So exactly seventeen years ago, on the 3rd Feb 2003, I wrote a short comic spec script called ‘Old Friend’, and sent it to Clayton Hickman, the editor of Doctor Who Magazine.
I was working for a Birmingham based PR and Marketing company, I was unhappy with my career progression, and more importantly, I’d been a professional writer and journalist for over fifteen years (I started doing games reviews for Your Sinclair magazine when I was 16 years old) and for the last five I’d felt like I wasn’t being creative for myself anymore. I’d always wanted to write comics, and this, at the age of 32 was my ‘hail Mary’ shot.
Clayton was kind and supportive but never took the story – in 2003 there were rumours of Russell T Davies pushing for a new series, and things were in a bit of limbo.
But that one script changed my life.
In April that year I had a chance to meet with both DC and Marvel. Both meetings came from this script sample. Marvel gave me the opportunity to pitch for the X-Men Unlimited series, which gave me my first printed comics work in X-Men Unlimited 1 in 2004.
Being an ‘X-Men writer’ got me in through more doors. I worked on more licenses. I even got a Tenth Doctor Doctor Who story from Clayton in 2006, and Chris Ryall at IDW hired me to write an ongoing Doctor Who series in 2008 – in which I also rewrote ‘Old Friend’ for the 2010 annual. (the image is a part of it, drawn by Matthew Dow Smith)
I’ve written comics now for over half my writing career; and that moved me into film, TV and audio. More importantly, next week I fly to LA to attend my 11th Gallifrey One as a guest. And none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for that one five-page sample I wrote back in February 2003.
So here’s the point of this. You – yes you – reading this and considering writing your first script, story, poem, song, whatever?
Do it right now.
Not tomorrow, not next week – write it as soon as you can.
It might not be the best thing you’ll ever write. It might not make your fortune. But it can be a key. A key that opens a door into a wondrous room.
And once you enter, you’ll never want to leave again.