Writing a Spec script Part 3: Writing.

Hello dear readers,
I know it’s been forever and I am mostly to blame for that. Since we last spoke I have had so many adventures I can’t even begin to list them here, and for the sake of seeming “professional” will probably not list them anywhere.

Now there was a mix up or something and it apparently turns out no one read part two of this riveting series. It may be because it sucks, or there may be other things at hand. for your convenience I would insist you click here if you really feel that my tips are helping you. If not well. IDGAF. So there.

Anyway, back to the post:

So you researched. You know the show front and back, back and forth. Good. Now you have made a premise sheet, you had people read it, they said it sounded funny and you outlined. So you have the outline which means you have your road map, so start up the car and let’s travel down that road.

Writing is the part of the process everyone is most fond of. Apparently as writer’s (and maybe this is specific to TV writers) we all think we are super witty and want every character to just jump off with witty quips. Well actions are still just as important. TV is still a visual medium and visual gags are still probably going to provide the biggest laughs. That doesn’t mean dumb your stuff down. You can still be visual and witty. Arrested Development’s staff was probably the masters at this. They acted out a giant rock paper scissor game, they had a boat called the Seaword and then another called the C-word, and countless other examples. That leads me to an aside I would like to make.

As writer’s we all consider ourselves “better” than most people. Like it or not we are all part Roman from party down. Deal with it. The thing is you have to put that in check. Before Arrested Development I wanted to write features, but it showed me that you could be super smart, witty and funny on national tv, which meant steady work (having grown up in “the industry” you learn the value of steady work really fast). I discounted all other shows that were popular then. I even did it until recently. Last year at my previous employer (a national recognized Film Festival) everyone in the teleplay competition was turning in Modern Family episodes. We got enough for probably two new seasons of the show if we produced them all. The thing is, most of them sucked really bad. It’s a complicated show and most of these writers weren’t up to the challenge. In the end none of them made it to the finals, and only a couple even made it to the semi-finals My point being? I see the same thing happening again this year in a contest I am personally in. They let us know that %70 percent of the entries were Modern Family, and they expect about 1400 entries a year. That’s a lot of Modern Family, and that’s a lot of stuff that is probably reaching too far. I have read a Modern Family spec that I thought did a great job, and even it got really harsh notes from someone on the inside, and I know it’s in that same competition. Hopefully it will shine amongst the episodes that don’t. I wrote a Big Bang Theory. It’s a show I had written off, and at times am still kind of on the fence about, but I think I wrote a really good episode, and whether I love it or not, it’s the number one comedy show in America. Which means like it’s Chuck Lorre produced predecessor 2 and a Half men, everyone is probably getting paid nicely. Now before you grab the pitchforks and start yelling “sell out” look at this way, a writer’s career moves fast. I have heard of people that have hopped from multiple shows in a year sometimes as many as 5 and maybe more, who knows, but being on a number 1 show, even if it speaks to the “plebeians” in your thoughts, makes you look like you can bring ratings, and that’s what executives look at when they are filling their rooms. Be really witty to a show runner and you can get in. It goes both ways. Chuck Lorre started on Roseanne (it’s time’s “Modern Family” if you read what critics say about it) and then went on to make all of the crowd pleasing shows he has now. My point in all this is be open to everything on the air. If you can’t get behind a show, feel free to move on, but always look at what’s getting the best numbers before you pass on it. TV is a business. If you want to be paid to write for it you must accept and understand this.

Ok, so back to writing. You should have your outline, so really (in my process at least) the script should write itself. Ignore page numbers and length, even scene length, and just go. Working on a deadline often helps to get things done, but also can cause unnecessary anxiety. I would say plan your time wisely. You are going to want to write a first draft and have that out to people for notes. It is best to have people that are familiar with the show and interested in screenwriting and tv writing read it. If you don’t have people like that, just get who ever you can. Make sure your readers are willing to be brutal. It sucks getting really nasty notes, but it can turn your okay script in to a great one, and that is what you need to be noticed, a great spec.

Write, get your notes and then rewrite. For my recent spec I was lucky enough to receive notes from someone actually in the industry and used those notes to totally scrap a story line and rewrite a script completely. I am hoping I have a better piece now. Time will only tell on that one. But you have to be willing to get rid of things that aren’t working and highlight things that are.

Once you have done rewrites and think you have the spec at it’s best the next thing to do is to submit it places. The following companies all have programs:

NBC
ABC/Disney
Warner Brothers
Nickelodeon

You can also go to the WGA West Website for more info on getting representation, and there are plenty of competitions that will help you get recognized if you are able to get far enough in them.

Good luck.

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About charismatictroublemaker

I'm the hottest isht on sound bombing. The charismatic trouble maker is an aspiring TV writer whose background includes theater as both an actor and a crew member, video production and screenplay/teleplay competition judging among an on going list of other things. He takes his writing serious and tries to better himself in everyone of his efforts. See the full Bio on we put words on paper, where he makes up a whole bunch of facts about himself.
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