Archive for May, 2013


Part One – The Spec Script.

Recently I was asked to script edit a radio writer’s spec script for the Archer’s on Radio 4. This encouraged me to look again at what it takes to write for a continuing series on radio and to make some observations on the whole business of spec script writing for television and particularly for radio.

Here I will examine the dos and don’ts of writing an episode for a continuing series.

If you want to write for a series like Coronation Street or EastEnders or Hollyoaks be sure to choose a series that you enjoy watching or listening to, and for which you feel best qualified to work. Make sure you know the programme thoroughly. Find out the name of a script editor by watching credits or contacting the programme office. Have a sample of your work available and send it to the script editor with a covering letter. If your work appeals then you may then be asked to write a ghost episode.

It is generally not a good idea to write a spec script based on an episode of the show. Script editors are more interested in seeing how you well can write first, before offering you a ghost episode. Send a play or a movie or radio script first.

If you are interested in writing for the Archers however, the producers there take a slightly different view. They will send you a script pack, which contains some writing tips, a sample script, sample synopses and a story line on which to base your episodes. You are then asked to submit outlines of a week’s episodes (that’s six episodes) and a completed script for one of these episodes.

A promising submission could win a place on a mock script-meeting day. This enables the producers to sound you out and to discover how well the sort of suggestions you make might sit within the shows ethos. If you appear to be of the right stuff you will then be given a further storyline to confirm how well you handle it in writing terms.

Be aware that this is a very difficult process and only a few writers are chosen. So be sure you really know and love the show before setting out on this journey.

Writing a spec script for any show is a particularly difficult venture. It isn’t enough to just write as well as the current writers on the show. You have to be great and you have to draw attention to yourself. You must have something which sets you apart.

The producer wants you to bring a personal voice and fresh ideas to the show. Do not slavishly follow the story outline you’ve been given. Follow the spirit of it but find new and interesting ways to interpret the story you’ve been given. Do not think that you are there to write clever dialogue. Yes, smart dialogue is important, but you must bring something new to the story too. The producer is looking for surprises. Find them.

If you do get a chance to write for the Archers also be aware that is very hard work. A writer is typically given 5 or 6 days to come up with outlines for 6 episodes then around 11 days to actually write the 6 scripts. That’s a very tight schedule. Also the stories might well be overtaken by events as in the case of the foot and mouth outbreak where episodes were being written and re written on the day of the broadcast.

However people working on the show really enjoy the work and wouldn’t have it any other way. So if you think writing for the Archers is your thing it is worth the effort to give it a try but be really sure what you’re doing and what you’re letting yourself in for first.



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