It’s well-known *just* writing a script doesn’t “cut it” when it comes to “making it” as a writer. If you are to have any chance at all in this overcrowded, under-fished pool, I believe there are certain things you MUST do to get a whiff of attention from the producer casting his or her net… Now I’ve overdone the fishing analogies, let’s take a look at those things:
WHO – is this for? Remember, knowing your audience is key. If you don’t know who your spec is for or where it could go on the schedule/DVD shelf, you can be dang sure your reader/s won’t either – and no one is going to fill the blanks in for you.
WHAT – is this? Sounds obvious, but with many scripts it’s hard to tell things like its genre, or even whether it’s a TV or Film script. Don’t be one of those writers who think it’s about trying to make it fit *later*, figure it out NOW. Preferably do all your preparation in advance or if you find yourself returning to page 1 again and again, ask yourself WHY this story is not working… and be HONEST with yourself. Is this spec *worth* your valuable time?
WHERE – is this spec going? This can be as narrow or broad as you like, from deciding which channel or company it’s destined, through to deciding your *aims*: is this a sample or calling card? Is this for contests only? Is this to find others to collaborate with, maybe make yourselves? Is this a “practice” or “learning” draft, just for you? Whatever you decide is best for your spec, decide and the SOONER THE BETTER. Otherwise what is the point of writing it?
WHEN – is it going to be finished/sent off? Setting goals is different to setting cut off point. If you say stuff like, “If this spec or I haven’t got any attention by [THIS DATE] I’m packing it in”, you’re destined for disappointment my friends cos chances are, you will reach that hallowed date and your spec or you are done for and it’s YOU who has made it so. Why do this to yourself?? However, setting a GOAL is different – because even unreached goals can tell us a few things about ourselves and our works. When I decided two years ago I was going to get a telly commission BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, behind the scenes here at Bang2write Towers I went through all sorts of Hell to try and get one. I came close a couple of times, but in doing so, I had an epiphany: for me, it was simply not worth it in the long run. And GUESS WHAT: I actually LIKE writing features WAY MORE. I didn’t know this before I embarked on my TV journey. Now I can continue in my features journey and I am FREE of any doubts I had re: TV… I’m not ruling it out altogether and have a couple of promising leads, but I’m not pursuing it aggressively like I was. I learnt LOADS and it was a very steep learning curve, but now I’m on another path altogether. And it suits me just fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, for the first time in AGES. But I needed to do it. What do you NEED to do?
WHY – am I writing this? Are you writing this spec for YOU or for an audience? Yes, we’ve come full circle and we’re back to our first point again, THAT’S how important audience is… And yet STILL it is massively underestimated in the spec pile. If you want to draw on your personal experience, please be my guest: there have been BRILLIANT stories in which writers have successfully combined elements of their own lives with fiction… But there’s the important thing, right there. It can’t be ALL you – 9/10 it doesn’t work. Even biopics and autobiographies get fictionalised to make them “flow”, to make them “more interesting” or make them “more relevant” to an audience: it’s all about sacrificing facts for drama. Making it all about you and what YOU want to see or read is one of the most surefire ways of killing off interest in your spec.
Spot on. Ultimately we are writing about everyone else. Ideas FROM us FOR others. It's a loop, an act of generosity and engagement. So we need to know what we are setting out to do when we write… and who might be interested.