Book Review: Being a Playwright – A Career Guide for Writers  

By Chris Foxon & George Turvey
Published by Nick Hern Books

Iwas delighted when this how-to book landed on my desk. I’m a writer (over 100,000 words a year). I go to the theatre to review several times a week. I’ve long thought I should somehow knit the strands of my life together and write a play. And now I have a useful resource to tell me how to do it.

In fact, this book isn’t really so much about writing a play as how to build and manage your career as a playwright. Foxon and Turvey are the team behind the multi-award-winning new writing company Papatango with a fine track record in finding and launching new voices. They are very good on what sort of training to seek, how to develop a production-ready draft and working with agents and publishers. They also make very sensible suggestions about how to organise the writing process itself.

Once you’ve written your play you need contacts and networks and there are useful ideas for securing good deals. “It’s imperative to have a formal written agreement that ensures clarity and mutual understanding so that all involved are protected and nourished” they write.

I also like the case studies (Arthur Miller, Nina Raine, Going International etc) and the Insider Views (Moses Raine, Matt Applewhite, Tom Brennan et al) which are dropped into the book at intervals in panels. It all feels encouragingly rooted in real experience and these inset passages validate the advice. And the tenor of the book is very practical: go easy on stage directions, don’t send your manuscript to a company which has just done a play on a similar subject, read books by playwrights, see lots of theatre and plenty more.

All I need now is really strong subject and about three months at my desk. A project for 2019? We’ll see.

Review by Susan Elkin