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The Short Attention Span Theatre
Best of 2018 Newsletter

We've been putting out this newsletter for a year now, so we thought we'd collect the best of the content we've put together, as well as the best of the shows we've seen, and books we've recommended over the last year.

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

Writing Advice

We've linked to a number of articles and website offering advice for writers. Here's the best of them.

Comic books writer John Lees provides some insight into how he outlines a writing project. "A two-page document I can write up (write a first draft of, at least, I'll likely then spend much longer tinkering with it) in a day.  First page has the Logline, normally just a sentence or two summing up the high concept behind the book."

Best selling author Lee Child provided his six writing tips for the BBC. “It’s all about people, it’s about character. If the plot works well, that’s a bonus, but it’s the characters that people remember. Here’s my classic example that I always quote, the Lone Ranger. Everybody in the world has heard of the Lone Ranger. Nobody in the world could tell you a single storyline from a Lone Ranger show.”

Atlanta writer Stefani Robinson gave her advice on how to break into the business to Vice"What really excites me about writers is when they are authentic to themselves and write about what they want to see on TV. That shouldn’t be based on what’s on right now. They aren’t shy about their inspirations, no matter how dumb. My favorite movie is Austin Powers. It’s a ridiculously dumb movie and I am not ashamed about that—it’s the key that influenced me, it made me laugh, and it made me want to get into comedy. Stay true to what influenced you throughout your life and hold onto those things. Don’t apologize for them or for yourself." 

This is an interesting article from the Comedy Crowd where they asked comedy writing coach Chris Head how to write a comedy sketch. It offers some great tools to get started on writing a sketch. "Unless you happen to conveniently already have a funny idea, the best way to generate an idea for a sketch is to start with a real situation from life and work step-by-step towards a sketch idea."

Author Holly Seddon has written a series of blog posts on how she writes. This one is on Useful Resources for Planning a Page Turner"I’ve also been reading a lot about different techniques for planning and structuring, a lot of which I did (and I think a lot of authors) do instinctively, but an equal amount I have tended to do afterwards, through big edits, bigger glasses of wine and a lot of headaches."

In The Guardian Charlie Brooker gives us his writing advice - stop thinking! 'To function efficiently as a writer, 95% of your brain has to teleport off into nowhere, taking its neuroses with it, leaving the confident, playful 5% alone to operate the controls. To put it another way: words are like cockroaches; only once the lights are off do they feel free to scuttle around on the kitchen floor. I'm sure I could think of a more terrible analogy than that given another 100,000 years'.

In this great 90 minute video Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt talks about endings in stories. It has a number of examples from three films - Star Wars, The Graduate and Arndt's own Little Miss Sunshine. There's also this 8 minute video on beginnings. You can download the scripts for Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine from the site.

Adam Szymkowicz's I Interview Plawrights series is now up to 1020 interviews

Free Downloads

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash


The BBC WritersRoom has a wealth of scripts to download, including every episode of Detectorists and all six episodes of Bodyguard.

On her website author Claire McGowan offers a free ebook 'How To Be Creative Ten Top Tips'. 6. Overcoming fear What is there for a writer to be scared of? Well, how long have you got? Lack of success. Success. Exposure. Lack of exposure. Being ignored. The limelight. Being criticised. Not being liked. Hard work. Living in fear is all part of being creative, and a certain amount of terror is useful, like a snapping dog urging us on. The trick is to not become paralysed by it.

No Film School collected all the 2018 Oscar nominated screenplays as well as some others from the past year or so. They're all free to download, and they've been put online by the respective film companies, so they're all completely legit.

Claire Wingfield is an Edinburgh based editor and literary consultant. Her website has tools for submissions and marketing, as well as a free novel writing course and a taster of her unique writing guide 52 Dates For Writers.
Photo by Vlah Dumitru on Unsplash

Theatre Production

This interview with Suzette Coon of Little Pieces of Gold covers how to put on your own scratch night. "Good short plays are hard to write. I guess they’re a bit like a poem – there is a powerful core and the playwright has found the perfect form for the content. Crucially I’d advise: never try to second guess what people want. Write about what bothers you, what keeps you awake at night, what would make you desperately sad or angry if you never wrote about it."

This is a great blog post by Melanie Fullbrook on 5 ways to fund a play"4) HUNT OUT SOME INVESTORS - This  is how the majority of the big budget shows work and we had our first real experience of building an investor group for our most recent public production of Daisy Pulls It Off. You create an  investment pack that clearly outlines your pre-production and running costs, your estimated ticket sales, break-even points and profit margins and then you send it to individuals and companies with a love for theatre (or gambling)! "

On the London Plawrights Blog playwright Joanne Fitzgerald shared the lessons she learned turning producer to put on her own work. "Make sure actors are happy and calm and given enough time for arriving, warming up, getting to do make-up and into costume, and have a bit of dressing-room gossip. The last thing you need is actor that are stressed or nervous going on stage.  But this goes for everyone else too – your director, your stage manager, the box office and the ushers."

To co-incide with his new show The New One coming to Broadway comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote 6 Tips for Getting Your Solo Play to Broadway"If you want to try writing a solo play, I’d suggest that you: 1. WRITE IN A JOURNAL. Document your life. The good stuff. The bad stuff. But mostly the bad stuff. What’s wrong with you is more interesting than what’s right. I’ve always felt like we go to solo theater to be told secrets. When I was developing “The New One” I was writing in my journal all of these secret feelings I had about being a new dad. Feeling like everything I did was a mistake. One day I wrote, “My wife and daughter love each other so much … and I’m there too.” In the margin I wrote, “This could be something!”"



There are a number of podcasts around focusing on theatre, writing and the arts. Here's a selection of the ones we've listened to this year.

The Royal Court's Playwrights Podcast has two series worth of interviews between Simon Stephens and other playwrights including Enda Walsh, Mike Bartlet, Abi Morgan and Alistair McDowall.

Manhattan Rep have a podcast looking at a number of aspects of playwriting including writing the ten minute play, writing dialogue and editing.

Our friends at Pint Sized started a podcast this year. Currently there are 10 episodes for you to enjoy. They talk to literary agents, producers and artistic directors aiming to provide a good all over knowledge of anything a new playwright might want to know.

Meet the Writers is a podcast from Monocle. It features a number of 30 minute interviews with authors, including James Ellroy, Irvine Welsh, Eimar McBride, James Kelman and Maggie O'Farrell.

The Putting It Together podcast has been going for over a year now. Brian O'Sullivan speaks to a number of playwrights and actors from the world of Scottish theatre, film and television. It features names such as David Grieg, Dave Anderson, Rona Munro, Tom Urie, Liz Lochhead and Douglas Maxwell. 

Katy and Karen Koren at the Gilded Balloon started a podcast this year called Boss Wummin. They speak to comedians including Maisie Adam and Zoe Lyons and also discuss Karen's battle with cancer.

The Honest Actors podcast features discussions about the hard facts of being an actor. 

The Producer's Perspective podcast contains great advice and views from one of America's most successful Broadway producers, Ken Davenport

Twitter Writing Chat

The best writing discussions we noticed on Twitter throughout the year.

Writer and actor Emma Kennedy suggests looking at writing a script for children's television.

Better Call Saul writer Gennifer Hutchison shares her three key points for editing a script.

Founder of TSS Publishing Rupert Dastur has compiled a list of UK print publications that are accepting short fiction. Other Twitter users have replied with additions. It's well worth a look. 

Publishers 404 Ink provided a little guide on dos and don'ts when submitting to a publisher. "1. Follow the submission guidelines. It seems a dull tip, but there's a reason it's always top. No one's trying to make you jump through hoops, it just streamlines the process, gives us what we need, and puts everyone on an equal footing."

Film and TV writer Justin Marks tweeted about how the secret to writing is just showing up at the desk. "true story: I went home on a Friday from my day job, 17 years ago. Pissed off and miserable. I didn't sleep all weekend and decided I would write a new script. Never left the house. By Sunday night I was done with the script that would get me my first agent and change my life." 

Author Matt Haig offers ten things he's learned from writing his books. "Have fun. Do not bore yourself. Surprise yourself. Write like your life depends on it. Love writing and put that happy germ of love into it and that love will infect the reader and you will be happy and the reader will be happy."  

How do you sustain a living writing for theatre? That's the subject of this thread by writer Vinay Patel (The Good Immigrant, Murdered By My Father). The thread began in response to writer Hannah Khalil (Scenes from 68* Years, The Scar Test) on how hard it it is to make a living as a creative. Lots of good chat in the replies. "This is why I stress to new theatre writers - making a living off writing isn’t the same as being a writer who makes good work. Aiming for the latter rather and not having the former isn’t a failure."

Jessica Ellis wrote a nice Twitter thread on how the idea developed between her and her writing partner for their superhero pilot available to read on The Black List website. "So this one started, as literally all of our best ideas do, with Nick drunk-texting me at midnight. This time it was a joke about a superhero turning 40 and losing his powers. It was a sentence-long gag, like an SNL sketch idea."

Chocolat author Joanne Harris wrote a thread on Twitter tagged Ten Things About the Book Market. "1. Every time I teach a writing course, there's always one person who claims to have "studied the market", thereby ensuring their book's success. Although some of my pupils have later been published, NONE of these market-studiers has been among them." She also tweeted ten things about literary prizes.

Senior Editor with Orbit Books Brit Elisabet Hvide Busse offers what she's learned working with writers.

Script Editor Andrew Ellard writes a thread on 'ad libbed' dialogue in movies.

Literary Agent at Curtis Brown Jonny Geller has a thread on what literary agents are looking for in new writers

This is a discussion thread started by Tobi Kyeremateng, a theatre, poetry and festival producer, she raises the subject of verbatim theatre about the marginalised produced by the privileged. 

thread from Matthew Federman, producer of TV shows such as Jericho and Warehouse 13, outlining some advice on pitching. "Biggest mistake writers make when pitching is getting bogged down in details. Think about it like a great movie you saw recently that you're telling a friend about. You don't describe every scene. You talk about a great opening, main characters, big moments and the end."

Writer Seb Patrick writes a thread about how he and is writing partner developed their radio sitcom on the internet A Brief History of Time Travel. 

Top 3 Books of the Year

Of all the books we've reviewed this year, these are the ones that have shaped our thinking the most. 

1. Into The Woods by John Yorke - this one is indispensable. It not only tells you how you should go about structuring your fiction, more importantly it tells you why; why humans tell stories, why stories work, what stories tell us about ourselves. 

2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield - if you want to write but don't write, or want to write well but feel you're creatively blocked, this is the book that will give you the explanation and the solution. 

3. Writing The Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit - the rom-com is the most commercial form that a writer can use to convey quiet truths about modern lifestyles and relationships. It's deeper than its surface charm and this book will tell you how to create a heartfelt, funny and vital addition to this critically neglected, culturally important genre. 

Our Favourite Shows of 2018

These were our favourite live shows that we saw in 2018.

The Mackerel Conspiracy at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow, at The International Comedy Festival, in March. A delightfully surreal and paranoid comedy sketch show from the brilliant Calum Beaton and Martin Campbell. 

Bingo! A comedy-drama with songs at The Tron, Glasgow, in April from Stellar Quines and Grid Iron, and written by Johnny McKnight and Anita Vettesse. It's about friendship, family and poverty, set (not surprisingly given the name) in a Bingo Hall.

The Doll Doctor by Glenwyn Parry, at Govanhill Baths, in May. A fascinating period absurdist Welsh drama about losing faith in God, set in a shop that repairs dolls and has something sinister in the cellar.

Pride and Prejudice, Sort Of by Isobel McArthur at The Tron, in July. 2018 was Isobel's breakthrough year as a writer and performer and this fabulously inventive and poignant burlesque of Pride and Prejudice leaves her future direction excitingly open. We don't know what to expect from her, but we know it'll be good. 

The League of Gentlemen Live Again! at the SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, in August. No one has ever blended pathos and callousness, humour and high drama, horror and mundanity, as well as The League in their seamless character sketch show. 

Maisie Adam - Vague at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh in August. Maisie's stand-up show was funny, sweet, touching and poignant. Keep an eye out for her in 2019.

Early Doors Live at the Armadillo, Glasgow in September. A cast and audience all having fun together at the revival of this popular sitcom from the early 2000s.

Hello/Goodbye by Novem Productions at the Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow in October. A funny, heart warming and thought provoking ensemble piece about the way we live our lives today.

Ballyturk by Enda Walsh, at The Tron, in October. More absurdism! It's not everyone's cup of tea, but this had some amazingly difficult to time physical jokes, brilliant performances & a beautifully grimy and disgusting set to keep you interested if the existential crisis was a little too knotty to grasp. 

For December's highlights - catch our January Newsletter on New Year's Day. 
As a Christmas bonus we're sharing this video. Natalie Clark, who was in our December 2017 show, wrote, produced and stars in this lovely Christmassy sketch which also features Julia Jack, who was in our November show.

Short Attention Span Theatre at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival

We'll be at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th of March 2019. We'll have four, slightly longer than short, plays from Karen Barclay, Tom Brogan, Catriona Duggan and Chris McQueer. Tickets are £10 (£8 concessions) and available from See Tickets.
Thanks for reading. Our next regularly scheduled newsletter will be out on 1st January 2019.
Copyright © 2018 Short Attention Span Theatre, All rights reserved.

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