Generally speaking I’m not crazy about How-To manuals, especially when it comes to something like writing. Actually I’m not particularly fond of reading instructions on anything- so I really am an advocate for just jumping in headfirst. Generally I’d say:
- Learn from actual playwrights. Go read plays. Go read all the play you can get your hands on. Anything that interests you. Actually read things that don’t interest you either- cause sometimes reading or watching something you end up hating or disagreeing with, is wonderfully motivating.
Then, go see all the plays you can. Cause there’s a big difference between what works on the page and what works on the stage. Even in terms of understand the practicalities of creating or producing a piece. And that’ll make all the difference to your director/producer, believe me.
- Don’t limit yourself. If you want to write plays, then read screenplays, journals, novels, ethnographies, short stories- anything and everything. Joss Whedon calls it “filling the tank”. Fill up on stories, on methods of story telling, on different ideas, worldviews and people. Just make sure you don’t limit yourself to the canon and narratives you’ve already ingested.
And, keep your eyes open, sometimes that stuff just shows up in your life.
- Learn from the writers who’s work you love and admire. Ask yourself what it is about their work that makes you do a happy dance around your living room. Or you know- just generally makes you want to talk about to your friends if you’re a little calmer than I am.
(I, for example am crazy about Community- so I’m particularly interested in Dan Harmon’s story circle.)
- Another great resource that I swear by is the Nerdist Writers Panel. it’s a podcast hosted by writer Ben Blacker, who interviews writers of every kind; TV, Film, Music, Novelists and Comic Books writers or anyone else who’s written something at some point. Not only is it helpful to hear about the real experiences of working writers but it’s also wonderfully motivating. They cover everything from the actual writing process, to selling your work, to working in the industry. Sometimes they even get into arguments about who would win in a fight Neanderthals or Astronauts. It’s hilarious, not to mention completely free and benefits A26LA a national non-profit tutoring program. It used to make my hour and a half long commute to University a lot more interesting.
- Finally I’ll concede and list a couple of the the film and stage books I have on my shelf:
1. Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide by Anthony Q. Artis
2. Cross Cultural Filmmaking by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor (from my Ethnographic Film Course- so not that relative to general filmaking but definitely an interesting read)
3. Film a Critical Introduction by Maria Pramaggiore and Tom Wallis
4. Script Analysis by James Thomas
5. Theater the Lively Art by Edwin Wilson and Alvin Goldfarbb
6. Documentary the Margins of Reality by Paul Ward
I’ll be perfectly honest in admitting I don’t read the above too often.
- Finally as a journalist, you’re already a storyteller. Now if you’re looking to learn how to properly format/structure and therefore sell your work, reading a lot of plays kills two birds with one stone by teaching you the content and the structure. But on that same note- structure is there to be played with. Learn the rules then break them :) We certainly did for AoJE.
Ok that was a lot of general rambling - so I hope I answered your question. Especially since I typed out this beautiful, long answer and then deleted the whole thing by accident.
If I missed anything or if you’d like details, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
^ Reblogging because this is stellar writing advice.
In addition, I’ll add: