Have a look below for his top tips from our #AskaWriter session. For more information about Ben & his career, please see here
.Hi Ben, what advice would you have for writing dialogue? I seem to write myself into a corner and not get out!
Firstly, I keep a notebook that I purely use for lines that I overhear or think are funny or characterful. Secondly, when I start writing a scene I don't use character names- I find that little bit of admin unhelpful! Thirdly, I try to give each character a unique viewpoint/way of speaking. And finally, if it serves no purpose, it has to go! Sometimes, I find myself holding on to lines that I think are great, but aren't doing anything for my characters/story. Learn to embrace cuts.What's your best advice for finding a literary agent (either now or in normal times)?
What other writers do they have on their books? This is a good way of establishing the agents' taste is/whether you'd be a good fit. Don't be afraid of asking the agent what they can do for you. Get in touch when you're really confident about the material you're submitting. Finding the right agent is a process. Find someone you're not scared of asking what you may perceive to be an 'obvious' question. A good agent will have time for you. In the first instance, I think it is good in that first email to tell them what kind of writer you are.Do you write multiple things at once or focus on one idea/project at a time?
Depends! Right now, I think it's incredible that anyone has the headspace to write anything, but usually I will only work on one thing per day otherwise my head gets a bit muddled. Some writers thrive off having lots of things to juggle though! Find what works for you.What's the greatest writing advice you've been given?
Stop worrying about being a good writer; just write. (If I may add on a piece of advice that is my own- write what you're curious about! Don't just get trapped writing what you know- also focus on what you'd like to know/find answers to).
Is lockdown a good time to be sending your scripts, or is it better to wait until we have a better understanding of when things will be up and running?
I think during this time you need to go at your own pace and not put too much pressure on yourself. BUT, if you have stuff ready to go, I think for the most part (especially in TV) people are very up for reading/hearing ideas at the minute. Some people may be furloughed though! At what stage did you get a literary agent and how has that relationship changed (if at all) how you write or approach your work, as well as the opportunities you have access to?
An agent can/should definitely get you in front of people, but don't let that stop you. Make connections! Find your champions and stick to them like glue. It took me 7 years to find an agent as brill as @smartgiles and I can't stress how important it is that you trust them.Any advice on writing your first play?
Yes- have fun! Be bold. Find characters and a story you love. Be theatrical. Ask what kind of reaction you want the audience to have. Focus on what your characters want/need- ideally these should be at odds.Is it worth using platforms like LinkedIn when pursuing paid writing work or do you find Twitter or just personal connections are more lucrative?
Can't vouch for LinkedIn as I always get terrified it'll notify people when I am snooping on them. Twitter a GREAT way to connect. Best thing you can do as a writer is find your champions/network and stick to them like glue- contact people who you respect. Always follow up! I have lost my writing ‘mojo’ after a lot of rejection. What advice can you give to get past my writing block? I don’t want to start again from scratch, but I know I need to rediscover who I am as a writer.
It’s useful to escape from external and internal judgment that often comes with being a writer. Do anything creative that doesn't involve writing. Cook. Draw. Listen to music. Read a novel. Watch your favourite TV show. Keep a dream journal. Take your characters out to dinner!.s. rejection is rubbish. It's never about you and always about the rejector! Ask for feedback when you are ready to hear it. Be kind to yourself - you're a good writer.
What do you do when you get stuck on planning out plot?
Go back to the characters. Draw a mind map of their relationships at the beginning of the play. Then draw a second one for how you imagine them at the end of the play. How have they changed? Look for gaps, common themes, questions. Let them tell you what needs to happen next.What’s been your best writing experience and why? What did you take from it?
100 percent Jellyfish
. The whole team on that project was a joy. Also, I got the chance to go back and re-write bits when we transferred from the Bush to the National. That never happens with new writing! Having an opportunity to learn and make changes an absolute gift.What did I take from it? That the audience is everything. What do you want them to learn about themselves? How do you want them to have changed when they've left the theatre? Someone told me that a great play will make you change your mind 3 times- I tried to do that with Jellyfish
.How do you respectfully (and accurately) incorporate experiences different from your own (or class/race/ability etc)?
Research, listen and be respectful. Research is your best mate. Be generous and never make anything where you don't have the people who count in the room. Make sure your characters never say anything that isn't true to them.
But this all speaks to wider issue of recognising privilege and knowing when the right time is to use your voice to support artists who are unsupported and when it is better just to stay quiet. A tricky one to answer in not many characters!What should I do with abandoned scripts?
Keep everything! Read stuff out loud- it'll be better than you fear. Write down two things that you like about it- force yourself! Give it time to mature- like a good wine or a cheese. Also, go back to the reason you started writing it in the first place. What was it about the idea that excited you? There will be something in that.What advice do you have for writers just started out about getting their work seen by the right people?
Contact people who you think have done a good job/you'd like to work with. Asking people for a cup of tea/ zoom chat (modern) is not a crime! Be specific about what you would like from that other person- how exactly can they help? Find that person who responds to your voice.