Have you ever watched an episode of Eastenders, Coronation Street, Casualty, Spooks, Hollyoaks or even an old classic like The Good Life and thought… I could do something like that?

I have to be honest, writing for television is probably not the easiest way to make money writing… but there are a lot more opportunities than you might think. I know for a fact that television is absolutely desperate for talented new writers with original ideas. It looks like a lot of fun too.

The rewards of writing for television can be great. All for the simple fact of having a good idea. Did you know that even the average TV writers can earn between £5,000 and £15,000…for writing a single episode of a TV drama or soap opera?

I think you can see that at those kinds of rates you wouldn’t need to write that many screenplays in a year to earn a very lucrative full-time income from writing.

So this week I thought it would be a good idea to see how you could break into TV scriptwriting:

* You can have your own idea for a TV show or write for an existing one. It’s probably easiest to start by writing for an existing one. Popular TV shows often have teams of dozens of writers writing for them.

Television is a mass market medium, so your idea needs to be pretty massive. So look at the increasingly popular mass market topics to write about. For example: Crime. mystery. comedy. folk story. Science fiction… there’s a reason Doctor Who has lasted so long. Stories from real life. Romance. Look for modern twists on these new ideas.

It’s not just fiction either. You can write a documentary or an investigation. Or write some kind of fact-based show…. like cooking, gardening, traveling, or a kids’ TV show.

* Take some time to study the craft of screenwriting. Look for short courses that your local writing groups may offer. Or read some books on the subject; you can find a selection of screenwriting books on amazon.

* You will need an example of your work to get started. This is known as a ‘business card’ or ‘storefront’ script. Don’t write a whole series of programs. A 10-20 minute script of your show idea will probably suffice.

Your script must be: Well structured, have a good plot and strong characters. Keep it pretty simple: say a conversation between 2/3/4 characters in the pub. (Tip: Don’t write a script that needs a massive cast list or an exotic location. Thinking about cost puts off buyers before you start!)

Your script must be written in dialogue.

* Next, you must market your script. The person you should contact is the script editor for the TV show or TV company you want to write for. Script editors are responsible for commissioning writers.

It’s a long shot… but worth a try. Try phoning and asking to speak to the Script Editor. Ask them if they would be interested in reading your sample script. Assuming you can’t talk to them (which is most likely), send a letter outlining your idea. Don’t send them your sample script unless they say they’re interested.

There are several places you can try to sell your TV script. Here are some ideas:

* BBC. The BBC is not only one of the largest buyers of television scripts, but also the most open to new writing talent. So okay, they’re going to be on a very tight budget for the next few years, but it’s actually good news for new writers, not bad news. As successful writers are poached by commercial companies, they will need many new writers to replace them.

Most new writing opportunities for the BBC are handled through its centralized service called Writersroom: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom

*ITV. The ITV Network is made up of 15 regional licences, 11 of the licenses in England and Wales are owned by ITV Plc. You will need to find the right department to submit your idea to; take a look at their website. However, this is probably not the easiest way to start.

* Independent producers. These are private companies that make TV shows for the BBC, ITV and other TV stations… all Channel 4 shows are made by independent production companies, for example. They’re a pretty good bet for new writers, though you’ll probably be expected to do some work on your idea and only get paid if they can air it to a TV station.

Most independent production companies specialize in one or a small number of topics, so you’ll need to find those who are most likely to be interested in your type of idea. The PACT trade association has an online directory of members. Or better yet, watch a lot of TV and write down the name of the production company at the end!

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