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on 31 January 2008
Tim is a playwright and an inspiring writing tutor - I've done several of his courses and found them really useful for understanding and absorbing mainstream play structure. I suspect this book will be of use to acting students as much as to aspiring writers; I've certainly found his principles invaluable when attempting to analyse plays with directing students.

The actual how-to part of the book may not seem that long - about seventy pages - and a substantial amount of the book is about the process of putting a play on, getting an agent, pitfalls, etc. But the point is that what Tim does say about the process of writing is invaluable because it's the bottled essence of years of working with students and his own experience. His style is down to earth and the book is set out as a series of questions or points so you can return to appropriate sections easily.

He's never overly prescriptive although he fiendishly cuts off the excuses that some of us have for not completing work: "the crucial thing is to keep the play in focus at some time during each day...the moment you get out of the habit of writing every day (for however short a time) ... it is amazing how quickly your project will vanish from view and the subconscious will cease to work on it." (Ain't it the truth?) He also suggests that with the first draft the primary aim is to get to the end, and being too precious about dialogue is pointless at this stage: "You should be thinking about the overall arc and architecture of the piece. Will the building still stand up - and what work needs to be done if it won't." The idea that the second draft should be written afresh rather than cut and pasted from the first is a painful thought (though another practising playwright and tutor, Lin Coghlan, has said much the same), but it's in the third draft, Tim says, where he starts to pay more attention to the dialogue as well as the structure and story arc.

Writing on spec is a lonely and frustrating occupation for the unproven playwright: there's the Catch 22 situation of needing the help and advice from theatres to complete a good draft which is rarely offered until you have, er, already completed a good draft. If you don't have the support system of a writing group (or even if you do) the practical advice in this readable little book can be highly recommended - and as a former literary manager of the Bush Theatre he's pretty well qualified to offer advice on avoiding common writing pitfalls.
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on 9 January 2009
Over the years I have read most books in print on playwrighting. A few are very popular and even the text of choice in some colleges and universities. A quote from Twyla Tharp comes to mind: "Why do we have to crawl to Art on our hands and knees? And put brambles in the path? It's something you do."

There came a point in my life when I realised that what I didn't need was to read another book on playwrighting. I had to start writing the play. I don't know Tim Fountain and I haven't seen his plays, but I can tell you there is more practical -- and honest -- advice in this book than in any other I've read. You have to learn how to write a play by writing the play; what this book does is provide an excellent road map and a terrific guide. I've encountered almost every obstacle and difficulty that he writes about, and his advice is practical and witty and clear and succinct. And the final proof is that it really did get me off my butt and got me writing again, which no book has managed before. That has to be the final test.

In my view, this is the best out there. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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on 22 June 2011
This book basically answers every single question a beginning playwright could possibly have. Written in a really friendly, down to earth style, So, You Want to Be a Playwright helps you encapsulate 'the story only you can tell', takes you through the re-drafting journey and tells you exactly what to do and expect when you get to the stage of trying to market it and get a production. It has been invaluable for me in re-booting my enthusiasm and spurring me on to complete my first play. Highly recommended!
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on 18 March 2010
Anyone who has ever worked in theatre will tell you it's a collaborative art form.
Many discliplines jostle for attention, and Fountain, in his witty and modern book, reminds us that it is the writer who is foremost.

With clear examples from his own literary career, Fountain illustrates a writer's life, their inspiration, and some of the hurdles which must be jumped to achieve theatrical success.

Endlessly witty and clued up, Fountain's book is a pacey read, with anecdotes a plenty, loads of good jokes and a strong sense of what an audience really wants.
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on 14 May 2010
So you want to be a playwright" is the best book I ever read on playwriting. It is very short and to the point. In the second half (!) of the book he also tell you what happens after your play has been accepted and how you are going to feel during rehearsels.
A very good point is that he strsses all the time: finish the play, finish it, don't write the first episode over and over again. It is not a novel. And write every day for a short time because the development of the play goes on in your brains while you are not writing!
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2013
For me this is the best book on play writing I've read. The tone is that of a tutor who informs, encourages, and cajoles, rather than a teacher who tells you the way to do it. So many other manuals take the intellectual high ground and leave you feeling inferior.

Tim Fountain instructs via his own experience not only of writing plays, but also of being involved in their production. This means all the professional stuff about getting a play produced and what the playwright's involvement is during that process is all here. Most books leave that bit out.

It's a book that makes you feel supported, and with the right to disagree and try other ways of writing. I found myself sometimes thinking, "I'm not sure about that," but then reckoning his recommended method worth a try.

Somehow, it feels as if a two-way dialogue is going on as you read.

Another good one for the shelf, along with all the other Nick Hern "So You Want To Be A..." volumes.
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on 16 July 2017
I owned this book for about a week before someone borrowed it and didn't bring it back.
I had chance to read a small part of it and was looking forward to reading more.
So the fact that the person who nicked it has kept it, suggests that it is a book worth having !!!!
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on 20 February 2015
excellent for understanding not only the 3 part structure of a drama/narrative but also how to tap into your inner voice to complete your work overcoming obstacles that may slow you down. Tim has a friendly yet firm tone in this advice book, Its amazing what you can see in other plays when you understand the key to engaging your audience.
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on 27 March 2015
Slightly complicated, info hard to sift through but really good writing tips
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on 19 October 2013
I like the relaxed way he encourages you to write about anything and not to worry about structure at the beginning. Also its not full of confusing jargon like other books.
Really good
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