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The Playwright's Journey - From First Spark to First Night

The Playwright's Journey

From First Spark to First Night

By Jemma Kennedy
Imprint: Nick Hern Books
Paperback : 9781848425804, 288 pages, July 2022


A clear, supportive and comprehensive guide to writing a play – based on the author's long-running playwriting masterclasses, as taught at the UK's National Theatre.

This book leads you through everything you need to know, including:

  • The theatrical tools and techniques you can use to bring your play to life on the stage (and how these differ from writing for film and TV)
  • Discovering and trusting your writing process, with a range of approaches for developing your initial idea into a completed script
  • Understanding your characters, including their goals and central conflicts, and using emotional logic to connect them to your story
  • Finding the dramatic structure and theatrical setting that best suits your play
  • The key elements of constructing a great scene, including how to invoke tension, deepen characterisation and create effective transitions
  • Writing engaging, active dialogue by finding each character's voice, balancing exposition with subtext, and rooting what a character says in their specific context

Throughout, you'll find examples from classical and modern plays, plus insights from other contemporary playwrights into their own writing journeys. Each chapter provides a set of exercises to help you practise what you've learnt.

There's also advice on what to do once you've finished your script – including redrafting, receiving feedback and taking notes – and how to navigate your play's progress towards production.

Whether you're an emerging playwright or embarking on your first-ever play, The Playwright's Journey will help you develop your creativity, strengthen your connection to your material, and transform your idea into a fully formed play that feels alive on the page – and the stage.


"Exquisitely written, extraordinarily perceptive, and delightful to read… the generosity of its insight is priceless... [the book] presents innumerable tips, perspectives, and approaches to developing a writing practice. Kennedy's authorial voice is so commanding, her wealth of experience permeating every snippet. Yet she's also a witty, affirming, and gentle guide… I would encourage anybody with even a passing interest in writing a play to read this book... If you're not a writer and have no aspirations to be, it's still a glorious behind-the-scenes journey to undertake. Students, producers, stage managers, directors, dramaturgs, theatre-goers: if you want to understand more about the extraordinary craft of playwriting, this book won't let you down."

- Broadway World