Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Come and hear Another Case of Milton Jones

I'm not fully in the swing of writing the Milton Jones series for Radio 4 (before downing tools for Christmas). Jokes are coming thick and fast during the meanwhilst. But I thought I would say that if you fancy being in the audience on various Sunday nights in January and February at the Drill Hall in London, I'd act fast. Tickets will be snapped up. Have a look here.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Miranda - Series 2

Last night was the final episode in the series of Miranda. Probably my favourite one after Hotel - and some real emotion too. Felt like a really good one to end on. But it doesn't end there. We have been asked to do a second series. Such fun.

In the meantime, if you really can't wait for a DVD to be released, why not pick up the CD of the Radio 2 series? It's here.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Where Do Comedians Go When They Die?

I'm currently writing a new series of Another Case of Milton Jones with the eponymous Milton Jones. Yesterday in a meeting with him and David Tyler, the producer, I laughed until I cried, which is a rather nice way to earn a living, I thought. Now I've just got to write a shed load of jokes. I love writing with Milton - not only is a thoroughly decent human being, he was a brilliant comedy brain. For my money, he is the finest joke-writer in Britain today. (Why he is not regularly on our TV screens is baffling to me.) But trying to keep up with Milton joke for joke is a real stretch for me - and I regularly fail, but it is a tremendous comedy 'work-out'.

Anyway, Milton has written a book about life as a comedian - a fictionalise account of the trials of being a jobbing comedian. And he got it published and everything. And it looks great. I hope to read a copy very soon - but for now, have a look here for a review on Chortle and here to buy it on Amazon.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Unlucky for Some

You can listen to the latest episode of Hut 33 here. It's called Unlucky for Some, and it was a very enjoyable script to write, albeit a very pressured one. The Big Machine episode took ages - and so the time I had to spend on Unlucky for Some (which I wrote last) was very short. It was an idea that I'd had for the show very very early on when considering storylines for Series 3. I considered lots of alternatives, including Mrs B telling Archie that he was going to be lucky in love, and Archie so determined to prove her wrong that he throws away a really good chance with a really lovely girl. I liked that storyline because Archie was paying the penalty for his own dogma and stubbornness - which is what you want on a sitcom. The characters have to be their own worst enemies, and sow the seeds of their own downfall. I rejected that storyline in the end, however, partly because it isn't very funny, and also because it did not bring him into conflict with Charles, which is very much the comic engine of the show.

The other reasons I was attracted to this plot was because of current discussions around science, religion and faith. Many are stridently opposed to religion because it appears to them at least to be irrational. Professor Dawkins and friends are furious that people still regard religion as important or worthwhile when, to them, there is simply no need for it. In fact, it is menace to society, they say. It seemed to me that Archie would espouse this view, since he is a Marxist and the Russian sympathiser. Stalin ran an atheistic regime (demonstrating that you don't have to be religious to destroying millions of lives, single-handedly killing more people than every crusade and the Spanish Inquisition combined).

(I hasten to add I don't agree with Archie in this. Christianity, at least, is not based on an irrational 'leap of faith' as many think. My understanding is that God comes to earth as a man and gives proof of himself, rising from the dead, so that no 'leap' is needed. But this is not the place to discuss theology.)

Charles however is religiously motivated, being a Roman Catholic, although his faith sometimes has the appearance of superstition. But maybe I would say that because I am a Protestant. The important thing, however, is that Charles' faith is believable and real. Gordon, the middle-man, would be an Anglican - in the worst sense of the word - trying to agree with everyone and be all things to all men. And Mrs B would naturally be superstitious and full of old wives tales.

And thus, Unlucky for Some was born. One of the advantages of writing the final episode of a third series is that you know who the characters are and how they would respond in any given situation. Take the subject of superstition and you immediately have attitudes from the characters forming in your mind. The trick of writing is to hear those characters talking to each other and trying and keep up with the voices in your head...

Monday, 2 November 2009

JRR Tolkein

I should have spotted this before but this is rather juicy. I suppose it makes complete sense. Tolkein was an expert linguist and philologist, so an obvious candidate for codebreaking. Gives me an idea for a show...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Big Machine

Episode 2 of Series 3 is now on iPlayer here if you want to have a listen.

The episode is about machinery and early computers so, as you can imagine, there are lots of jokes about computers and IT. Lots and lots has been written on this subject and I have waded through much technical data in the last few years as I've written this show and the novel Crossword Ends in Violence (5) (available here). I read a book about Colossus by Paul Gannon, large parts of which I had to skim since they were extremely technical. I didn't much enjoy the book, but I was very glad that someone had bothered to write it. But it did teach me about the astonishing technical achievements achieved under such pressure.

Turing naturally gets much retrospective credit in all of this - and rightly so. His brain was a very rare thing indeed. He vastly improved the Bombe, building on the achievements of the largely forgotten Pole, Marian Rejewski who first cracked Enigma in 1932 (thanks in part to some splendid espionage by a Frenchman). But often overlooked is Max Newman and Tommy Flowers who were largely responsible for the amazing Colossus.

The machine invented by Gordon, and streamline by Archie, in this episode is an arbitrary one, designed to automate the process of trying to drag a crib through the text and spot links (since the Enigma machine never encoded a letter as itself) - it's getting boringly technical now, isn't it? This is what I'm up against, you see, writing an audience comedy show set at Bletchley Park.

I had a lot of fun writing it although, for some reason, this took the longest to write by far, going through several drafts. One of the problems stemmed from the dilemma the characters find themselves towards the end of the show. I don't want to spoil the plot, so I won't (I hope). But the machine that is created obviously has ramifications - but to suggest that our heroes would do something as malicious and self-serving as sabotage it is unthinkable. Still, our characters are feckless and petty, so nothing is beyond them. Naturally, they are nothing like the hardworking folk who laboured away at Bletchley for real - it's just a sitcom, remember... (In the same way, the German occupation of France did not resemble the goings-on of Allo Allo). Hope you enjoy this one.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Episode 1 - Know Thine Enemy on iPlayer

For the next week, you can listen to Episode 1 of Series 3 of Hut 33 on iPlayer - here. This episode is actually about codebreaking, which sounds obvious given the premise of the sitcom, but it much harder to do that you might think. I've had one or two people quite indignant that, as a sitcom, we don't concentrate on the codebreaking anywhere near enough. Of course, sitcoms are about characters and people, not ideas. Hut 33 is not about the war - well, it is. It's about class war. It's about the clash of world-views between Archie, the common man, whose time is coming, and Charles, the posh don, whose time is passing. Gordon is stuck in between as the peace-maker. And the war is what pushes this unlikely trio together, as was the case in the war. It is often given as the reason for Churchill's astonishing defeat after the war; Britain, for the first time, really saw how the other half lived, and they didn't like it. Anyway, hope you enjoy the episode.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Know Thyne Enemy

For some reason, this episode is called Know Thyne Enemy. I don't know where the 'y' in 'Thyne' came from, but there it is. Anyway, this is episode 1 in the new series of Hut 33 - details of which can be found here.

This episode is an attempt to actually do a story about codebreaking - which is about as hard to do as it sounds. Stories about codebreaking that are comprehensible are quite hard. To do them on the radio makes them even harder. To make them funny on the radio, well, that's a bit of a tall order. But that is, after all, the premise of the show, so it's my own fault. You can be the judge of how successful I've been with this episode. Have a listen anytime from 11.30am on Wednesday 14th October.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Series 3 sorted

So we recorded four episodes of Hut 33 in the last few days - two on Friday 25th and two on Sunday 27th. We recorded two in May. So that's the whole third series in the can. The series starts on BBC Radio 4 on 14th October at 11.00am (or thereabouts).

I'd like to dwell briefly on the writing process - especially in relation to the results on the night. On Sunday night, we recorded two episodes that took highly varying lengths of time to write. The Big Machine took weeks to produce and ended up going to five drafts. It was an obvious area for an episode - building a computer - but the plot took a long time to come together. Despite a lengthy outline that seemed okay, it didn't quite come together in the first two drafts. But eventually, a script was done. And then dusted.

Because of this, there was limited time available to write the final script, Unlucky for Some, an episode about superstition and luck. It only required two drafts to get across the line, which was fortunate as that was all there was time for! I was a bit worried about going for this topic for an episode as I'd looked at it a number of times and couldn't quite find a story from it that worked. But something came along and it zipped along fairly well. And any concerns about the lack of time on the script were swept aside on the night. Unlucky for Some went extremely well - and probably better than the heavily worked and rewritten Big Machine.

On balance, it wasn't the time spent, but the source of the plots. The Unlucky for Some plot stemmed from the characters and became a clash of world-views - Archie being a rationalist, Gordon being superstitious and naive, and Charles being a Catholic - whereas The Big Machine was more about the concept of technology. Both had plenty of jokes and the audience seemed to like them, but if I had to chose one, it would be Unlucky for Some.

As it happens, both episodes recorded on Friday 25th went even better - the matinee audience were very appreciative. Naturally, the cynics will complain that the laughter is canned. But it isn't. It really isn't. People really do have a nice time at the reocrdings.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

So you want to be a comedy writer...

There is an opportunity for new sketch-writers here. Follow the instructions carefully...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Unthinkable on iTunes

I probably knew this already, but Think the Unthinkable Series 1 is available on iTunes for £5.95. Do please pester the BBC to release Series 2-4. There seems no obvious reason why they can't be released digitally if not as CDs (remember them?). Concrete Cow is also up there on iTunes too (it's a pound more, probably because there are six episodes - and only five of Think the Unthinkable).

Think the Unthinkable was recently chosen by Barry Cryer on BBC7 as one of the best shows of The Noughties. Which is nice. I've only got a few months left to get Hut 33 onto that list...

Friday, 14 August 2009


The tickets for the Bloomsbury Boffoonery gig have been selling briskly to say the least. About half of them sold on the first day, so don't hang around - especially after an honourable mention in Wired magazine online here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Boffoonery - Tickets Now on Sale!

At last, you can buy tickets for Boffoonery! - a night of comedy celebrating codebreaking, cunning and computing cleverness in aid of Bletchley Park with Robin Ince, Richard Herring, Robert Llewellyn, Laurence and Gus and lots more tbc. It's on Tuesday 3rd November at the Bloomsbury Theatre and it will be a great night. So buy your ticket online today from the Bloomsbury theatre here.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bletchley in the Express

There is an honourable mention of Hut 33 in an article about Bletchley Park in the Daily Express here by Elizabeth Mistry.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Milton's Paradise Jones

Fans of Milton Jones will also be pleased to learn that he's doing a gig at the marvellous Bloomsbury Theatre on Sat 7th November - more details here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Milton Jones and Pozzitive

For a few weeks a year, I have the pleasure of working for the independent production company Pozzitive, writing scripts with the splendidly funny Milton Jones, a series of which is being repeated on BBC7, and can be found on iPlayer here.

And if you look on Pozzitive's flashy new website, you'll find clips, jingles, info and tremendously time-wasting trivia to fill your lunch hour several times over. Why not get a sandwich and have a look here?

Monday, 6 July 2009

First Episode

For the next week, you can hear the first episode of Hut 33 Series 1 - Bridge Too Far - here on BBC7.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Bletchley Park Benefit - Tues 3rd November

It's happening. At the Bloomsbury Theatre in London on Tues 3rd November. A comedy celebration of codebreaking, cryptography and those brilliant hut-bound boffins, with all profits going to Bletchley Park.

Comedians, actors and celebs will be performing stand-up comedy, sketches and generally showing off. Confirmed so far are:

Robin Ince
- Bloomsbury favourite stand-up comedian and winner of the Time Out Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. The thinking man's thinking comedian.

Richard Herring - One half of Lee and Herring. The same half of Collings and Herrin (whose podcast can be found here) and a splendidly funny man in his own right. There is worryingly good picture of him looking like Hitler here.

Robert Llewellyn - presenter of Scrapheap Challenge, Red Dwarf's Kryten and the creator of the highly entertaining vodcast, Carpool.

There'll also be sketches (by me and others) on the subject of codebreaking, Bletchley Park and boffinery performed by an all-star cast. Watch this space for updates on the line up, and for news of when tickets will be on sale.

Monday, 29 June 2009


In case you missed Series 1 of Hut 33, you will be able to hear it on Sundays on BBC7 - and subsequently on iPlayer, I guess. Lucky you.

(Don't worry. A third series is in production and should be with you sometime this year. I sat in my office-shed sweltering in the heat trying to write episode 4. It's shaping up!)

Friday, 26 June 2009


Fans of 3rd Lieutenant Joshua Fanshawe Marshall will be pleased to know that Alex Macqueen, who plays Josh, is in the pleasantly silly Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire. He plays Barnabas, the sidekick to Matt Lucas' character. You can see that (for now) on the BBC iPlayer here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Writing a Sitcom - advice from the expert (ie. not me)

There are three splendid pages of advice on writing a situation comedy from sitcom sage Paul Mayhew-Archer here at the BBC Writers Room section, which is well worth a browse. Paul gives some handy pointers. Then has a sample outline of a sitcom, with some characters and stories, and then explains why sitcom is so dreadful... Great advice. If you want to write a sitcom, read it, learn it and do it. Paul has been an immense help to me over the last ten years.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

D-Day Prize Crossword

Crosswords will forever be associated with D-Day. The story is told of the D-Day codewords appearing in crosswords in the Daily Telegraph. It caused a bit of a stir. And it is around that story that my comic novel Crossword Ends in Violence (5) is based.

So given the anniversary this weekend, there is another chance to have a look at my D-Day themed prize crossword here. You may have looked at it before, or it may be new to you, but have a look and have a go. Print it out and pick at it over this week. It's not fiendish, but playful, I hope. And the prize is naturally a copy of my novel - Crossword Ends in Violence (5).

It is also available to buy here. Or on Amazon marketplace here.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Standing Corrected

In the Duke of Kent episode, there is an explanation to Gordon who innocently doesn't really understand that the Duke of Kent swings boths ways (the one who lived until 1944 at least. I make no comment on the current one). Rugby Union and League rules were used as metaphors. But a correction has been twittered. It's here.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Pigs n Spivs

BBC Radio has just aired a repeat of the Pigs N Spivs episode of Hut 33. I remember this episode rather fondly. Having a pig around the place struck me as a funny thing - not least because they make a wonderful noise. Having something that sounds good on Radio is, as you can imagine, no small thing for a radio comedy. Anyway, I wrote something about this episode back in June that you can find here. And there's a link to the iPlayer to hear the episode here.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Hut 33 - Repeated

Listen to the first episode of Series 2 on BBC iPlayer here. Read more background info here.

You can also hear a repeat of my other show, Think the Unthinkable, on BBC7, also on the iPlayer.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Stephen Fry at Bletchley

Technophile and philologist, Stephen Fry, has been inspecting Bletchley Park. Read all about it here.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Hut 33 - Series Two repeat!

Here's something exciting (at least it is in my world):

Series 2 of Hut 33 is being given another airing - this time at 6.30pm. On Thursdays on BBC Radio 4 beginning with Episode 1, presumably, about which more has been written here.

The recording for Series 3 on May 25th - is apparently sold out (Well, not sold out exactly, since no money changes hands (and that includes the writer the way the contracts are going at the moment...) But it is fully booked. Sorry.) More recordings to be announced in due course.

Most Popular

Here's a nice thing. Today, Think the Unthinkable is currently the most popular show on BBC7 on iPlayer. In particular Episode 4 of Series 2. Listen here.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Think the Unthinkable

There is a repeat of a previous sitcom what I wrote called Think The Unthinkable - starring Marcus Brigstocke, David Mitchell and Catherine Shepherd. Series 2 in on BBC7 at the mo. Listen to an ep here.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Crossword Ends in Violence (5)

For a limited period, the entirety of my novel, Crossword Ends in Violence (5) is available for free as a download. So you can print it out (c. 116 pages of A5 (two pages per a4 page)). And you can read the whole thing. Or you can order it via Lulu as before. Just go here.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Recording 1: Series 3: Hut 33

Okay, not the most engaging of blog titles, but it explains it clearly. We have a recording date for Hut 33 - for the first of three recordings. We're not entirely sure when the next two will be. Some time in July perhaps. Or September. But we have managed to pin down our wonderful cast for a day in May. 25th May 2009 at the BBC Radio Theatre in London at 7.15. It's a great night out and it's free. And when you finally hear the programme go out, you can smug about the fact that you don't need to hear it - because you were there. More details here.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Comedy and the Bible

It may or may not interested you to know that last August I gave a talk at the Greenbelt festival about Comedy and the Bible. You can find that talk here. Sorry it's not a free download. But worth a listen I reckon if you're interested in the area. There's not a lot of decent literature on the subject. (But there is Douglas Wilson's excellent Serrated Edge, which is a biblical defence of satire).

I shall be returning to the Greenbelt Festival again this year, speaking on the subject of Crosswords! What's the point of them? And why do them when you could be helping the poor? Should be fun. But I haven't made onto the bigwigs page here.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Robert Bathurst, aka Professor Charles Gardiner, has written rather a splendid piece for the Independent. Enjoy it here.

Friday, 27 February 2009


My early morning sit-com viewing continues. And the other day I watched Bread - a sitcom about an extended family, the Boswells, in Liverpool that scrapped to make a living. There is a strong mother at the centre of it who is fiercely loyal to her children, who all live together in a house, with grandad Boswell next door, and the estranged Freddie Boswell turning up now and then.

I watched almost every episode as a child, or teenager, and have great affection for the show, but watching one episode as a one-off one morning last week was rather enlightening. Let me explain why as I note a few thing.

1. Watching the episode in isolation was rather unrewarding. Because it wasn't all that funny. This is not to say that there were lots of jokes in it that didn't work or fell flat. Carla Lane, the writer of the show, knows what she's doing. There were exactly as many laughs are there were meant to be. The comedy, when it happens, is a little sparse at times.

2. Why were the jokes not as thick and fast as I'd have liked? Because the characters are so big and well-developed. They all had stories of their own, and the show covered all of them unashamedly. In one sense, the show is unwieldy. But I really felt that I'd 'heard from' all of the characters by the end of the episode. As a result, I didn't laugh all that much, but I was a little moved at times (in a way that one is not with Bilko or the Big Bang Theory - both fine shows in their own right). At the end of the episode, which was left on a cliff-hanger, I felt I was watching a comedy soap. Again, this is not a bad thing, necessarily. Just an observation.

3. This, then, sounds like a curious show and, given it moves slowly, takes its time over jokes and has lots of characters, would not imply success. And yet its one of the most successful sitcom in BBC history. It was a monster hit show. It ran for years, survived at least three changes in regular cast members (Joey, Aveline, Billy's Julie). And episodes regular drawing ratings of 14 million+. I seem to remember one episode nearly hit 20 million. Yes, there was less choice back that, but that's a juggernaut of a show by anyone's standards. I note, then, that Carla Lane was doing something right. But what?

4. We care about the characters. We really care. When the show doesn't give us a laugh every second, it's okay because she's created a group of people that we want to be with, and we want to succeed. Interestingly, the character that generates the most laughs per minute, in her short time on screen, is the long-suffering stern woman who works in the local Benefits office (DHSS). And she's only in one scene per show.

5. The show had a strong local flavour without being exclusive or annoying. (Even though I find the Scouser accent hard work after a while). It can be done.

6. The show, when you count them up, had quite a lot of catchphrases. Joey's 'Greetings!'. Aveline's 'Modelling'. Mother Boswell answers the phone 'Hello, yes'. And screams, about her ex-husband's girlfriend, 'Lilo Lil' - 'She is a TART!'. There are others. But those have stayed with me for a very very long time. Watching the episode of Bread the other day was like catching up with old friends.

There's lots to learn from Carla Lane's monster hit, Bread.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

M*A*S*H - Blood and Guts

Every morning from 7am 'til 8am, I look after my daughter - during which time I'm able to watch about twenty minutes of television. So this morning, I watched an episode of M*A*S*H - from the 10th series. It was called "Blood and Guts" - which sitcom geeks tell me was originally aired in Jan 1982. In this episode, Hawkeye is outraged when a sensationalistic war correspondent, Clayton Kibbee, reports irresponsible G.I. stunts as tales of military valor. What can we learn from it?

M*A*S*H works best when the characters are all getting on each other's nerves. It occurred to me that Hut 33's Archie vs Charles antagonism is akin to Hawkeye vs Winchester. But let's be honest, when you're on your 200th episode of a sitcom, you can be forgiven from bringing in outside characters and seeing how the characters react. The outside character in question is a famous fictional war correspondent - and everyone likes him. He's brought out some pints of blood with him from the readers of his newspaper, and is writing a story about how each pint is used. Unfortunately, the first two pints are used on dumb GIs injured via self-inflicted accidents, not combat. But Kibbee writes up a tail of derring-do anyway. Hawkeye is appalled and tries to get others to see that Kibbee is a phoney.

Kibbee's motives are unclear in this episode - is he twisting the facts to publish a good story for the paper? Is he trying to help the war effort by creating heroes for the readers at home? Clearly he'd be doing the 4077 no favours if he said they had to treat stupid GIs who were foolishly injured. But since Kibbee is not a central character, his motives are less interesting to us than Hawkeye's. And it's very easy to forget that when creating character that only last one episode. The audience like the regular cast - and tend to have their favourites within that. And they rarely, if ever, derive much pleasure from outside characters.

But here's the exception. Seinfeld made a virtue of creating funny one-off characters. Like the Soup Nazi. Or Elaine's Dad. Or the Bubble Boy. It can be done. But very little pressure is placed on these characters. It's all about how the regulars react - and then act, and move the story on. One should avoid outside characters being the central plot engine of the story.

For Hut 33 Series 3

One of the reasons for examining other sitcoms is to learn - and make improvements to my own writing so that Series 3 of Hut 33 is better than the last two. In Series 2, there were probably too many outside characters coming in: The Duke of Kent, the German Spy, The American. I was perfectly happy with the episodes, but the focus of the show must always be the main characters. To that end, for series 3, I have outlines for four scripts which contain no outside characters at all. Two more episodes are still to be storylined. But those episodes will be numbers 17 & 18 in the overall canon of Hut 33, so there's no excuse. I'm still some way short of an episode 200.

One other point about M*A*S*H, which is a military show, as is Hut 33. Military shows are useful from a sitcom point of view because comedy require simplicity, and comprehensibility. And in the army, everyone has clear ranks, roles and duties. There is a hierarchy that must be observed. Wars that need to be won. Anything that subverts that order is, or can be, funny. Moreover, the beauty of M*A*S*H, from a writing point of view, is that the job of the main characters is clear - cure patients, save lives and generally help out.

The role of Hut 33 is altogether harder to convey. Code-breaking is incredibly hard to do, and even harder to explain. It helps that we have a thickie character in Josh, to whom things have to be explained very simply (and to the audience), but it doesn't always work. Again, I'll be trying to tackle that head-on in this series, but add to that fact that its radio (so everything has to be said, not seen), and it's all rather demanding. So I'd better get on with writing a script now...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Starting Writing an Episode

And so I begin to write Series 3 of Hut 33. Yes, it really is written - not made up on the spot, which is, I'm sure, how it sounds to some.

For those interested in the process of writing, I plan to put things on this site every now and then - and in particular how I go about writing a six-part radio sitcom. Of course, I've already slipped up by calling it a 'six-part' series, which implies some kind of story arc. There isn't one, even though this series finds us in 1942, rather than 1941. So, for the characters in Hut 33, the war is going ever so slightly better. The Russians and Americans are in the war, but the Germans are still doing very well.

Starting to Write the Episode
So, today, I'm going to write the first page of the first episode of the Series 3. Although, because it has no real 'serial' component, it may turn out to be the second or fifth episode. Who knows? This episode is notionally set in January 1942, partly because one has to imagine it is cold, both in the hut, and in the Arctic Circle - which will be referred to a number of times throughout the show.

How do I know that? How do I know what's going to happen until I've written it?

Because I'm writing the script based on an scene-by-scene outline that is, in itself, 2000 words in length. A script normally ends up being about 5500 words (which reads at about 31/31 minutes, and is then edited. That's another story). The scene-by-scene outline I'm using is a fifth draft. I've been through it a number of times and the story is, I think, fairly solid. Each scene has a paragraph or two about what happens, and sometimes a few lines of dialogue and jokes, so that every scene is like writing a little sketch.

Writing Schedules
I hope that this script will take me about a week to write. But I've probably already spent a week on the story, the scenes and the general ideas. Once I have that first draft (which may not be finished by Friday as I have a busy week, plus my daughter's first birthday party this afternoon), I will save it, ignore it, go onto another episode, and a few weeks later, come back, go through it and cut bits, add jokes and then finally send it to the producer - as Draft 1.

I expect that Draft 1 will be lumpy and far from perfect. The producer will spot bits and flaws and possible cuts. And I'll spend a few more days on it and write draft 2, that may be anywhere between 10-50% different from Draft 1. Hopefully, Draft 2 will be readable by the cast. Hearing it read makes a bit difference and we like to read through every script with as many of the cast as we can get at least a week before the recording - since there just isn't time to fix things on the day. Especially now we record two episodes at one recording.

The readthrough, then, will probably generate another day's work - possibly two. (this is per script, obviously) And then one more pass-through for a day with the producer, adding more jokes and deleting bits and we have a script that should be ready for recording. That's the theory, anyway - and how I've written Series 1 and 2 of Hut 33, Think the Unthinkable and The Pits....

But every writer is different. Some writers seem to thrive on leaving it too late, last minute scrambles and staying up all night. That sometimes happens for me. But not usually. I'm boring, like that. 2am is a brilliant time for sleeping, I find. Not writing...