Playwriting vs. Writing a Novel

As many of you know, I am primarily a playwright. I’ve written several plays and I plan to write many more. However, three years ago, I put playwriting aside in order to concentrate on the writing of my first novel. Let’s be clear. It took me more than three years to write the novel. It took ten years. During the first seven of those years, I would work on the novel for awhile and then when the going got tough— or the Muse became Mute— I’d go back to playwriting. It wasn’t difficult to put my novel aside; I felt much more at home writing plays. However, three years ago I decided I would abstain from playwriting until I finished the novel.

For me, playwriting is easier than novel writing. There are many novelists who would say the opposite. I suppose it depends on one’s skill set. I love to write dialogue and a stage play is close to 100 per cent dialogue. Novels contain dialogue, but they also contain descriptive passages. Scenes and settings have to be described. The actions and behavior of the characters have to be described. The characters themselves have to be described. All of this description is, for me, challenging to write.

Several years ago, when I was in the clutches of the ‘Mute Muse’, I gave a talk at Toastmasters in which I compared the two processes. At that time, I was taking classes and workshops in novel-writing. I was plowing through a stack of how-to books. I learned a lot. I learned even more while actually writing the novel. I learned that playwriting and novel writing have many things in common, but that that the two endeavors are significantly different. In a future post, I’ll tell you what I learned.


About Peggy D. Snyder. Ph.D.

Psychologist, Author
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