How To Write a Winning Spec Script

Mar 15, 2016 | Writing

Writing a television spec script is demanding, but winning a major writing competition with one is far more difficult. We sat down with Meghan Fitzmartin, winner of the Big Break Hour-Long category for her spec of Arrow to uncover the secrets behind her winning script.

Whether it be procedural court-room dramas or 80s-themed spy thrillers, it’s important to love the genre in which you’re writing. This is certainly the case for Fitzmartin, who chose the superhero/action world of Arrow.

“I am a massive comic book nerd and Arrow is one of my favorite comic book shows,” says Fitzmartin, who grew up in the city of Celebration, Florida. If you’re a Disney fanatic, you’ve likely heard of Celebration, the planned community originally developed by the Walt Disney Company.

Fitzmartin describes her hometown as “Weird. Celebration is very sheltered, you live in a bubble; it’s not necessarily realistic. Everything, especially the houses, needs to look good and proper. It’s a very Southern mentality.”

Now living in Los Angeles and working at Warner Brothers as a Production Assistant, it seems growing up in a fantasy world helped prime Fitzmartin for entering the comic book world of the Green Arrow and Starling City. But the clever writer didn’t simply draw on the established back-story from the show. She knew her spec not only had to capture the show’s voice, but also be inventive. She wanted to shed new light on the familiar character, Oliver Queen.

“I used a character as a cult figure and placed him in Oliver’s life, but not from the island, where most of the flashbacks are placed. I placed it a little bit before to see Oliver being a follower. I wanted to juxtapose him being a leader now and what he learned from actually being a part of this cult before being on the island.”

As fresh as Fitzmartin’s take on Oliver Queen was, she credits her new editing process for winning.

“I had submitted this spec around before, but I did another pass on it before I sent it to Big Break. I didn’t cut anything from the story or the action, I literally just went through every action slug and asked, ‘Do I need all these words? How succinctly can I tell this story?’ That was the best piece of cutting I could have done for my script.”

Streamlining the action in this way helped Fitzmartin give space to the dialogue and lighten up the page for the reader. “They just want a visual,” she adds.

Fitzmartin describes winning the Big Break competition as, “A huge encouragement. In spec writing, sometimes you feel like you’re throwing your head against the wall. But to win, I can say to myself, ‘Look, you did this! This is good!’ It’s something outside yourself that can confirm this passion that you have.”

Her biggest hurdle currently is finding representation with the hopes of writing on a comic book-type show. “Right now, the concrete goal is writing for television. But overall, I like writing to encourage others, so they know that they are loved. The goal is to express that.”

For more information on The Big Break Screenwriting Competition, click here!

 

Shanee Edwards

Screenwriter / Film Critic

Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer.  Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards.