Emerging Writers’ Group: Playwriting Tips #1

The Emerging Writers’ Group is the Bush Theatre’s flagship programme for playwrights.

EWG is run by our Literary department under the leadership of Stewart Pringle. This year he has been assisted by Ellie Horne. Here the writers reflect on their year with us and their learnings about playwriting.

Kelly Marie Jones @KMJwriter

As Jay Z said: “I‘ve got 99 problems, but being on EWG at The Bush ain’t one…”

The top ten things I have learnt and loved about being a part of EWG at the Bush 2017/2018.

  1. Being a part of EWG has made me sit down and write a play that I’ve wanted to write for a long time.
  2. The Masterclasses. During a Masterclass Session with Alistair McDowall he said something that has really stuck with me. Often, what is best for you and what is best for your play, are two separate things. You should always do what’s best for your play and most of the time that is to sit down and write.
  3. EWG has reminded me to give myself the freedom to see where the writing takes me and trust my instinct.
  4. EWG has made me a better writer- It has encouraged me to be bolder and challenged me to think critically about my work.
  5. Our monthly EWG sessions at the Bush and working in the Reading Room surrounded by books.
  6. Stewart and Ellie. Nuff said.
  7. It’s not exercise led like most writing groups. It’s focused on you and your play.
  8. You get to spend time with other writers.
  9. You get to see work at the Bush and discuss other work you have seen.

And Finally…

  1. Someone always brings biscuits and cakes to the sessions. Delicious and an important part of the process.

 “You should always do what’s best for your play and most of the time that is to sit down and write.” – Kelly Marie Jones

Five Things I’ve Learned From The Bush EWG so far… By Tom Wentworth @tomthetwit

  1. The best way to learn about your writing is to read other playwrights’ work – The Emerging Writers’ Group sessions are based around each of us bringing a new extract of what we’re working on to share. All the other playwrights have fascinating insights into how you can improve your work; however, I think I’ve learned the most by commenting on the work of others. (I hope they feel the same.)
  2. I work best under pressure – No surprises here! The group meets once and month and while I can agonise for approximately 27 days before the session I seem to write my best stuff in the last few days before the deadline. I don’t think I’d better make a habit of that!
  3. As playwrights we need to learn to talk more – The EWG provides not only a chance to discuss our plays but also the struggles and joys of being emerging playwrights which is something in this lonely profession we don’t often get the chance to do. It’s a wonderfully valuable opportunity.
  4. I’m not very good at remembering to return books to the Bush’s library – Guilty as charged! The Bush has the most wonderful library and we’re allowed to borrow books from it. It’s full of plays that I want to read and so I take them away and do just that. I then manage to forget to take them with me to the next session, or even worse I carry them around to productions at the Bush. If you see me there, please remind me. I’m not a thief, promise.
  5. I need to start thinking big – The group has been great for pushing me to think about the scale and theatricality of my work. So often emerging writers are asked to scale down their ideas while the fantastic team at the Bush led by the Associate Dramaturg, Stewart Pringle, have opened us up to think bigger than before.

“The best way to learn about your writing is to read other playwrights’ work.” – Tom Wentworth

Robyn Addison @RobynEthel

What struck me the most throughout our EWG group sessions was how very different our approach to the work has been and how thrillingly eclectic the plays we’re working on will hopefully turn out to be. The most rewarding aspect has been having that small community of writers to get support and inspiration from. The group challenges each other to share, when it may feel still like a delicate, fragile seed of an idea. At first it can feel exposing, handing your heart on a plate to be dissected, but it can also help to crack tricky problems and focus your work.

“Get to the end of a sentence before trying to edit it.” – Robyn Addison

My tip would be to get to the end of a sentence before trying to edit it and try and avoid second guessing yourself on every single word before that sentence is on the page. (I pressed the delete button three times in trying to write that, so not always practising what I preach!)

“Being a writer is mostly about an almost irrational perseverance in the face of obstacles” – Afsaneh Gray

Afsaneh Gray @afsanehgray

At the last group session for the Bush Emerging Writers Group, I was struck by how far our plays have come and how close they were to home. We had each been on a journey – through a lot of doubt and crises of confidence and some pretty terrible growing pains (I don’t want to speak for everyone, but some of my early extracts had me wishing the floor would swallow me up). And now things were clicking into place, and the visions we had originally presented to each other were suddenly coming to life. Being a writer is mostly about an almost irrational perseverance in the face of obstacles – you have an idea and then it doesn’t work and it keeps not working and then finally it works. There’ll be more hurdles to jump, for sure; but it was really exciting to watch as we each scaled that first one.

Look out for the next in our series of EWG blogs soon. In the meantime, we’ve got tonnes of resources for playwrights here.