Book Review: Writing For Television Series, Serials and Soaps by Yvonne Grace


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I was really looking forward to reading this book, having already read and appreiciated Nicholas Gibbs’ and Julian Friedmann/Chris Walker’s guides for UK TV writing. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

Having worked on long-running TV shows as a script editor (read my interview with her HERE), Yvonne is the ideal person to explain how to go about pitching and writing for TV soaps and serials. Not only that, but her fabulous humour is present throughout (I’d LOL’d within the first minute or so of reading!) making this book not only useful but a real pleasure to read.

I particularly liked how the book is clearly organised into easy-to-take-in sections. Straight to the point, but thorough all the same. Perfect for dipping into in your spare time. The sections include information on finding opportunities, getting a foot in the door, writing pitch documents, sealing the deal, how to storyline, how to write the script as best it can be, how to get on with your colleagues (and, most importantly, the script editor).

The book also includes interviews and opinions from TV writers (including Damon Rochefort, Robert Goldsbrough, Sally Abbott, Lisa Holdsworth and Debbie Moon), lists of resources (even including a few websites I wasn’t yet aware of) and a special treat at the back – the first 14 pages of Sally Wainwright’s original draft of Last Tango In Halifax. Honestly, the writing simply jumps off the page and it was as if I was watching it on screen. Excellent way to illustrate all that we have learnt throughout the book. Very inspirational, too.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book include:

“The best television writers are fantastically flawed”.

“For a story to work, you need text to marry subtext and have theme come to the wedding.”

“The storyline that delivers a good story is all about the journey, not the destination.”

The interviews and advice from writers is also fantastic and I thoroughly agreed with the key advice from reading this section, including: the necessity of understanding the tone of the long-running show you are aiming to write for; how exhilarating it can be to get the country talking and to be able to inspire debate and change regarding issues in society; how it’s no good arguing what a scene’s about – if it’s not coming across to a reader then it’s not working; and how understanding character motivation, drive and subtext makes a good writer a great one.

I love the focus of this book on long-running series and serials (in the UK, I should add) and the honesty with which Yvonne and her guests explain the journey towards becoming a TV writer. It’s made clear that it’s a difficult market to get into, a long and tough road, and sometimes exhausting and with very few rewards… But, it CAN be achieved, it IS a wonderful genre for those passionate about TV, and the rewards ARE fantastic; not only for the writers seeing their work on the screen but for all those who have contributed towards the development.

I love TV writing, I respect Yvonne Grace and I think the Creative Essentials books just keep on delivering exactly what aspiring writers need. So I wholly recommend this book!

Get your copy from LONDON BOOKS and use the promo code THIRTY, to get 30% off!

More Creative Essentials reviews:

  • Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays by Lucy V. Hay
  • Web TV Series – How to make and market them by Dan Williams
  • Writing The screenplay by Patrick Nash

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