How to win The National Student Playwriting Awards

In the second of our blogs from London Writers’ Week 2016, Jacqueline Sara Cloake gives us the lowdown on the launch of the National Student Playwriting Awards, and shares the experts’ top tips for writing a well-received script.

The last time I won anything was a colouring competition in The Wimbledon News; my prize a colouring book of Paddington Bear autographed by Michael Bond. Forty years later, and mature student that I am at Central St Martin’s, I think it’s high time I won something else.

But it’s not colouring that got me to St Martin’s – hell no.

Last year, in a bid to increase my employability alongside my TV career of voiceover artist, I signed up to do an MA in Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London. I’d been a serial writing-course taker for years (and getting nowhere) but since this MA offered the potential of industry collaboration guided by some top notch talent, it was a no-brainer.

And did I mention awards?

MA Dramatic Writing course leader Jennifer Tuckett works endlessly at creating opportunities for writers, realising long ago that getting recognition as an unknown is tricky. In a bid to bridge that gap, back in January she launched The Student Guide To Writing. That was followed a month or so later by the University Women in the Arts – an industry mentoring scheme for 10 female students. And the news at this year’s London Writers’ Week was the upcoming launch of The National Student Writing Awards.

This latest competition, which launches officially in October 2016, will be open to any Under- or Post-graduate student of writing at any UK university and welcoming entrants in a number of categories: Theatre, screen, radio, digital media, fiction, poetry and non-fiction. There will be winners and runners up, a National Student Writing Awards credit and a showcase to which agents and producers will be invited.

At the launch event at London Writers’ Week, Jennifer Tuckett shared some of her top tips for budding script entrants:

  • Check you have a main character (MC) who wants something. We’ll be more likely to follow them if they do.
  • Have a strong idea or theme. Make it about something.
  • Don’t send a first draft.   If in doubt, put your script aside for a week and invite one or more of your friends to a table reading (My hot tip: Set aside at least a bottle of wine and some Kettle Chips for this – you can always get horribly drunk later if they think it’s crap).
  • Structure it properly.   Tuckett recommends the 5 Act Structure that John Yorke teaches: 1. Call to Arms (MC has a want). 2. Things go well (MC pursues want). 3. Frustration (things start to go badly and antagonist makes him/her/itself a nuisance). 4. Nightmare (things go really badly). 5. Final Battle (MC has fisticuffs with the antagonist and hopefully wins).

Still confused? Let’s take my own 5 Act story:

  1. I decide I want to better my Paddington prize and hear about The National Student Writing Awards.
  2. I enter The National Student Writing Awards and, super confident, start writing my acceptance speech, hairbrush in hand.
  3. I discover that my chief rival and horribly talented classmate has also entered and has been sucking up to the judges.
  4. My chief rival and horribly talented classmate steals my USB stick and then accidentally cycles into me on the canal towpath, forcing my laptop into the water.
  5. I confront my chief rival and horribly talented classmate and expose them for plagiarising my work before they accidentally fall into the canal.   I finally win an award to put next to my Paddington Bear colouring book.
  • Scenes within the acts should have a want, conflict and event.
  • Check you have good credible characters.
  • Check your dialogue. How does each character sound?
  • Check your stage directions read well.
  • Check you’ve formatted correctly and your spelling is tip top.
  • Rewriting. Check the above list and get the Kettle Chips and wine out.

If this sounds like you, sign up to the mailing list at: and get scribbling!

And finally, good luck! (Just do look out for me on the towpath…)

Jacqueline has a had a career in voiceovers since 1994 and has worked for clients such as BBC, Channel 4, and BskyB as well as voicing many household brands including Garnier and the iconic Barclaycard Waterslide ad.   She is a narrator for National Geographic Wild. She was a co-writer on Edinburgh Fringe Show West End Girl, featuring Jo Scanlan, a writer-contributor on ITV’s The Sketch Show and a runner up for Create50’s The Impact in association with Joe Eszterhas. Recently she was featured as part of Tim Crouch’s New Writing Platform at London Writers’ Week. Contact:

2 thoughts on “How to win The National Student Playwriting Awards”

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