CBBC Writers Lab: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse…

Category: Writing

For writers with a passion for children’s work the CBBC Writers Lab, run by the hugely talented CBBC Scotland Development Team and the Scottish Book Trust, was like Christmas come early – four days of playing with ideas for kids!

The Lab provided a unique insight into the workings of children’s TV and an unparalleled opportunity to pitch your ideas to the people who matter. Our homework on the first week was to come up with ideas for 10 new TV series which we had to pitch the following week (that’s TEN story ideas each – and ten people on the course!) It might sound like a mammoth task but TV eats ideas and there’s nothing like the experience of listening to 100 pitches to give you a tiny idea of how commissioning editors must feel. The old maxim of “what makes your idea unique?” couldn’t have been better demonstrated.

Reducing your precious idea down into one sentence is a great test as to whether or not your story really works, and is a time saver for everyone – including you. If you are lucky enough to ensnare an unsuspecting commissioning editor in a lift, you’ve got seconds to pitch your idea so you’re going to have to be well rehearsed… unless you happen to be someone who loiters around lifts all day.

It’s not surprising that with 100 ideas fired into the room we had plenty of duplicates, but the smart advice was to recycle - not that dead horse idea you’ve been flogging for months – but the new fresh concepts at risk of premature death. If the precinct works, can you rework the characters? Perhaps it’s a game show and not a drama? What would happen if you spliced your factual programme idea with a sit-com? Kids think outside of the box all the time and if we’re writing for them, we need to be ahead of the game…

And last but not least, can you reuse it? There are plenty of outlets for children’s material. Just because one commissioning editor didn’t want it, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea.

It was a great course and a unique opportunity- a huge thank you to the Scottish Book Trust for organising it, BBC Scotland Children’s department for dedicating so much time in running it, and to all the participants who were so much fun to work with!

Anita is an award winning writer with work spanning television, theatre and poetry. For more information about Anita and her writing visit her website

Anita Gallo

Anita is an award winning writer with work spanning television, theatre and poetry. For more information about Anita and her writing visit her website.