Your latest draft now has the script in much better shape than it was. At last all your hard work on it is paying off. But it is hard for an emerging writer, even one with a story as compelling as yours, to grab the notice of busy producers, broadcasters and acquisition editors. You might think fussing over layout, formatting, spelling and punctuation is pedantic – and in a perfect world it is. Can film and TV producers really be that shallow? First appearances aren’t everything, right? It’s about the story, not the grammar after all. Right!
Having said that… busy professional people are often looking for a reason to say no to a script, because it’s easier to say no than to say yes. Saying yes requires action on someone’s part, to put their neck on the line to fight for something they believe in. Which is what you need one of them to do. So perhaps for a moment put yourself in the shoes of these people, your potential audience, and ask yourself what would they like in a story – what would make them want to read your story out of all the others on the slushpile? And read it all the way to the end?
I don’t mean compromising the script or pandering to what’s trendy at the moment. I mean polishing it, tightening it, killing your darlings, getting rid of any scenes or speeches that you really love, but deep down you know don’t pull their weight or move the story forward. Having subjected every scene to this process, do it with every line. Especially the ones you think are clever ‘look at me’ lines. Lines that took you hours to craft and scream for attention. Then make sure every character speaks with its own voice, not the voice of the author, and that all characters seem to have an arc even in the pilot episode, that they change for better or worse, positive or negative – even a tiny bit, over the duration of the episode. Look at keeping the pace tight, and the forward momentum strong in the present timeline story – not allowing back stories, flashbacks and so on to overshadow the main plot, to drag the pace, or to dissipate the dramatic energy from the present story.
Lastly, clean up your formatting and layout. This involves fixing the messy grammar and spelling, wrong words and punctuation, the writer’s building blocks, that professionals are expected to master. Until they can’t reject it on those grounds, they have to keep reading, and they can’t put it down or say no. And let the story stand on its own merits. Eventually, if you’re patient and persistent, someone will say yes, and want to start putting their own stamp on it, as they do, in order to turn it into the big edgy, gritty, bingeworthy – not cringeworthy – TV series it could be.