Script Writing for Children's Television workshop - Event Report

Kate Scott

Fancy spending your Saturday watching CBeebies, writing jokes and eating cake? 

Alex English and some other lucky SCBWIs did just that on a fantastic workshop with children’s author and script writer Kate Scott

As the owner / keeper / slave to two little boys under 4, I watch a lot of CBeebies. But until now I’d not really known how to tackle writing for the screen myself. Unlike books, there’s a whole different syntax and format to screenwriting. It’s all rather intimidating and there isn’t much information around on screenwriting specifically for kids. But thanks to Kate Scott’s recent Scriptwriting for Children’s Television workshop, I’m no longer in the dark.

After finding the venue we settled down with cups of tea to watch episodes of Big & Small and The Hive (two series Kate has written for). We learned all about springs, also known as springboards, or pitches (there’s a lot of jargon in the TV world, it seems). These paragraph-long synopses are the text you submit if you get the opportunity to pitch for a job. We had a look at some examples from Chuggington and then worked in groups to produce our own, before moving on to outlines and script excerpts. 

A TV writer needs to think about visual variety, just like a picture book author

Kate Scott

We discovered the writing process for TV is similar to that of commercial fiction. Ideas get bounced around and refined before being outlined scene-by-scene. This outline is again refined before anyone even thinks about writing the actual script. It’s a collaborative process, no writers alone in their garrets here. I love a good plan, so the whole pitch first, outline second, script last process was very appealing to me, although it might not be for everyone.

We also learned that there are many similarities between writing for pre-school TV and writing picture books. A TV writer needs to think about visual variety, just like a picture book author. Humour is vital. And there’s the age old problem of everything having been done before, something we found out when two groups independently came up with exactly the same cake-related storyline during an exercise! 

Kate told us to think high concept, low cost.

Author Mo O'Hara
So, how is writing for TV different to writing for print? A key point is the need to think about budget, something that’s quite alien to us writing books. After all, a book about an army of unicorns flying a spaceship isn’t any more expensive to produce than a school story with a small cast. But with TV, everything takes time and costs money. Kate told us to think high concept, low cost.

After lunch, tea and cake, Kate filled us in on the reality of writing for TV, such as where to look for work opportunities, how much and when you get paid and all those other vulgar practicalities. Kate successfully balances writing and script editing for TV with writing children’s novels, which shows that writing for TV can be an extra string to one’s bow rather than a replacement for writing books. 

I returned home exhausted but inspired and have been buzzing with ideas ever since. In fact, I’ve already got to work on outlining an old picture book text as an animation script. 

A big thank you to Kate and the SCBWI organisers for setting up such a fantastic day!

Thanks to Candy Gourlay for the photos. 

Alex English writes picture books and middle-grade fiction. YUCK SAID THE YAK, was published by Maverick in 2014, with an early reader version released in 2015. PIRATES DON'T DRIVE DIGGERS was published in 2015. MINE MINE MINE SAID THE PORCUPINE is forthcoming in 2016. She volunteers for SCBWI as a sub-editor for Words & Pictures and is represented by Joanna Devereux of the Joanna Devereux Literary Agency.


  1. I was really sorry to have missed this - thanks for the update Alex!

  2. I joined it. It is so great, Alex!

  3. I am sure that the my personal statement writing services is really useful and helpful to everyone. This is brilliant work done by author.

  4. Fantastic children's book. Beautifully combining my son's favourite things - pirates and diggers.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.