After creating and fine-tuning your outline, it is now time to write your spec. This process should flow relatively easily if you have a flushed out story within your outline. Here are five key points you should remember when writing a spec script:
- Write a spec for a show that your reader will be familiar with, a show that is currently on the air (a ratings or a critical favorite). Although writing a good "Cheers" spec is courageous, it's rarely seen as a good move and will probably not be read.
- Make sure that your spec script is formatted correctly for that specific show, as shows format their scripts differently. The popular script writing programs like Final Draft and Scriptware come with formatting samples for most on-air television shows. Use these templates to write your script. An agent who picks up a wrongly formatted script will most likely see that as unprofessional and put it aside. And though it should go without saying, make sure that it is spell-checked!
- Find a way to be creative within existing guidelines. On the one hand, you need to have a unique storyline; your spec will have less weight if the story is recycled or too familiar. On the other hand, you need to create a story that is believable to the characters in the show. It's okay to take a risk with your story, but the idea is to be creative with the show's current parameters, not change the given ones. For example: while it might seem funny to see Joey from "Friends" singing backup to Bruce Springsteen at his concert, it's too far-fetched (expensive) to actually be produced. Stick with the main characters and settings.
- Check your ego at your desk. Your first draft will not be ready to send out to an agent. Let us repeat that: Your first draft will not be ready to send out to an agent. Understand that writing is re-writing, and a spec is a work in progress. You will need to re-write your spec many, many times before it's ready to hit an agent's desk.
- Have more than one script available. Why? Should you get an agent or a producer to read your script, they will want to read another sample right away if they like your first. So it's a good idea to have several spec scripts in your writing portfolio. Remember: your first spec is just the beginning.