Write Your Own Play

As one playwright to another, it isn’t much fun when anyone, let alone a stranger reading your script, tells you “what” you should have written, “how” you should have written it and “why” you should change it.  And yet, I’ve been fortunate to have work accepted for critique at professional workshops which proved to be quite beneficial.  Even the writers group I attended years ago produced the occasional insightful comment that could lead to an improved script.  Development workshops and programs have led to great works by great writers, some just starting out and others well on their way.  Unfortunately, as writers, we sometimes become so blinded by our own words that we fail to hear how they sound to others.  We even, on occasion, see something that isn’t there because we heard it in our head but somehow missed whatever it was in the translation to paper.  And yet we still see it and believe others see it as well.  As the head of Heartland Plays, Inc. I have both the interesting role of having the final say in what plays we publish and in editing the work selected.  I prefer conflict in drama and not life whenever possible.  Therefore, if I think there are issues with a script that if addressed, I would like to publish, I typically send an email to the author with a short critique and see how the author responds.  If it looks like we can work together, or at the very least, feel as if the author is willing to strengthen the work with revisions where requested — if the work is good and the author willing — we offer a contract.  If the response is negative, the message is clear that the author does not see any weaknesses in his/her script and, in all fairness, that is the author’s decision.  So I pass with the perfunctory “doesn’t fit our needs” and “opinion of one publisher.” On the other hand, if I see nothing substantial that needs revised, I typically enter into the contract assuming if something comes up during the formatting/editing process, it will most likely be minor and not cause too much difficulty solving.  As Editor, however, I do on occasion take the liberty to make minor edits, and on rare occasions even go so far as to add a line or two if necessary to solve issues with transitions, correct inconsistencies or help develop a scene.  Doesn’t happen often, but once in a while…there it is…something I hadn’t caught in my first read through.  My training and professional experience as a director, actor, and playwright helps me identify problems that a writer, who hasn’t worked professionally on stage or from the director’s seat may not see.  And one of my strengths as an Editor is the ability to perceive and imitate a writer’s style and a character’s voice.  Although typically, requests for revisions are made to the writer, if I make edits, the playwright is made aware of the changes and has the opportunity to either accept the edits as made or make his/her own revisions or some combination thereof.  No matter what, the play belongs to the playwright and whatever we publish is by a final nod from the playwright.  I do “write my own plays” and do not have the need to write yours.  But if working through issues with your editor makes you scream “Write Your Own Play” then publishing your work may not be right for you.