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One of the most common mistakes I see playwrights making is focusing too much on the minutae in their script–and don’t place enough attention on making the strongest decisions they can.

What do I mean by “minutae” and “decisions”?

Minutae: Maybe this isn’t the right word. But here I’m referring to the small stuff: dialogue tweaking. Set descriptions. All that wordsmithing that often leads you to changing a line back and forth ten times over.

I understand the temptation. It’s so easy to try and make every line perfect. Especially when you’re a writer! Words are what you do!

And I’m not saying those things aren’t important. They’re just not the part of your play where you should be focusing until the end.

Instead, you’ll want to spend more time (more time than you probably think) working out the major decisions inherent in your play.

Decisions: When I say decisions, I’m talking about the big stuff.

Who is your main character? What’s their age, their race, their point of view, their attitude, their job, their relationship with their family and friends?

Where is your play being set? Is the set interesting without costing a fortune to produce? Is there inherent conflict in this location (especially for your main character)?

What’s the tone of your play?

What’s the main conflict? What does your main character want, and how do they go about trying to achieve that goal? Are there more interesting tactics or strategies they can take to try and get what they want?

I think you get the picture. These decisions aren’t really “writing,” per se. You aren’t necessarily typing out dialogue on the page.

But these decisions have a huge impact on your play. So much that it’s worth spending a lot of time to make them as strong as they can be.

And along that line of thinking, always ask yourself: “How can I make this ___ better?”

Fill in the blank with: character, scene, relationship, setting, line, theme, subplot, etc.

I guess what I’m saying here is, don’t get so focused on the small stuff that you miss the forest for the trees. There will come a time when you need to focus on tightening up each line and word–but that doesn’t need to happen until the very end.

Think of it like building a house. You need the right blueprint and structure before you start painting walls and hanging up portraits.

And the more you can remain open-minded and curious about ways to improve the big, important decisions in your play, the more great ideas you’ll find.

So keep thinking about those decisions.

And if you want more playwriting advice, tips, and hacks, make sure to check out the comprehensive PSH Playwriting Course.