Writing for Newsjack – some of the thing I’ve learned

Writing forNewsjack was a lot of fun, although the sleep deprivation was getting to me after six weeks. Now that I’ve taken a bit of a breather, I thought I’d share some of my reflections on the process ready for next series. Here’s my advice to my future myself:

  1. Your sketch needs a brilliant premise. Newsjack sketches are usually script edited quite heavily – based on my experience and what I hear from various people who have got sketches in. That means that it is more important to have a kick-ass watertight premise than anything else. Of course everything else helps (such as good gags, even structure, cutting out the unfunny bits) because you have to make that first reader laugh. And obviously they will prioritize scripts that need less work over those that need a lot. But spend time getting a brilliant comic premise first.
  2. The best way to do that? Brainstorming more. Don’t always dive in with the first idea you have. You may eventually decide that the first idea is the best but there may be an even better one waiting to get out. Give it some time so it can.
  3. Sketches need characterisation. A funny character can carry a sketch. Given how short a sketch is there is little time to develop characters so it can help to use ready made characters (either character types, Justin’s persona or celebrity impressions).
  4. Don’t deviate from the premise. There is no room in a sketch for digressions.
  5. Related to the previous two  – sketches need to flow nicely. The Script Ed will help here but try and make their life as easy as possible. Easy life for the Script Ed = higher chance of sketch being used.
  6. You need to write more sketches. A professional comedy writer once said that only one in ten of his sketches worked when he went back and looked at them.  The more you write the more you have to choose from to send in. And the better I get at writing sketches.
  7. Take heart if you get anything in. Getting one credit in the series puts you in the top quarter to one fifth of contributors.
  8. But don’t get complacent. First get good. Then you’ll get on.
  9. Most importantly relax and enjoy the process. This is not something you’re doing for the money. (In some ways it would be easier if it was!) So no fun, no point.  And you do need sleep at some point.

That’s it, really. Although it did reinforce a few of the other lessons I’ve learned before as well. Can’t wait for the autumn and Newsjack series 7. In the mean time I’ll write a few longer things as well.