It’s that time of year, time to clean out my closet (which I have done), time to revamp my running/work out schedule (also done, and I am planning on running my first 5K in May), time to balance out my fiction writing with my screenplay writing, which means it is time to write a fresh TV spec (partially done) and get back to work on my pilot (actively thinking about how I need to do that).
I decided to SPEC a crime procedural show that is more self-contained episode to episode than Dexter was (the show I spec’ed last Spring). I decided upon ABC’s tongue-and-cheek procedural show Castle.
Castle’s premise: Richard Castle, a playboy bestselling mystery writer, (played by Nathan Fillion) has writer’s block as the show begins. After a killer starts emulating his crimes, homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) brings him in for questioning. Little does she know that Castle finds her intriguing and he decides she will be his inspiration for his next novel. Being the rich, connected author that he is, Castle pulls some strings with the Mayor of New York in order to get permission to shadow Beckett on future cases; thus, the partnership begins, much to her chagrin.
In preparation to spec this show I watched a handful of episodes, including the pilot. I read episode summaries of all episodes so I wouldn’t repeat a plot, and I read 3-4 Castle scripts. This google site has an amazing array of TV scripts to look through if you decide to research your own spec script.
After this initial research I created three general plot ideas for my own episode. I ran them by a friend and then chose the one that seemed to fit best with the show. Now I was ready to create my treatment: a straight description of the unfolding events with very little dialogue (I sometimes throw in dialogue phrases that come to mind, but some writers include zero dialogue in their treatment). The treatment ended up about 12 pages long and it helped me clearly outline the events in my spec, act by act. If you have questions about format for a particular show, such as, how many acts it utilizes, the best thing to do is read some example episodes first.
The next step is to write the first draft of the spec. I, however, hit a snag in this area. I like to write in the mornings, sometimes by getting in to work early and writing for a little while until the day begins. I don’t have access to a screenwriting program at work though so I decided to write a pseudo-script draft in Word without caring much for format. I’m going to re-type the second draft into Final Draft. This plan has worked well for me since getting a first draft down on paper is really the biggest challenge. As of today, I have 4.5 of 6 acts written.
I can’t help but wonder though, if my next spec should be of a brand-new show. Castle is relatively new; it’s currently in its third season. There’s a balance writers are supposed to strike when picking a show to spec. The show needs to be successful. There’s no point in spec’ing a show that will be canceled before the end of its first season. Also, specs are only good until about a year after a show ends, so you want to pick a show that has a decent run left in it. If you pick a critically respected/successful show, then your spec, if done well, will in turn be successfully received by readers because you’ve proved that you can match the writing style of the successful, already-aired episodes.