The Job Description of a Writer in Radio and Television Companies

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Most of those who write for television and radio are freelancers. There is seldom full-time work, but many authors find that writing can be an interesting and well-paid sideline. It is specialized work with its own techniques, so it is a good idea to learn these either by reading books or taking a course on the subject. It is possible, occasionally, to break into script writing when an unsolicited script is accepted, but most writers employ a literary agent who knows the market. Writers are not always asked to produce original work. Sometimes they are asked to contribute episodes for long-running serials or make adaptations of novels or short stories.

Scripts should always be typed or word processed (double spaced) and accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Most organizations will return scripts they cannot use, but it is very unwise to send your only copy of a work. The BBC publishes Writing for the BBC.

Case Study

Sue Limb collected her fair share of rejection slips when she started out as a writer; however, she found that one job almost certainly leads to another.

Tortured teenage poems and satirical sketches formed the bulk of my early writing at school. At 13,1 wrote a prose epic in which I bore Richie Benaud's illegitimate son and went off to live in the Australian outback. After such a feverish fantasy life, reading English at Cambridge seemed somewhat humdrum. But Footlights provided me with contacts which were to be useful later.

My first published work was Captain Oates: Soldier and Explorer (with Patrick Cordingly for Batsford), for which I collected several rejection slips, as I did for Up the Garden Path, a comic novel. Indeed, just before it was accepted, my agent rang me and said, 'I think we'd better give up with this one and put it in a drawer'.

Rejection was also a feature of my early contact with the BBC. I sent them two plays on spec and they were rejected. A few years later I had an idea for a comedy series, wrote the pilot and sent it in. They were interested enough to ask me to rewrite it - nine times. At this point, I withdrew, hurt.

About a year later I had a better idea, for a serial based on the home life of the Wordsworths, The Wordsworths of Gorsemere: an Everyday Story of Towering Genius. This needed only one rewrite and has now run for two series. I have also written two radio serials of the Izzy books, Up the Garden Path and Further Up the Garden Path (or Love's Labours). I am very happy writing for radio because it requires the active participating imagination of the listener.

Once launched with the BBC, the rest is easy. They will ring up and ask me to do compilations and guest appearances, and the Light Entertainment Department is now very sympathetic to my ideas. I have done masses of work for Schools Radio, and even won a Sony Award for Big and Little.
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