the most vulnerable. Showing your work to another person for the first time can make you doubt everything and feel stupid for even trying to create something. Remember that just creating something is a victory. Ask your reader what they understood about your script, what confused them, what they think there could be more of, what most affected them? These are questions focused more on comprehension and emotional attachment, rather than like and don’t like.
Join a writer’s group
Being a playwright today means that you are more connected to other writers than ever before. Joining an in-person or online group of playwrights can provide advice, support, and motivation to keep writing. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November is an online collective that challenges writers to produce work of their chosen word count over a month-long period. It connects you with other writers doing the challenge, as well as keeping you motivated. There are more playwright specific groups on social media dedicated to building a writing community and reminding you that you’re not in this alone.
One of the best things about scripts is how easily they workshop out loud. Unlike a novel or a screenplay, you can see a prototype version of your show in a draft read through. Get together a group of your friends, assign them roles, and talk collaboratively afterward about how they felt reading the show out loud. Frequently, there are unique and valuable insights from read-throughs of a group of people you trust, giving you feedback on how they think the show performs and what it might be missing.
Now that you have critiques from people you love who read your script, and friends who performed your script, it’s time to revise. Take all the notes they gave you and work toward an improved draft. Ask yourself if your characters sound distinct from one another; their actions are motivated, themes extend throughout the script coming from not only character but also the world. As well as, Why is this story happening now in the lives of your characters? How are they changed by the events of your show?
Do research on publication companies.
No two publication companies are alike. Some focus solely on children’s theatre, others on high school theater and younger, some for adults but skewing toward family-friendly, and others for adults skewing toward edgier, experimental pieces. Doing research is an essential part of being published because you’re scouting out a home for your work. You want to find a publication company that matches your show and preferably has published shows similar in genre, style, or subject matter to your script. This ensures not only a better chance of them accepting your work, but also that your script is handled by a company who knows how to sell it.
Send out your work!
Send your work out consistently. Apply to at least ten to twenty presses on your first round. Make sure to pay attention to their submission guidelines as every publication requires different things. Pay special attention to formatting guidelines because some presses will reject your script without even reading it if you disregard their rules.
Keeping spirits high
It’s easy to become depressed as rejection emails come in. Maybe you’ll get incredibly lucky, and your first submission becomes your first acceptance, but usually, it’s the tenth, twentieth, fiftieth, hundredth, or more. You cannot lose hope. If a publication is something you want, you have to keep submitting your work, or no one will have a chance to publish it. Take any useful critique from publishers who said no to your script and work on improving it. As to deal with rejection, Creatives have made an annual challenge to collect one hundred rejections in one year. Framing rejections in a positive light while you work toward success. Instead of thinking, they didn’t want my script, you think, another rejection to cross off the list. It’s easy to tell yourself the false narrative that everyone rejects you when you’ve only applied to a couple of places and aren’t keeping track. By maintaining a list of rejections, you see how many shots you gave your script to succeed. It also helps to treat yourself in some small ways every time you put yourself out there. You’re doing the brave work or trying to put your art into the world, keep your head held high. The work you’re doing is valuable. The world needs your script, and only you can give it to us.
Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.
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Rose Helsinger is a playwright and author studying Creative Writing at Florida State University. She is currently working toward her undergraduate thesis on Shakespeare and Adultery. Her one-act, Between Mars and Me, is available for purchase from YouthPlays.