Over the course of more than half a century and 14 unique portrayals, the BBC series, Doctor Who, has consistently delivered captivating stories and imaginative worlds that linger in your mind long after an episode ends.
Following the exciting recent specials that saw David Tennant reprise the role of the beloved time traveller, and Ncuti Gatwa’s fresh and eccentric take on The Doctor in the 2023 Christmas episode, I decided to rewatch the revived series.
One thing that struck me about the earlier episodes was the exceptional writing quality, as it seamlessly combines light-hearted fun with tense consequences, all set in exciting worlds (and times).
While screenwriting is a different beast compared to writing copy, there are certainly some lessons to be learned from some of Doctor Who’s best writers.
Continue reading to discover some invaluable writing advice from Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat.
Russell T Davies
In 2005, Doctor Who triumphantly returned to our screens after a 16-year hiatus. The man who was pivotal in breathing new life into the series was Russell T Davies.
During his run, he showcased his writing abilities by producing arguably some of the best episodes in the revival, such as ‘The Waters of Mars’, ‘Bad Wolf’, and ‘Doomsday’.
Despite his success, Davies openly acknowledged the challenges of writing for Doctor Who, deeming it the “hardest TV show to write for”.
So, how did he manage to write such immensely popular episodes? Read on to find out.
Be a fearless writer
When you’re writing, fear can get the better of you, be it due to criticism, feedback, or how the piece will be received.
After all, you’ve likely poured your blood, sweat, and tears into it, and opening something up to feedback you’re so invested in can feel like you’re baring your soul to the elements.
Russell T Davies understands this feeling all too well, as in the world of screenwriting, commissioners read scripts before they decide whether to greenlight the series.
Though, to be a fearless writer, Davies purports the importance of liberating yourself from these negative thoughts. In an interview, he revealed: “Write what you want to write; don’t worry about whether a commissioner will commission it”.
Understandably, this can often be easier said than done, as you want to impress.
However, if you worry yourself too much about how your piece of writing may be received, then the quality of your work could ultimately suffer.
So, whether it’s a blog for your financial services firm’s website, or a social post for your LinkedIn profile, remember that any feedback you receive (critical or otherwise) likely came from a helpful place, and you can use it to improve your writing.
Write how you talk
In another interview, Russell T Davies revealed that, when he was younger, he would never take himself too seriously when he talked, but this wasn’t reflected in his writing. Then he received fantastic advice when someone told him to write more like how he talked.
Often, when you start writing a piece of content, you may feel the need to improve it by being overly formal, adding complicated terms, and using peculiar sentence structures.
While you may believe this would make your writing stand out more, it could actually have the opposite effect, as the often robotic and soulless tone alienates your readers.
Instead, it’s worth following Davies’ advice and “write how you talk”.
Adopting a more conversational writing style could make your work seem more meaningful and relevant to readers. This is especially the case if you’re writing about complicated financial subjects, as a conversational tone can make these more accessible to prospective clients.
To achieve this, speak directly to the reader, and only include words you’d use in your day-to-day life. Moreover, using an active voice rather than a passive one ensures clarity.
Following Davies’ stint on Doctor Who, Steven Moffat took the reins as showrunner, welcoming a new yet familiar writing style.
Moffat faced many of the same issues Davies did when he started writing for the series – it can’t be easy to write about a time-travelling alien, after all.
However, he clearly managed to overcome his worries, as he wrote many fantastic episodes that cemented the revival’s place on our screens.
Practise, practise, practise
If you’ve been searching for a secret, coveted way to improve the quality of your writing, then the solution was likely in front of you the whole time: practice.
Now, this seems like an obvious way to hone your writing skills, but Steven Moffat believes this is the most important thing you can do, stating: “Write. Write lots, and read the kind of stuff you want to write, because that’s the only advice that matters.”
Just like any skill, your writing will improve with practice. By writing daily, you may eventually find it easier to express your thoughts and ideas in a clear and coherent way, and you could sharpen your vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar along the way.
If you have the time and are searching for more ways to practise your writing, it may be worth starting a journal or a blog. Worst case scenario: no one reads your work, but you improve the overall quality of your writing in the meantime.
Best case? It showcases your financial services expertise to a potential client and encourages them to contact you for an initial appointment.
Find ways to stay focused
In the hustle and bustle of life, staying focused on a piece of writing can often be challenging. Sometimes, you’ll sit down to work, place your hands on the keyboard, and suddenly you’re checking your emails, twiddling your thumbs, or staring out of the window.
It’s safe to say that most writers will experience this at some point or another, and even screenwriting giants, such as Steven Moffat, sometimes succumb to procrastination. He revealed that: “You can go into an empty room with just a desk and a computer without internet, and you’d still lose focus, because sometimes you’re not ready to write.
“No writer truly stays focused all day, every day… Two or three hours will pass, and I’ll have done nothing, not even a useful thought.”
This is understandable, as some days you just might not be feeling particularly inspired. However, if you have a deadline to meet, it’s useful to have a few strategies in mind that encourage the words to flow.
To ensure you stay focused on your writing, it’s wise to remove any distractions from your workspace, such as your phone or your favourite book.
Additionally, if you believe you work better under pressure, it may be prudent to set yourself “false deadlines”. By reducing the amount of time you have to complete a task, you could, in theory, feel more motivated to get the job done.
Get in touch
You don’t need a sonic screwdriver to improve your marketing strategy, but The Doctor has always valued having a trusted companion by his side.
At The Yardstick Agency, we can provide you with engaging, specialist content to bring real value to your financial services business.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 0115 8965 300 to find out how we could help.