Advice for Writers from Writers

Advice for Writers from Writers

Posted on December 14th, 2018

Over the years, HighTide have worked with a huge amount of talented writers at a variety of stages in their careers. We’re always keen to engage writers who are new to the world of theatre by running schemes like Sparks, where we actively encourage those looking for feedback and advice on their work to get in touch with us.

With all the advice we give during Sparks days, we thought about publishing a blog piece with some words of wisdom to new writers. And we thought, who can give the best advice to new writers – well, other writers!

Therefore, we’ve put together a round up of advice from some past, present and future HighTide writers who have shared their top tips…

Tallulah Brown  

‘Know where your weaknesses are as a writer. I have two columns in my head that more or less split into what I can do, what I know I’m good at and then a second column which is what I struggle with and with every project I take on I try and make that first column grow and the second shrink!’
Songlines by Tallulah Brown, presented by HighTide and DugOut, Summer 2018.

 Vinay Patel  

‘A piece of advice: With every new piece you write, whether it’s short or long, challenge yourself to do something you’ve not done before. It’s the best way to stretch the edges of your craft.

Something I wish I’d known: Don’t focus on what other people are doing. It’ll make you bitter and jaded. Become your peers’ biggest fans and remember that you’re only really competing with yourself.’

Vinay Patel is a Trustee of HighTide. HighTide presented Vinay’s play True Brits in 2014.

 Elinor Cook  

‘One of the hardest hurdles to overcome as a new writer (or, frankly, a writer at any stage of their career!) is the feeling of: why would anyone care what I have to say?

If you have an idea, even if it’s at a very early stage, my advice would be to talk about it with as many people as possible. This means that it’s no longer just in your head – it exists, it has legitimacy, it’s out there. It can be really scary to share an idea when you’re still not quite sure what it is, but the more you talk about it, the more confident you will feel in why it matters, and more importantly, why it matters to you.’

Pilgrims by Elinor Cook. Presented by HighTide, Theatr Clwyd and Vicky Graham Productions, September 2016.

Eve Leigh  

‘My only advice would be to find a way to enjoy making stuff as much as possible.

As writers, we’re lucky that there’s relatively low overhead on getting space to play and experiment – we just need a writing implement and a place to sit. Hinging your happiness on gatekeepers accepting you will drive you crazy and spoil the fun. So just enjoy writing, and eventually other people will enjoy your writing too.’


Eve Leigh’s play The Trick will premiere in February 2019 in a HighTide and Loose Tongue co-production, in association with Bush Theatre.

Al Smith  

Harrogate by Al Smith. Harrogate was first presented at HighTide Festival 2015 before transferring to Royal Court in 2016 in a HighTide Production in association with house and Royal Court.

‘Write about something you believe to be true that you wouldn’t want to admit to someone who loves you. I often find that sparks ideas when I’m lost behind the keyboard.’

Kenny Emson  

‘Write the play you want to go and see. It’s a cliché but it’s true.

Fight the blank page. It is your enemy. You can always change/edit/scrap it. But the longer the page stays blank the harder it gets. And the more you write the more you will understand the play.

Make sure the play is about something more than a Guardian article headline. Your bank manager might not thank you. But history will.

Read plays. Lots of them. Then read some more.

Listen to advice.

Don’t listen to shit advice.

Write something that has emotional honesty.

Let the characters guide the narrative not preconceived ideas/some plan you made before you started.

Don’t be afraid to write something out of your own experience. There’s a great Ron Hutchinson quote about this, that involves having nuclear physicists for parents, but Google has let me down in finding it.

Give it a couple of weeks to breathe after you’ve finished. Then come back to it fresh. Don’t just put your (metaphorical) pen down and send it in.

Don’t get it written get it right.

Don’t be a dick about other plays/writers on Twitter. It’s hard writing plays. You know this. You’re a writer..’

HighTide will be presenting Kenny Emson’s play Rust in a co-production with Bush Theatre in Summer 2019.

 Kieran Hurley
When I was a student I had Goat Island’s ‘Letter To A Young Practitioner’ printed out and stuck to the wall of my bedroom. The whole thing is kind of beautiful and brilliant and absolutely worth your time, but the bit that maybe stays with me the most is where they say “pay no attention to those who will tell you not to work with your friends. It is an insurmountable work to be an artist. It is shallow to rely on your own energy.”

Find people you trust and enjoy working with and do things with them. Talk to each other about what you’re writing. Read each other’s work aloud over cups of tea around kitchen tables. Put on ad-hoc rehearsed readings in pubs. Start reading groups to discuss plays you’ve read and liked. Actively promote each other’s work and celebrate each other’s successes. Co-write something. Start a company together. Do any combination of these things, or just one of them, or all of them, whatever suits you.

At times we can each feel quite alone in this job and this industry, so remember that other writers are not your competition but your peers. Invest time and care and energy in these relationships and lean into them when you need support. These are the foundations on which you and your work will survive and thrive.’

Mouthpiece by Kieran Hurley. Traverse Theatre in association with HighTide. December 2018.