PJ McIlvaine: The Best Laid Plans…

Ms McIlvaine relaxing in her domain

by PJ McIlvaine

As I sit here, coughing, hacking, and sneezing, with my nose a continual fountain of snot and mucus, I had started off January with such high hopes. I always do…until reality bites me in the butt.

2018 ended with a bang. In late November, my husband had major surgery. It was quite unexpected, and the surgeon was candid in what could go wrong. Maybe too candid, which only added to our fear, worry, and confusion. Thankfully, husband sailed through it, and is now pretty much back to normal.

What is not back to normal is my writing routine.

I’m the type who has always blustered through. I’ve written though anything: hurricane, stomach flu, sinus, moving, kids puking, and various other travails. I always prided myself on my strength and stamina. I wrote 365 days of the year, come hell or high water.

But I have to be honest….November was pretty much a washout…and having my sinus/cold flare up just as I picked up hubby from the hospital meant another week or so of feeling lousy. Yes, I was writing, but it was a real slog. I was from from the “zone”, where I write on auto-pilot.

Then, December, well, that was pretty much a wash, what with the holidays and hubby still recovering, and kiddies being sick here and there. I don’t think there was one week where one of the older grand kids wasn’t home with something (or one of the grand babies was running snot like lava).

But January, which also happens to be my birth month. I always start out with high hopes and good intentions. This was going to be the year!

Until the grand babies came down with an awful cold/grippe…then my husband…and then me, and of course, I had it worst of all. No appetite, no sense of smell or taste, and no energy. In one week I went through six tissue boxes.

The last couple of January’s have been like that. Awful flu, stomach virus, sinus, cold, grippe…the germs find me and don’t let go. I don’t know if it’s because of the change of season or that as I get older I’m more susceptible to disease and infection, but man, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And as sick and as miserable as I was, I still wrote. Sure, not as much as I’d like to ideally, but even when I wasn’t physically writing, mentally, I never stopped.

I got off queries.

I wrote down ideas.

I sent off requested material.

In my head, I continued to plot out the three novels I’m currently writing.

I gave notes.

And I still wrote, even if it didn’t seem I was making progress.

So yeah, even though there were days I felt like going to bed and pulling the blanket over my head, I still trudged on.

Which leads me to my next train of thought…


It sucks.


It’s one thing to get generic, form, bland passes. I tell myself, just one more no until I get a yes. I don’t dwell on them.

But when you get a pass that is just so lovely, so complimentary, so very close to a yes but is still a no, no matter how many times you read it, you’re gutted like a filet of fish. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, it still hurts like hell, and no amount of cookies and cream ice cream is going to make you feel better.

I know many writers who obsess over passes…who try to read in-between the lines, the subtext, what did they really mean, or not mean.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

A pass is a pass, no matter how nicely it was worded.

And as much as it hurts, you must remain professional. I repeat, YOU MUST REMAIN PROFESSIONAL.

You can’t write the agent back and say boo-hoo, they’re missing out on the next great fill in the blank.

You can’t threaten.

You can’t cajole.

You have to grin and bear it, and move on. I can’t stress that enough. Don’t be the nitwit who is castigated on social media for being a jerk.

It’s a business. Opinions differ.

Many writers who went on to become great writers were all rejected at one point.

JK Rowling.

Stephen King.

John Cleese. (Fawlty Towers was rejected. Fawlty Towers!)

What I’m trying to say is that rejection is normal. You can’t expect everyone to “like” what you do or to “get” it.

As I am fond of saying, it only takes one yes.

I don’t need ten.

Just one. (As I reach for another box of tissues with watery eyes).

Pj McIlvaine is a prolific writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. She has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and a host of other places. Her Showtime movie, My Horrible Year (with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen and Eric Stoltz) was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Find out more about Ms. McIlvaine HERE. This article first in her most magical blog.

In Defense of Aristotle

As we all know, TVWriter™’s good buddy and long dead mentor, Aristotle, (the guy without a last name because…Aristotle, you know?) was, if not the inventor, then certainly the first person to codify the three act writing structure that is the basis for, well, just about every story ever written.

Here, in case y’all forgot, is a hearty explanation of the three act structure (and if this doesn’t help you master it, you can always try LB’s mighty fine TV writing book). Anyway:

One of many fine informational videos by Lindsay Ellis

2 Decisions & an Accident – how ‘The Office’ became a Hit

As TVWriter™’s longtime friend the Old Billionaire used to say, “If you’re lucky, you don’t have to be smart.” Truth to tell, though, Michael Schur, writer-creator of The Good Place and former writer for The Office has both those things going for him and then some:

by Todd VenDerWerff

Michael Schur is one of the most adept minds in TV comedy. From his early days producing the Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon-era Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, to his work as one of the key writers on The Office, he has charted a career that spans some of the best TV comedy of the 2000s.

But in the 2010s, he’s become perhaps the principal figure in network TV comedy, via his shows Parks and Recreation and The Good Place. (He’s also the co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though his fellow co-creator Dan Goor is the showrunner on that series.) Parks and Recreation was a tribute to the idea of a kinder, more loving America, just barely holding off a dark and horrifying one, while The Good Place is the only show in TV history that has balanced advanced lessons in ethics and philosophy with elaborate jokes about shrimp.

That’s what made me want to talk with Schur for the latest episode of my podcast, I Think You’re Interesting. But I wanted to talk not only about his shows, but about his overall philosophy of comedy.

We delved into questions of what makes a good comedic premise, what makes a good character relationship to build a comedy around, and what the best comedic actors have in common. We even got around to tackling that age-old question: Why is it so much easier to set a sitcom in a bar than it is to set one in a restaurant?

But early in our discussion, when I asked him to find a common denominator among successful sitcoms, he gave me a long dissection of what went right with The Office, which helped transform it from a one-season curio into a nine-season series that ran for over 200 episodes. His answer, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

Read it all at VOX.COM

This Just In: 2019 Writers Guild Awards

Don’t you just love how the mainstream pubs show pix of actors even though writers are the actual recipients of awards? Neither do we.

The Writers Guild of America picks its winners!

Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham
Best Original Screenplay
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Best Adapted Screenplay
Bill Hader, Sarah Solemani, Emily Heller, …
Best New Series
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Amy Sherman-Palladino, Jen Kirkman, Daniel Palladino, …
Best Comedy Series
The Americans
Joe Weisberg, Joshua Brand, Stephen Schiff, …
Best Drama Series
Lowell Ganz
Laurel for Screenwriting
Babaloo Mandel
Laurel for Screenwriting
Paean to the People
Alex Gansa
Best Episodic TV Drama
Jenji Kohan
TV Writing Achievement
Chapter One: Make Your Mark
Bill Hader, Alec Berg
Best Episodic TV Comedy
Bathtubs Over Broadway
Dava Whisenant, Ozzy Inguanzo
Documentary Screenplay
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Tom Rob Smith, Maggie Cohn
Best Adapted Long Form
God of War
Cory Barlog, Richard Zangrande Gaubert, Orion Walker, …
Best Video Game Writing
Castle Rock
Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason, Mark Lafferty, …
Best Original Long Form
The Fake News with Ted Nelms
Ed Helms, Sara Schaefer, Joe Randazzo, …
Comedy/Variety – Specials
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
John Oliver, Daniel O’Brien, Josh Gondelman, …
Comedy/Variety Talk Series
General Hospital
Chris Van Etten, Lloyd Gold, Shelly Altman, …
Best Daytime Drama
Adam McKay
Paul Selvin Award
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Steve Melcher, Ann Slichter, James Rowley, …
Best Quiz and Audience Participation
Class of Lies
Tessa Williams
Original Short Form New Media

Congrats to everyone from TVWriter™!

Question for the source of the above list, our good friends at Wikipedia: Shouldn’t these categories all be labeled “best writing?”

Herbie J Pilato Presents the Man Wonder – Burt Ward

Everything you need to know about the “Legendary Pop-Icon and Humanitarian,” by our legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus.” (That title means that Herbie, erm, outgrew us…and his professional growth spurt makes us proud.) Anyway:

by Herbie J Pilato

Burt Ward, pop-culture icon and world-renown humanitarian, was about three seconds late for our phone interview, and he apologized.

But the apology, of course, was not necessary, certainly because his delay was only a minuscule of a moment, and secondly because he was detained due to his non-stop efforts to rescues dogs.

In the realm of classic television, Ward is best known as Robin, the Boy Wonder a.k.a., Dick Grayson, ward (“Holy irony!”) to Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, played by Adam West (who passed away in 2017) on the Batman TV series which originally aired on ABC, twice a week, from 1966 to 1968.

Today, more than 50 years after the show’s debut, the heroic-based Batman is more popular than ever, as is the heroically-human Ward.

Down-to-earth, bright, energetic, and unassuming, Ward continues to utilize his public persona to make a positive impact in the real world, just as did Robin on Batman.

In addition to keeping his Robin persona active in the public eye, Ward, and his wife Tracy, own and operate Gentle Giants Dogfood and Products, a company dedicated to the healthy meals and living for man?—?and woman’s?—?best friends, and saving the lives of those said canines, and as many beloved animals of every species as possible.

“When you’re involved with saving lives,” Ward said, “…sometimes, it’s a life and death situation,” and time is of the essence. “We’re known for rescuing dogs, but we’ve also rescued cats, horses, pigs, goat, sheep. And when you do that (save lives), and you give more of yourself. We actually get more pleasure of doing things for others, than doing for ourselves….”

Read it all at MEDIUM.COM

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.