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To spec or not to spec? (Readers’ Mail)

This week on Readers’ Mail, Brian asks the following insightful question:

I’m curious to know if it’s wise to spec a story that you already know next season will be tackling.
For example, I’m currently working on a spec for an ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK episode that would fall into the season 2 narrative. The story I’m working on deals with one of the characters whose backstory we did not see these past two seasons yet, but will most likely be told in the upcoming season 3.
If the story is good and fits into season 2 narrative, should I still write it? Or, knowing that next season will tackle this character’s story, should I be working on a different angle?

The decision to spec a particular story, and where it fits in the show, is a tough line to tread. Especially with serialized series.

When it comes to Orange is the New Black, I do believe it is safe to spec flashbacks of one of the “untouched” characters.
You should however still do it with the caveats that:
1) The backstory fits her storyline/arc/character; and, equally important
2) It is compelling and novel enough that it shines regardless of the direction the series takes with her.

This holds true for any spec stories out there. If it’s entertaining and awesome, it really won’t matter what the character’s “canon” backstory is, especially since it will be such a recent reveal in the show’s history.
Also, the fellowship deadlines are before the release of season 3. It is pretty much a guarantee all the Orange specs will be “within season 2” or right after it.
That doesn’t mean you should forego the mythology and ongoing arcs completely. It would be pretty tough to consider a current Good Wife spec featuring Will.

In terms of where the spec should fit (or “where in the season do you write a spec script”), once again I feel the best option is whatever makes your story be great.
If your super duper idea and execution only works between Episodes 2×08 and 2×09, then so be it. I know a couple fellowships ask for a “Previously On” page, so that could help with context. With that said, a more ubiquitous or undefined timeframe will usually be less distracting to the reader.

For more on what you should look out for when it comes to spec content (and choice), I’ll refer you to the “Ten Spec Writing Rules (and why you should care)“.

In the end, what really matters is that your spec needs to stand on its own merits. A good, compelling story will withstand most nitpicks.
Don’t discard a great story because of the zeitgeist.

This is definitely a common worry so hopefully my thoughts helped you out.
Thanks again for your readership and good luck on the spec!

If you have a question (or questions) you’d like an answer to, feel free to comment below or send me a message (not the horse head kind).

Write on.

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