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Who Wants To Be A Television Writer?

March 16, 2015

I have a goal. My goal is to be a staff writer on a television show within the next 5 years. I intend to be a showrunner within 10 years. What am I doing to make that happen? I’m glad you asked. First and foremost, I write. I write everyday. I write at least 2 hours a day. What do I write? I write everything, but mostly original TV pilots. Secondly, I rub elbows with those in the field, mostly via social networking. Don’t laugh. It can be very effective. Even more effective is getting a job as a writer’s assistant. But until that comes along I’m going to make as many contacts as I can. I suggest you do the same, but please follow proper protocol when contacting professionals. And please, always be professional.

It’s important to have samples of your work for that moment when someone asks you… “What are you working on?” What kind of samples? Should you have original pilots as opposed to spec scripts of current shows? The answer to this question is yes. You should definitely have original work to show them, but make sure it’s your best work. You should also have at least 2 spec scripts of current shows. This shows them that you can jump into the middle of a show and blend in without a hiccup.

I hear you. You’re asking, “What shows should I write?” That’s another good question. Make sure that it’s a show that is currently on the air and popular. Don’t write a spec script of a show that has been canceled (even if it was just canceled last week), and don’t write a spec script for a show that’s still in it’s first season. To get an idea of what shows you should pick from, visit Warner Brothers Workshop. There are drop down menus of shows they will accept to get into their program.

Once you’ve picked a show you’d like to write, what comes next? Next you’ll need to watch as many episodes of that show as you can. Get an idea for the flow and feel of the show. But that won’t be enough for you to start writing. Oh, no. You’ll then need to get your hands on as many scripts from that show as you can and read them. Read them all. A great website to find said scripts is simplyscripts.com. Most of the scripts posted to that site are from the first or second season. You won’t find many from later seasons, but work with what you’ve got.

Once you’ve gotten as many scripts from that show as you can, create a template of important factors like, how many act breaks, how many scenes, and how many pages are in each episode? This will help you create a spec script that will fit with the already established flow of the show. For a better idea of what to put in your template, I highly recommend picking up Ellen Sandler’s The TV Writer’s Workbook.

Ok, so now that you’ve done all that, is it time to start writing? No. Now you have to come up with a show idea that can be summed up in a one-sentence logline. That logline has to be compelling enough to make people want to watch. It will take time to get it just write. I’ll cover details on logline writing in a future blog. Until then, take this advice from TV Writer’s Vault. Then, once you’ve perfected your logline, you’ll need to create an outline. Once you’ve completed your outline, then you can start writing your spec script. Remember, you’ll need at least 2 spec scripts of current, popular TV shows. I’ve given you some good places to start. Until next week, happy writing.

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