Writer's Guide - Scripting Process Overview

As with every story, each one begins as an idea. Everyone has ideas as everyone has an imagination. It is taking that idea and developing it into an interesting, thought-provoking, and entertaining story is what makes writing an art form.

The first thing you, as a writer, need to do is organize your thoughts. What is the overall plot of your story? Who are the characters? What does each one of them do and why?

Hopefully, this is where the scripting process will help. It will force you to write your story in smaller and smaller chunks, thus helping you to take a two-hour marathon and break it down into easily digestible bits. It sounds like a lot, and the writing process can be frightening, maddening, frustrating, and every other synonym you can think of. But, when it is over, when you type those two words "The End", there is no other feeling like it in the world!

Although there are many notes and other things which you can do to help keep your story organized for yourself, the very first thing you will prepare for submission is your story synopsis. This is a two to four paragraph summary of your story. This is the first thing we will see about your story and it is the one that is the most critical. This is the one you want to impress us with.

The person you will be submitting your synopsis to is the script editor. He is your friend, your confidant, your champion. He is also your teacher, your discipliner, and your critic. He will read over your submission and one of three things will happen:

  1. Your synopsis will be sent on to the producer with his recommendation for approval.
  2. Your synopsis will be sent back for a re-write.
  3. Your synopsis will be rejected.

First, let's get the worst case out of the way. After all, no one likes to be rejected. And we hate doing it. But, fact of the matter is, it happens. Even our "staff writers" have had stories rejected. And a lot more of them than we'd like to admit. This does not mean that you don't have what it takes to write. Goodness no! It could be any number of reasons. A lot of the time it is because someone didn't follow the writer's guidelines that we produce. Or that the story just didn't meet our needs at the time. If you are rejected, accept some advice that we follow all the time: Shout at the room, call down a thousand curses on us and our descendents, and then have another go with a different story. Don't think it'll work? Ha! You can't keep a good writer down, and any writer worth his salt never gives up. Stories will gush forth from him or her, and you can't stop them. They need to be told! Also, if your story is rejected, you'll get some helpful advice from the script editor as to improving your work for next time. Remember, the SE is your champion. He was chosen because he has a lot of experience and wants to share it with up-and-coming writers like you. So delete that nasty e-mail which says your story was toasted and let us move on to the next one. Most likely, that one will be the winner!

Okay, now that that is out of the way, let's talk about situation number 2, as that is the one which happens most often. Again, being asked for a re-write is not the end of the world. Remember, as a writer, you are intimately familiar with your story. You know everything about it, about every character. You eat, sleep, and breath the world that you created. A snag that happens to a lot of people is that they become so familiar with their characters that they lose the ability to see as their audience would. So you need a fresh eye. That is what the script editor is for. He can look at your story as someone who is not familiar with it. And can spot flaws which you might not. A loose plot thread which didn't get tied up. A character who acts a certain way without cause. (You may know that Joe Shmoe killed his parents because they killed his dog when he was three, but did you forget to tell the audience that?) And the SE also knows what the producer wants from a story. So, together, you will begin to craft your work into a shining example of Doctor Who. He will look over your work and offer suggestions to improve it. Listen to him. Remember, he wants nothing more than to see your story produced as well. At no time does he, or anyone for that matter, think that he is a better writer than you are, or that he knows best. It is just a case that there are certain guidelines which must be met, and he will help you to meet them. It can be frustrating to be asked for re-write after re-write. But, think of this: We wouldn't be asking you for all those re-writes if we didn't think your story wasn't worth it. After a few bits of polishing, your story will be ready for the next case:

Recommendation! Yeah! The script editor is not the one who approves stories. That is the job of the producer. It is the producer who, in conjunction with the executive producer, directs the flow of the show. And it is he who approves each stage of the writing process. So your synopsis will be sent to the producer with the script editor's recommendations. In about one to three days, the SE will get an answer who will then pass it to you. And, again, the answer can be any of the three scenarios that were just discussed, But, by this stage, acceptance is the most likely outcome now. The SE doesn't send stuff on up the pipeline unless it's good. And, be assured, if you made it this far, it is.

Once your synopsis is approved, the real work begins. The treatment, or "rough draft". This is a detailed breakdown of each episode of the story. Each scene is described, and this is where you should have all your plot threads tied up. Submit one episode at a time. Don't jump the gun and write the treatment to all four parts (or however many parts your story lasts) of your story at once. If you do it one at a time, we can catch bugs in part two before they turn into major problems by part five.

Like the synopsis process, each part of your treatment can either be accepted by the script editor, or sent back for a re-write. Sometimes, a story falls apart in the treatment stage and ultimately gets rejected. Don't let it get to you, though. Like before, just start again.

Unlike the synopsis, however, your treatment won't be sent to the producer until the whole thing is finished. When a treatment is completed for each episode of your story, and both you and the script editor are satisfied with it, then and only then is it sent on. Again, the producer will read it and get back to the SE with an answer. Of course, we know what the answer will be:

Acceptance! Job done yet? Hardly. Now it's time for the script! Of course, you know the script is a line by line, word for word document of what the characters are saying, what sound effects you require, etc. Again, like the treatment, submit each episode one at a time. And again, the script editor can accept, ask for a re-write, or reject an episode. You can relax a little bit here, though. Rejections are very rare at this point.

Once the whole story is done, back to the producer it goes. He'll read it over and make a decision. Accept, reject, or re-write. If it is a rejection or re-write, the answer will go through the script editor for communication to you. If acceptance, however, this is where the producer will actually let you know himself. (Beforehand, all conversation was between you and the script editor. Never send anything to the producer yourself. Behind the scenes, the script editor and the producer have been talking about your story ever since the whole process began way back during the synopsis stage. To make sure everyone knows what's going on and no one is left "out of the loop", you will only talk to the script editor and the producer will only talk to the script editor. Remember, the SE is your representative as much as he represents the producer.)

If your script is accepted, congratulations! Have a drink on us, you deserve it! By this time, you probably will already have a story slot assignment and a production date. Your job is almost finished. All that is needed is a preview (something to advertise your upcoming story on the web) as well as a blurb (a one to two sentence teaser for the programme catalogue). Easy stuff.

You'll get a copy of your story show on CD when it is finished. And, of course, adulation for all the Doctor Who fans who just love your story!

Now that you've relaxed and finished your story, what are you waiting for?! You next story beckons!


Last updated: Thursday, February 27, 2003