I was shocked at not making the final of last year's Red Planet Prize but I would have been even more shocked if I had made it to this year's. My first ten pages wasn't rubbish but I didn't spend nearly enough time on it for various reasons including taking ages to think of a show and an unexpected TV comedy opportunity (which I might blog about that at some point).
One of the finalists, David, had a tough time on his new script but his tried and tested took him through. We all should have at least one tried and tested in our portfolio and the one hour pilot is perhaps the most ideal.
One of the finalists, Steve, has worked wildly hard on his script from the nascent "OK, I suppose but needs lots of work" stage I read ages ago to the spanking sparkling spec that is going to get him work, whether he wins the RPP or not.
With the lack of writing time I had to use the RTD method, just sit down at a keyboard and write and not bother about acts or character development. It was great fun and I felt free of the stupid annoying so-called rules we're supposed to follow but at the end of the 10 pages it was clear I didn't know my characters, story or world enough.
Which means using the RTK method rather than RTD's from now on, as while it works for other people, it just isn't for me. One of the finalists, Jase, illustrates my preferred way of doing things here. One comment on his blog suggested that it might be a form of procrastination (and it is if you overdo it) but I think it's about making sure you know your world and your characters. My lead character changed from how she was in my original concept to the version in the first draft. Nothing wrong with that except I didn't realise she had changed and I'm not convinced it's a change for the better.
English Dave advised against writing police procedurals unless you had a spectacular twist and I had supernatural one. I was loving the new style of septic cop shows like Life, The Mentalist and In Plain Sight and wanted to write one of my own. But I never once did an outline of any of those shows to get the structure or worked out what it was that I liked about them.
I thought of a last minute twist for my pilot plot but only because my script came in under-time and I had no choice. Actually, I did have a choice, more filler early on or a twist to keep the fast pace. By outlining I never go under-time or over-time that drastically.
Top script reader Adrian announced that he wasn't going to bother with the competition, for sound reasons. So don't beat yourself up if you missed the deadline or didn't do your best work. Incidentally, he shares the encouraging feedback he got from going directly to prodcos here and echoes Lucy's point that a 'no' is simply a 'no' and could turn into a 'yes' or 'maybe' with someone else.
Non-finalists can also go directly to prodcos but rather than rush to prove Red Planet wrong, I would put the script away for a month or so at least and start thinking about a new series pilot instead.
One final word on the comp itself, I was told the bad news by email within days of the finalists being notified which is pretty impressive. Although it buggered up my hopes of pretending that it was rejected due to the script not getting there in time.