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Monday, 24 October 2011

How to Write a Spec Script in Eight Days

Oh God.

As anyone who read my last blog knows I've got a shit hot idea for the Channel 4 drama writing competition - only problem being, the deadline is next Tuesday!

Basically, this is the writing equivalent of premature ejaculation, and I need to develop a hair trigger, and fast.

It's only eight days, but who cares - I'm going to do my best to make it, and the beauty is that my idea is topical, so I'm hoping that if it turns out a bit ropey they will think 'Philip, give this guy a break, we all know what event stimulated this guy's creativity gland, it takes big balls with a full load to try to bash anything out in that time - maybe give him a chance to elevate it out of the doggy mess state it's currently in'.

It doesn't help if, like me, you have had to compromise and demean yourself by working a god awful day job to pay your way. I finish work at six, and by the time I've constructed and then pricked the voodoo dolls of all the people that have pissed me off that day, and had some dinner, maybe a wank, we're looking at half nine. Bottom line, I have two and a half hours a night, plus the weekend. I'm going to have to plan properly.

Here's my schedule for the next eight days.


Research. By the time I go to bed tonight I will hopefully know all about my characters, and they will have some consistency and psychological profiles, grounded in reality. If it goes badly I will have a sparkling flat and a severe vitamin deficiency.


Story outline. By the time I go to bed on Tuesday I hope to have a beginning, middle and end, with a plot for each of the major characters, whether I choose to run with them all or not. If it goes badly I will fall asleep on a tear flavoured pot noodle.


Scene by scene. I'm not going to write any dialogue at this point, unless it springs out at me, I'm just going to write out a sequence of every scene, as I see it. I have an idea of where I want each character to go, so hopefully this should be OK. If it's going badly see Monday.


Break. I've done three nights in a row and I'm probably going to be climbing the walls. Besides, my mate Jimmy Stroker normally comes round for a night of Risk on a Thursday, so provided his facial herpes has cleared up that's back on the radar. All I'm going to do is try out some of my killer dialogue on him in random conversation, see how they sit.If it goes badly I may have to recruit someone to rewrite the dialogue.


First draft. It is at this point that I will probably think it's a good  idea to downsize it from a feature length to thirty pages, as this is the minimum amount. If it's good enough for Californication it's good enough for my idea. I know what I'm doing by this point, and I've had my night off to work any problems out in my mind. Time to write the complete article, dialogue, direction, the works.


Second draft. For this I'm not going to look at the first draft, but rather go back to the scene by scene and write it all over again.


Third draft. For the third draft I'm going to assimilate the first and second drafts and do a dialogue pass. By this time it should be looking pretty strong.


Script polish. Do everything I should've done in the last seven days. I know what I'm like. There's no way I'm going to stick to a schedule as professional as that. I'm only an aspiring screenwriter for a fucking good reason. I've already had a look at tonight's TV - there's University Challenge in half hour, which I normally combine with chat roulette, and a fascinating documentary on C4 called Mummifying Alan. Now, I don't know who this Alan is, but he's called Alan, so mummification is a good call as far as I'm concerned. That's pencilled in.

I better hope Jimmy's herpes doesn't clear up and I can use Thursday as a catch up.

If not I'm going to have to buy an industrial batch of proplus, book a sickie for Tuesday and hope for the best.

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