An Update from the Drama Script Room Reading Team

Script readers

We received 3634 scripts in our latest open submission window for drama scripts, which closed in January. We asked the newest member of the script reading team for an update on their progress.

We’re now into the “Full Read” stage of reading for the Drama Script Room 2019, and it’s getting harder and harder to whittle it down to the final scripts. I’ve been so impressed by the huge range of ideas coming through on the scheme, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading some seriously brilliant writing. But of course, not all of the scripts will get taken through to this stage, and even fewer still will be part of the final selection. When the competition is so tight, many of the scripts that don’t make it through are still really good, and it can be hard as a reader to see them go.

But obviously it will be even harder as a writer to find out that your script, your intimate, heartfelt, creation, that you likely spent months (or even longer!) crafting, has been unsuccessful. I myself have experienced a fair amount of rejection in the creative industries and it sucks. There’s no way around that. But, as common writing wisdom goes: if you’re not getting turned down regularly, you’re probably not putting yourself out there as much as you should be. So once the disappointment subsides, wear it like a badge of honour! You finished a script, which is more than many people do, and you submitted it to a very competitive BBC writing scheme; that in itself is something to be proud of.

Long-term BBC Writersroom bods talk about how exciting it is to see the upwards trajectory of writers who apply year after year. Writers who when they first applied, didn’t make it past the First Sift, but who, after honing their skills and writing new scripts, progress to the Second Sift the next year, the Full Read the year after that, and so on, even to the point of getting professional commissions. And don’t forget that there are many different schemes and competitions for writers in the UK, all with slightly varying criteria, and with different readers and judges; just because you didn’t get selected for the BBC's Drama Room, doesn’t mean you won’t find success elsewhere. So keep applying – everywhere.

But don’t just keep applying with the same script: use your rejections as a jumping off point to write something even better! There are a few areas that could be helpful to focus on:

  • Premise - Do you have a strong dramatic motor and a clear enough central conflict?
  • Dialogue - can you use less of it, or find less direct ways of saying things?
  • Characters - are they fully fleshed out, and what makes them different or distinctive?
  • World - is your world established in enough detail, and does it have a real sense of place?
  • Voice - Above all, we are looking for the elusive ‘voice’, the sense that only you could say what you’re saying, in the particular way that you’re saying it. Instead of trying to emulate other shows that have already been on TV, think about what you have to say that’s different and authentic to you, and be really specific with your subject matter, characters, and location.

So if it's a "no" this time around, rant and rage, scream and cry, feel that disappointment. But whatever you do, use that fire, that emotion, and keep going! As long as you keep trying, keep honing your craft, and keep putting yourself out there, this won’t be the end of your writing journey. Onwards!

(We will let everyone know the result of their script submission at the same time, once the whole reading process is complete. This is likely to be in a few more weeks time.)

Find out more about our Drama Room writer development group

Read a blog post by Anne Edyvean (Head of BBC Writersroom) on the purpose of our open submission system

Explore other writing opportunities from the BBC and other organisations

Read about Adam Simpson's journey from BBC Writersroom script report to commissioned TV writer

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