As twit-predicted back in March, my submission to the BBC Writersroom competition didn’t win. Or indeed make it through the first round; “We’re afraid to say that your script hasn’t progressed to the next stage of Laugh Track” said the email that came on 10 April. And as much as I’d expected that response, it was still disappointing.
But I now had something I hadn’t had a couple of months earlier: a finished half-hour sitcom script. So, I did two things – firstly I had a consultancy session with a tutor from a comedy-writing course I’d taken a few years earlier, which helped to flesh out characters and motivations and streamline plot elements (and, ahem, highlight that I was heavy on exposition and a little too light on laughs…) for a potential second-draft. Secondly, I applied for and got a place on a proper screenwriting MA – having submitted the first 10 pages of the sitcom script. I start, part-time, in September.
I was very lucky when it came to writing professionally – I sent a spec live review to the NME at a time when they (improbably) didn’t have a Manchester-based writer, and from that start I’ve managed to be a full-time freelancer for almost two decades. But there’s a massive difference between a 200-word review and a 30-page script; no-one’s going to let a eager newbie knock out an episode of Doctors and, with a gentle nudge and some minor rewrites, air it.
Obviously, every so often someone seemingly flukes their way into screenwriting from nowhere, armed only with talent and moxy – Diablo Cody, say, or that imploding idiot from the amazing documentary Overnight. But I suspect most overnight-success writers actually have tens of unsold or unfinished scripts, and just know that a wide-eyed ingénue act is a better, more saleable origin story than admitting being someone who toiled ’til it all paid off.
Well I admit it, in advance. So don’t expect to see my name on any credits for a good few years yet, if ever. I’ve got homework to do.