Writing for Television Series, Serials and Soaps is a guide about writing for the massive TV industry with its millions of fans and tight deadlines, an industry that requires specific skills for anyone who wishes to work in it. Yvonne Grace takes you through the writing process, with its potential pitfalls and potential pleasures, from the heart of the industry as an insider who has written, produced and script edited a substantial number of popular shows for both the public sector (the BBC) as well as the commercial sector (ITV channels); series such as EastEnders, Coronation Street, Holby City, The Ward and many many more.
This is about being a professional in a business that, at times, feels like some of the soap operas that are being created, with its highs and lows, hints of comedy as well as relationship dramas. By placing the information about the business and the way that the writer is expected to integrate within it in the context of actual (sometimes autobiographical) incidents, the book goes beyond that of a simple guide, often injecting a lot of humour into its many anecdotes.
Everything you need to know about making the break into the industry is covered, from the pitching, the group meetings, the deadlines and contingencies you may not have considered until having to face them (for example, characters who can’t be in episodes because they are on holiday). Writing for Television Series, Serials and Soaps also provides a sample script by Sally Wainwright introducing the series Last Tango in Halifax, which began life as Anthony and Cleopatra, to place the results in perspective.
The practicalities of writing for TV, such as consideration of the number of commercial breaks or lack of them in an episode of a programme, are shown to have a different effect on the requirements of the script, as are the use of cliff-hangers and storyline structures. And vital to the whole thing, the guide describes the story conference table meetings where everyone discusses the future of the series and ideas for what is going to happen between which characters. It demonstrates how, unlike the scriptwriting/pitch/hope approach of feature films, TV series and soap operas absolutely require teams of people.
Writing for Television Series, Serials and Soaps also discusses other roles in the process so that the prospective writer is able to see who to engage with: who does what, why they do it and importantly how it affects your work. These insights range from dealing with producers to script editors but the book also discusses how to become involved in the first place – do you use random pitches? Do you enter competitions? Do you just get lucky? Or do you go for an agent? In particular the section regarding agents is a vital one for understanding the potential and, in some cases, the probability of finding employment as a script writer.
Yvonne Grace provides plenty of interviews with a plethora of people within the industry, from those who have progressed recently into this new demanding but rewarding environment and to those who have been working in TV for years. So there is much to learn, much to inspire and much to make you realise what a diverse and fascinating industry this is. Writing for Television Series, Serials and Soaps is structured like a great soap opera with plenty of additional characters and plot developments that make for an entirely satisfactory ending.