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Feature: The Diary of an Emerging Writer – December

Tom Derrington’s final entry on what 2023 involved for him

Over the course of 2023, Tom Derrington has kept a diary for us. In it he has discussed the high’s and low’s of the life of a writer. From rejection letters to seeing your first London play Tom has taken us on his journey with him.

So. for one last time, Tom takes us into what he’s been up to since his last diary.

In September, I started a new job – teaching History at a secondary school.

Reckoned it’d be easy enough to fit the playwriting in around the teaching, the lesson planning – the endless marking… the meetings, the parent liaison, the extra-curricular commitments, the subject research, the report writing, the behaviour management, the differentiation, the photocopying…

Yeah…so since September, I’ve written absolutely fuck all! However, on the positive, I do now know a lot about the Protestant reformation in Early Modern Europe.

20 October

Casually brushing one my kids’ teeth, (one of my own kids – not a GCSE history student), when an email pinged up on my phone:


“Dear Tom, We are delighted to let you know …

Hang on… drop the toothbrush, scan read the rest of the email –  

I’ve been selected to interview for the BBC VOICES emerging writers’ programme. Well, this is it then! Shit, where did that come from? I can’t even remember what I sent in. Don’t care. This is it! Surely? This is the break I’ve been hoping for.

Playing it cool, I immediately replied and set a date for the interview. 15 November. Plenty of time to prepare. I really think this could be it.

15 November

Interview done. Thought it went pretty well. A nice chat over zoom with two friendly BBC execs. We talked about what I have been working on. The script I had submitted last year (now re-read). What I hoped to achieve as a writer…What I’d been watching recently (TOPBOY, TIME and COLIN FROM ACCOUNTS – all brilliant, although I felt TIME series two, didn’t quite hit the same level of gritty realism as series one). They kindly explained how the programme works, a six-month development course. A chance to connect with other writers and learn how to transition from writing for stage to TV. Yeah, cool, I’m well up for that. I really want to do that! Please.  

20 November

Casually brushing my own teeth. Ping:

From; BBC; Subject: VOICES Interview.

“Dear Tom, Unfortunately, on this occasion…


22 November

Rejection from a Theatre503 submission – OK, so I might just give up. 

25 November

Hosted an online read-through for an early draft of a new play. It bombed. It’s rubbish, needs a lot of work – puh, yeah, or I could just give up?  

29 November

Rejection from C4 Screenwriting – I’m giving up.

Without question, the most bruising ten days I’ve had on this writing journey so far. It’s ridiculous how quickly things change. I went from bursting with enthusiasm – to feeling completely despondent.

2 December

After a few days of moping around, convincing myself that the act of writing anything is just a complete waste of time, I decided to look back over this diary – and it dawned on me, that this all feels very familiar. I mean the entire year has just been a constant steady flow of exciting steps forwards and disappointing knock backs. Maybe, that’s just how it’s supposed to be? I guess it doesn’t really matter what stage you are at in a writing career. Part-time, professional, represented, award winning – we probably all have to deal with these continuous ups and downs. Some projects working out and others falling flat. Periods of total creative flow and then ideas drying up. Good reviews. Bad reviews. Inspiration. Rejection – Maybe, it’s all part of the fun? Maybe, this is exactly what makes the whole idea of writing, so bloody exhilarating.

If someone would have told me at the beginning of 2023 when I started this diary, that I will end the year having written and produced a new play. Received an OffComm nomination. Made a shortlist for a BBC Writersroom scheme. Had a three-month dry spell to become an expert on marking essays on the impact of the Reformation during the 16th Century – I reckon I would’ve gladly bitten their hand off.

So, I’m not going to give up! Nah mate. I’m going to strap in, get chasing the next high and try to have as much fun as I possibly can, doing it. 

4 December

Submitted a brand-new script for the 2024 BBC Open call.

Thanks once more to Tom for all the time and effort he has put into his diary this year. You can catch up on all his entries here. We’re sure this won’t be the last we’ll hear from Tom.

If reading Tom’s diary has given you the inspiration to get involved for 2024 in doing something similar with us, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

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