More writing tips from Paul Ashton of @bbcwritersroom #atTheSpa

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Forbidden wardrobeSo on Friday, thanks to the lovely Ideastap, I had the pleasure of heading to a Q&A with Paul Ashton of the BBC Writersroom. I cannot stress enough how important this site is for writers. Lots of tips, tricks and scripts to help you get your head in the right place and stay on track. I particularly like the free scripts and advice on their blogs.

As always, I digress.

Having missed the last deadline for the writersroom because I didn’t feel my script was ready, I am now in a better and healthier position to do this. I currently have two TV script ideas on the go and just trying to figure out which one is best to send in so when I saw this opportunity on Ideastap, I was straight on to it!

Going there was so helpful. After talking us through the Writersroom, what they do and how their Script Room works, he went on to open it up to questions. Best tips advice:

      • Don’t censor yourself! There will be plenty of other people who will tell you later that you can’t afford to do that and this bit needs to change. Don’t curb ourself before you’ve already begun
      • Do character! Ashton believes that all writers can be taught tricks on genre, plot and story. Character however is key. Does your audience care about your characters? If not you can have the best plot ever but the viewers will be left wanting.
      • Only fools rush in! While they aren’t looking for perfection, they will also keep their eyes on names that they’ve maybe not put through to the final stage. So make your script the best you can and don’t just send it in out of panic. (There will be another opportunity in Autumn and then they’ll review how successful this process has been.)

He also mentioned that you shouldn’t worry about not knowing which channel your submission would be on, what time slot or key audience but it does help you to know. The cycle goes something like this:

      • A group of readers read the first 10 pages. (Approximately 10% of all submissions will be put through for further reading.)
      • Readers then read a little more of these scripts to decide whether or not to take it further. (Approximately 5% of all submissions will be put through for further reading.)
      • Your script then gets a full read and a script report before selection for further reading. (If your script gets this far but doesn’t make it to the final cut, you will be sent this script report.)
      • Finally scripts that have made it this far get a full reading from the Writersroom team who will then select approximately 20 scripts to bring in for a session.

The process takes approximately 2 months from deadline to completion but that is fluid depending on the influx! Writers will be updated when their script has come to the end of its Writersroom journey. So if you don’t want to go out of your mind, make sure you put the correct email address on your script and check your spam box and that you’re not over your limit for emails. 

Like I said, I’m a fan of the Writersroom site and was recently reading some of the blogs there and stumbled across one from Paul about my favourite topic: Writing is rewriting…

There are no rules about this – other than the fact that no brilliant script falls fully formed out of a writer’s head. Whether the writing and rewriting happens before the text is finally committed to paper – or whether a script is written and then rewritten and redrafted thereafter – either way, getting drama and comedy scripts and stories right is very very hard and doesn’t just happen.

Finishing a first full draft is one thing; finishing the script is another. So we’ve come up with some pointers towards thing you can try to do to manage that process:


  • Give yourself time. Once you finished what you feel is a complete first draft, put it away in a drawer for at least 2 weeks – but ideally a couple of months (or even 6 if you feel especially brave) – and do not look at it again until you have a designated day/time when you know you can focus on it without being disturbed
  • When that day comes, make sure you can’t be disturbed (and don’t need to do the hoovering or check facebook or have some lunch), sit down with a tea/coffee (whatever your poison – but definitely NOT alcohol) and read it straight through without stopping to take any notes or make any tweaks. Read it like a reader somewhere else might read it.
  • Put it away again in the drawer and leave it be for another day (at least). Once your brain has had some time (and hopefully a sleep), sit down and make notes from memory about the things that stood out as needing attention. Be honest. But don’t try to remember everything, just the big things.
  • Now you’re ready to sit down with a red pen (red is good – you are in editing mode) and a pad, and work your way through it making whatever notes you need to make as you read.
  • When you have notes, go back through and re-order/cohere them into sections/collections of related notes – so not just a rewriting stream of consciousness, but an organised, achievable plan. And try to tackle each section one at a time, so you are not just rewriting from beginning to end, but going back through repeatedly and tackling each set of a problems one at a time.

To read the full blog, head over to BBC Writersroom here!


Author: littlemissmandu

Polymath. Writer. Eurasian Daisy Steiner. Best Cheerleader '93.

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