Doctor Who Scriptwriting Tips

Fancy yourself as a Doctor Who scriptwriter of the future? Of course you do!

Among the guests at the forthcoming Screenwriting Goldmine workshop in Cardiff is none other than former Doctor Who producer Nikki Wilson, who was responsible for the day to day running of the show in 2008 (responsible for episodes such as Waters of Mars).

As well as working on Upstairs Downstairs, Wilson is now the series producer on Casualty, and as such has considerable insight into what makes a good script for TV. Subscribers to the Screenwriting Goldmine weekly newsletter will have found a short bonus Q&A with Nikki Wilson, which includes some interesting tips.

Producer on Waters of Mars, Nikki WilsonWhile there are no specific questions concerning Doctor Who, the following tips might be of use to those looking to break into writing for TV…

Q. If you’re building a career as a screenwriter in the UK, how important is getting hired by Casualty, (and long running drama series in general)?

A. Long running dramas are a great way for writers to cut their teeth and find out where their strengths lie. All the shows are quite different and require different skills. For Casualty we need writers who can create robust guest stories with 3-dimensional characters which can weave with the serial stores for our medics. The soaps require more in-depth knowledge of the regular characters and their voices.

Q. Where do you find your new writers?

A. We have a constant dialogue with literary agents who send us sample scripts from clients they think would be suited to the show.

We also run our own shadow scheme where brand new writers are given a chance to work with a script editor to write a half-hour episode of the show. We have given several brand new writers an episode of the main show after writing a successful shadow scheme script. On top of this we have 8 episodes a year written by writers from the BBC Writers Academy, many of whom go on to write further episodes.

Q. What’s the best way for a new writer to attract your eye? Write a brand new original spec script?  Or write a terrific spec episode of Casualty?

A. Definitely write an original script about a subject that you’re passionate about.

Q. Have you any tips for new writers trying to launch themselves?

A. Write about subjects that inspire you. Don’t write just one spec script and rely on this to open doors – keep writing, write something every day, and keep notes on people/subjects that interest you. Make a conscious effort to meet people from all walks of life and talk to them about their lives – inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources. Don’t watch American dramas and steal story ideas!

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