how I write scripts for TV and books – top tips and insights

It’s a strange headline, to be sure, but UK writer (EASTENDERS, CASUALTY) Jeff Povey is a seasoned and very talented pro. His advice works for any new writer, regardless of what continent you’re on:

Jeff Poveyby Jeff Povey

I’ve written over 250 broadcast episodes of popular television. Add the audience on top of each other and it’s well over a billion people that have tuned in to something I’ve written.

Trouble is I doubt any of them will know or care that I’ve written one single word of it. Which is probably the biggest difference between writing for television and writing a novel. TV is all about a gang of people coming together and creating a bigger picture. Writing a novel is about me and an editor working hard on making me not look like a fool in front of everyone.

In TV there are a huge amount of people involved. Executive producer, associate producer, producer, the story team, scheduler, actor, director, script editor, researchers, experts, health and safety. All of these people will at some stage have input into what I write. Not necessarily creative input either.

There will be scheduling conflicts where an actor can’t be in the café so can we replace Ian Beale with Lauren Branning and still make it work somehow. Or there’ll be a lack of budget. It will feel like they are working against you achieving your creative goal but in truth they want you to produce your best work. They also need you to do it on time and hit your deadlines. You can’t fail to deliver.

I don’t always come up with the story either. I have had great input intoEastEnders and Casualty over the years but the story document that is issued every month contains all manner of stories and story beats that I have played no part in. You can still be you, because it’s how you write your episode that defines who you are, and the type of vision you have, but it’s not just you. I imagine every episode I write is going to be the greatest movie ever made. To me they are all mine. But in truth a lot of people worked very hard to get me to that launch point.

With a book, it’s ready when it’s ready.

You have an editor who tells you what you could do but of course that’s only if you want to. It’s very pleasant. In TV everything is needed yesterday. There’s no time to be an idiot. I know a lot of idiots, there are two files in the EastEnders office. One massive thick one that includes the names of writers who wrote one episode. Then there’s a very thin one of writers who managed to write more than one.

With a novel you can imagine anything and to realise it costs nothing. You don’t even need to buy paper if you self-publish online.

With TV or film you can imagine anything but then you need other people to make it happen and those people will tell you it can’t be done for the money….

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