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February 09 2006

Jane Espenson solicits Joss' opinion on "novelty spec" scripts. The latest entry of Jane Espenson's fantastic blog includes some input from Joss on the issue of writing spec scripts for shows that have long been off the air.

Apparently Jane doesn't know how to spell Whedon! I dunno, you work on three shows with a guy...
Novelty spec scripts--and all this time I thought there were only fanfics!!
Apparently Jane doesn't know how to spell Whedon! I dunno, you work on three shows with a guy...

LOL, Keith. That was the first thing I noticed too.

Maybe she did it on purpose?
Maybe she did it on purpose?

If her next post is on proofreading...
Has anyone here ever written a spec script? Novelty or otherwise.
Yes, I've written a few spec scripts - back when I really thought I could make writing-as-a-career work! And I suffered from one of the problems Jane has discussed - trying to make scripts seem up-to-date as a series constantly evolved. For instance, I wrote an "Angel" spec near the start of season three and with all the major changes that year, it quickly felt out-of-date. Although I still think of it as a good early-season-three Cordelia story. I should post it now and call it fan fic. Wanna see hot Cordy/Lorne action?

I wrote specs for Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Malcolm in the Middle - which actually got into the semi-finals of a script writing contest. The Trek ones were written back in the halcyon days when Paramount actually let unknown, unagented writers submit directly to them - after signing a release.
Keith G, without meaning to get too personal, what made you quit ? I would've thought that a semi-final place in a contest would've been pretty good incentive to continue (unless it was, say, a contest between you and your brother for a mini-Mars Bar that your Mum was contributing ;).

Or do you still write, just not with any professional aspirations ? I ask as someone interested in the writing process from the outside (i.e. I read ;).
Not necessarily a spec script, but I've written an original pilot called Murder Inc. for's current Spec Scriptacular that's made it to the semi finals so far.
Saje - probably the key thing to take into consideration in my post, I said "writing-as-a-career". I still write, but not with such strong professional aspirations. Semi-final places are good, but not quite good enough - especially when in competition with aspiring screenwriters from all over the world. I had a feature screenplay hit the top 100 out of 3000 submitted, which is quite amazing - and yet that's still 100 damn good screenplays, 98% of which will never get representation. None of which will ever get made.

I had a five-year period of continuing incentives - good results in contests, great feedback from professional readers, even some good contacts in the local television industry. (I live in Australia, btw - another thing hampering my ability to make a living as a writer.) I wrote a play that got great feedback from contests and actors and a director - and it looked at one stage like it was going to be produced. But that fell apart.

Getting that close seems like an incentive for a long time and then it feels like discouragement. Other people and places and interests came into my life that were important, so I decided to pull back on putting so much effort into a career that may only ever be formed from luck - regardless of the years I put into it.

This wasn't supposed to be such a long reply, nor a seemingly-hopeless one. I continue to write. I had that play professionally stage-read a while back. I am currently working on writing comic script that may feature in an upcoming anthology. So it's all good. For me.

Other writers may feel like sticking with trying to break into Hollywood. My advice? You probably should live nearby at least.

Not necessarily a spec script, but I've written an original pilot called Murder Inc. for's current Spec Scriptacular that's made it to the semi finals so far.

Jackal, this is a cautionary tale - certain contests like press really hard for you to take advantage of their accompanying feedback services. Personally I would focus on contests that have a good reputation as contests, rather than adjuncts to feedback. I got the overwhelming impression from some places that the feedback was written to encourage you to pay for further feedback - or even that a high place in the contest was encouragement for writers to try out their feedback service to "make it even better".

[ edited by Keith G on 2006-02-09 12:34 ]
I have written some specs as well, including one Buffy from way back (when Spike got his sould back) and I even created a TV Series with a friend.

But, Keith G I hear you with "the living close to LA thing" cause that problem often was something which made me want to throw everything into a bin. Nevertheless I havenīt done that yet and keep trying.
But I think itīs harder if you are outside the US, cause I canīt wait until shows come to Germany, I have to find other ways to see them, perferably undubbed, cause the dubbing? Well, we had that: evil!

Oh and I love Jane for doing this btw !
I wrote a spec for The Inside, and tried to write one long ago for Buffy.

It was difficult for me to do, and I think I'm pretty terrible at it. I'm just no good at fiction. I also found timing hard to get a hang of, keeping the the sense of momentum.

I've no talent for it at all.

ETA: At the Expo class (Tim's class will be out on DVD in March), Tim thought it'd be interesting to have an I Love Lucy spec...where Lucy has an abortion...and it lives.

I loved that. I think he also said that while that's cool, you should have some other "normal" scripts as well (I'm either paraphrasing or making shit up).

[ edited by Allyson on 2006-02-09 17:16 ]
Thanks for the advice, Keith G. Admittedley though I did enter mainly for the feedback as it was the second full script I've ever completed and I was curious to see if it was up to scratch - although I probably won't next time.

A question: for people not in America who want to try breaking into TV at some point is there anyway to legally get a green card, aside from marriage, family relations etc?
I wrote 3 specs for Deep Space Nine, but never sent them in, because one story aired after I wrote mine was very similar to it (and it turned out to be one of the most popular Trek episodes of all time); one too bizarrely echoed real life events involving the show's actors that were written into the series, thus making my story look like fan fic (a story involving Kira and Bashir, but NOT a romantic story); and one was nullified by the series taking a different direction, but with a very similar Odo story. This all told me I had a great sense for what the writers in the show were doing, but I couldn't do an original story fast enough for it not to be written by the staff writers.
There's a lottery, Jackal.

If you get a job/work visa, the company who hired you can sponsor you for a greencard as well. It's a three year process.
It's interesting to see how many people actually wrote specs here. I'm with Allyson, fiction is not my strength, even though I've tried my hand at a couple of short stories (which were in Dutch anyway, not english), but never any scripts. I'm content at writing non-fiction (science journalism's my thing) and fiction critique (film reviews). Again, all in Dutch, not sure if I'd be able to write as well in English. Because however comfortable I feel using English, native speakers are bound to be better writers than me in their first language. Isn't that a problem for you, Kessie, writing in what isn't your native tongue?

Still I think it's amazing how people can keep trying over and over again to get a job in this scriptwriting world. I'm not sure if I'd have the breath to do it.
Jackal: As far as I know there is, as Allyson said, the greencard lottery, and the possibility that the company who hires you will help you with visas and such. But for that you have to find a job from outside the US first, cause technically you are not allowed to search for jobs with the 3 months holiday visa. Also there was the possibilty of getting in when you had 100000 $ to invest but that always was impossible for me so I donīt even have an idea if itīs still possible.
Btw where are you from? Cause I know the greencard applying for people from UK is different from the others.

GVH: Yes it is, especially when Iīm tired I tend to make silly mistakes. But i figure it can only get better once Iīm in the US and until then I continue to practice. Also, for me, writing scripts is easier than to write a novel for instance.

Btw Í hope we donīt get too off topic with the discussion here, otherwise Mods just give us a wink !

[ edited by Kessie on 2006-02-09 18:11 ]
I'm in the UK so I'm not eligibe for the lottery - I wasn't aware applying from the UK was different though...?

[ edited by Jackal on 2006-02-09 18:16 ]
I wrote a spec script way back in "The Day" for HIGHLANDER, but never got any response. It was a "future" story focusing on an older Richie/Richard after Duncan had been killed... sort of. *shrug*
Yeah, Keith G, I can see where that would start to grind you down after a while. Still, props for having the bottle to give it a go anyway, gotta be tough to continue for years despite the rejections - even if some of the feedback is positive.

The crap-shoot element frustrates me (even as a reader) given the amount of sub-par fiction that makes it into print every year. Some of the stuff online seems way better. Nice to kid ourselves that 'quality will out' but that just doesn't always seem to be the case.

Ooh, Nebula1400, now you've got me curious. Was it something like 'Trials and Tribble-ations' or 'Far Beyond the Stars' (two stand-out DS9 stories that spring to mind) ?
Nebula- I had similar experiences when I used to play around writing comic scripts. I'd work on one for a while and start feeling really proud of it, then a story would come from one of the major publishers that was not identical, but close enough that mine would look like a rip-off (they also had names like Garth Ennis and Frank Miller attached to them). Speed is the key when you have an idea who's time has come. ;)
I wrote a Buffy spec. Took me a year.

I always assume that anything I've never done must be really easy. If I was on plane and both pilots ate the fish and keeled over I'd be the one saying "I'll land it. How hard can it be?"
So when I got involved with the online discussions about scripts and writers I decided to write one. It took me a year to write and rewrite, learning format, story structure, everything. But I ended with a script that a couple of online fellow Buffy fans said was not completly crap. Like Keith G I threw away my first story half way through since on-screen developments in the last season mad my first story redundant.

I've moved on to movies. At least there you don't have to fit a commercial break in exactly every ten minutes!

(Edited to correct spelling misstake in post about how great a writer I am. I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.)

[ edited by zz9 on 2006-02-09 19:11 ]
Saje: It was along the lines of "The Visitor." I tried to do "bottle" stories that only included the regular characters, so I thought I'd do something that looked at where the characters went in the future. In it, I had Sisko die, and Jake had to deal with the loss of his father over time. Even the end was similar, though I had Jake kill himself a little differently.

I do wish I had done something like "Far Beyond the Stars." That was an awesome episode.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2006-02-09 19:16 ]
At the end of BtVS season six, I wrote a couple of specs on the events that followed the characters afterwards. I allowed several of my fellow buffy friends to read the specs and they loved them. And I was quite shocked that my story lead in very well to the start of season seven. The only character that didn't quite fit was Giles. Try as I may, I couldn't figure out a way to make Giles fit in without rewriting the entire story. One scene change affects two more scenes get the picture. So I can certainly understand what Joss means when he calls this stunt writing.
I wrote a spec for The Simpsons years ago...ran it by lots of fan friends, all of whom loved it.

It was triggered by seeing Krusty reading from cue the Who Framed Krusty episode, it was established that the clown holding up Apu could read, and that Krusty was illiterate, so my episode provided the in-between story of how he learned to read. (Bart taught him, in a parody of "My Fair Lady".) Subplot was Mr. Burns falling in platonic love with Barney, misinterpreting all of his drunken blubbering for brilliant insights, a la "Being There".

Got nowhere with it...oh well.
Just have to add that anyone serious about this writing stuff should get Joss's screenwritng expo talk on DVD. My copy arrived a week ago and it's very interesting, once you get past the introduction from some actor, didn't catch his name, and get to the highlight. Joss swearing!
zz9, can you get Joss's screenwriting expo on amazon?
I think you have to buy the DVD from the screenwriting expo's website.
Yep, only seen it at the expo website. The link was posted here a month ago or so. I'm at work and I do little enough work as it is without spending ages looking back through the archives!

How about we all post our work and have a vote? Of course I'll have to edit out all the sex. So that will leave about three minutes. One if you don't count the credits...
zz9, I'm all for posting our scripts - it'll give me stuff to read while I'm on holiday next week. If anyone else is for it I'll post mine, but would it be better to move it to the Flickr?
Great, thanks guys.
Nebula1400, 'The Visitor' was also really good (very emotive) but I guess, perhaps uniquely among the fans, you must've been pretty annoyed when it came on TV ;).

'Trials' was great fun but 'Far Beyond the Stars' is up there with the best TV sci-fi. It reminded me that, IMO, above any other genre science-fiction has the power to change the way people think about the world and their place in it.

BTW, I second the Joss Expo recommendation. Some great insights into what makes him tick as a writer and even if you could probably track down most of the information from other sources it's handy to have it on one DVD and to hear it from the big man himself (runs for about 75 minutes including the Q&A). I'll almost certainly get the Tim Minear one (even tho' I feel a bit dubious about the international postage since I was charged $19 but it says $5.05 on the packaging ;).
Umm... where does one look to find the Tim Minear one?
I got a faultly DVD from Expo. I can watch Nathan's intro, listen a bit of Joss' interview and then the disc goes all faulty. Ah well. Anyhow, feel free to post links to your scripts over at our sister site
The Tim DVD won't be available until next month. I bet Kristen will put a link up on his site once it's available for purchase.
Oh dear, they spelt Joss' name wrong on the back cover of the R4 DVD. Shit.
Simon, I thought my DVD was faulty, too, as I had the same problem. But it turned out that there were tons of little specks of dust, lint, etc., on the back of the DVD. Once I managed to get it cleaned up, the problems seemed to go away.

BTW, JE corrected her spelling of Joss's name.

And this thread has been very interesting to read. I had no idea there were so many of you who had tried your hands at writing a script. I don't even have to try to know that I would be a total failure at it, but I have total respect for those of you who have made the effort.
I'm sorry if this info is in an obvious place I can't find, but where can one get a copy of the Joss DVD?
Nebula1400, Chris inVirginia posted the link to creativescreenwriting.
Thanks palehorse. What is the best way to clean a DVD? Babywipes?
Madhatter, and posted rather ambiguously...apologies!

But, I passed the URL onto a friend and former colleague who nearly exploded with joy...she will order immediately!
Madhatter, and I posted rather, apologies!

But, I passed the URL onto a friend and former colleague who nearly exploded with joy...she will order immediately.

The Whedonvangelism continues apace!
Okay, so I Took all my courage and opened up a thread for the spec scripts at as Simon suggested and posted the very first spec I ever did here. Itīs pretty old but I thought it was fitting since itīs a Buffy spec! Now I hope others will also post something soon.
Simon, I don't know the best way to clean a DVD but I just use mild soap and warm water. Dry it with a cotton towel and don't ever dry it with anything made of paper. I've had to do this quite a few times and unless the disc is scratched it helps a lot. Good luck.
I wrote a spec for LOST last summer and sent it out to a couple places, none of which have bitten. I even handed a copy to Joss's assistant at Expo last fall. Even if I never get a paying gig, at least my little scribblings got *this* close to greatness. ;)

I'm planning a HOUSE spec next. I just need a medical degree to come up with something kinda convincing. Oh, and a raging case of misanthropy to get House's character just so. He's so dreamy!
Oh, no apologies required at all, Chris inVirginia. I often provide links in the room, it's no big deal. The reason I used your name was because you found the URL and you deserved the credit. I will not steal another member's glory :)
Jane has updated her blog and this time she talks to Tim Minear about novelty specs - and gets a rundown of an awesome "That Girl" spec that someone wrote!
Oh dear, they spelt Joss' name wrong on the back cover of the R4 DVD. Shit.

BTW, JE corrected her spelling of Joss's name.

No, I was talking about the R4 version of Serenity having the spelling wrong on it. Damn it.
What is the best way to clean a DVD? Babywipes?

I believe you can buy cleaning kits in places that retail DVDs and that may be safer, but I never bother. I just spray on a window cleaner (like Windolene)and dry off carefully with a paper towel. May seem like sacriledge, but it seems to work. I don't even bother with the recommended 'wipe from the inside to the outside and not in circles method' and I have never had a problem with a DVD I cleaned this way.

I am very impressed with all you aspiring screenwriters. It's also really cool to me how creative work by one person can inspire another person to try their hand at writing something themselves.
I wrote an X-files, which, I admit, was glorified fanfic. And pretty bad. But the first thing you write always is.

Then I wrote a Buffy, which was less glorified fanfic, more proper episode.

Then I wrote a Stargate SG-1. Which wasn't fanfic and a proper episode. And not bad if I do say so myself.
Thanks for the URL, Chris, and the link, Madhatter. This is what I was talking about when I said I couldn't see the obvious. :-( I have been known to frantically search for items I have in my hand.
No, I was talking about the R4 version of Serenity having the spelling wrong on it.

And I was talking about the first posts in this thread about how JE had spelled Joss's name "Wheden." By the time I responded to Simon, she had made the correction, and that was all I was saying. Sorry that the timing of my post led you to believe otherwise.

Thanks, Keith G, for alerting us to the Minear info.
I wrote a Murder she Wrote script once as an experiment. It was so long ago that the show was still on the air when I wrote it. I wasn't going to mention it because I did not actually write it as a spec script. Actually I partly wrote it to molify my then boyfriend who was a little PO'd that a film script I had written for a college course had used an old boyfriend of mine as the model for the main character. So I experimented by writing a TV script using the new boyfriend as the model for the sympathetic but doomed unless Jessica Flethcher can solve the murder, main suspect and some of his co-workers who were making his life miserable at the time and who I particularly disliked, as the models for the other suspects...and the murder victim of course. Mua ha ha. (It was not exactly character assasination...other than that it was about a character being assasinated of course...but I did have fun and vent some aggrivation. ;-) )

Anyway, it was not polished up enough to actually submit for anything, but it wasn't bad. A friend of mine who read it, said that I had done an uber-episode because usually there was one of a few specific structural things in each episode and I used all of them in one. (As I said, I was having fun, though not making fun.) So I guess according to JE I was on the right track...or not.

If I had any clue about how things worked, I might have done more with it and tried writing some other shows. In other words, would that the internet had shown up earlier in my life. ;-)
Posted mine on It was the first script I wrote, though I wrote and rewrote it many, many times. First time I've read it in a couple of years and I'm happy with the structure but some of the dialogue doesn't flow as well as I'd like it.

The best advice I can give anyone is, as we're spec writes with the luxury of no deadline, finish a script and put it in a drawer. Look at it a month or so later, you'll see things that you wonder what on earth made you put them in in the first place.
The best advice I can give anyone is, as we're spec writes with the luxury of no deadline, finish a script and put it in a drawer. Look at it a month or so later, you'll see things that you wonder what on earth made you put them in in the first place.

Agreed. Even stuff I really love I can see problems with once I've been away from it for a while. It's sometimes the only way to get perspective on something I write myself.
zz9, I'm looking forward to reading. And knowing you, I won't be disappointed in the least. Thanks.
Madhatter, glad to hear I have a 'rep'! Hope you like it. It's actually the script for Basic Instinct II with the names changed. And vampires added. Though sadly no rocket launchers.

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