Writers Room Lingo You Need to Know

If you want to get ahead, you have to speak the language. Impress your friends, relatives, rivals, and potential co-workers via this fascinating guide:

The Secret Lingo of the Best TV Writers Rooms
by Dan Reilly

A few weeks ago, Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman tweeted a list of the show’s writers room terminology, explaining how he and his colleagues use terms like “wacky stack” to describe “too much silliness at once”:

As a very meta example, current A.P. Bio writer and former Simpsons stafferDonick Cary shared “The Simpsons Did It.” “It’s what a lazy writer says when they don’t like a joke,” he explains. “We’ll get into a debate about what joke does or doesn’t go in, and that’s kind of the argument ender, that it was already done somewhere else. For 20 years, I’ve heard ‘The Simpsons did it,’ and I’m often like, ‘I was in the room when The Simpsons did that. It’s totally different.’ And then I still get argued down.”

Read on for many more examples of terms like this and behind-the-scenes stories from these producers and writers, such as what a “Summer Frankenstein” script is, why they try to avoid “refrigerator logic,” and why one writer threatened to stab her co-workers….

Read it all at Vulture.Com

PJ McIlvaine: The Journey

by PJ McIlvaine

The Journey.

In two words: it sucks.

You want an agent.

You want to be published.

Here’s a secret for you: WE ALL DO.

This isn’t like sending wind mills to Mars.

No one wants to write just for the sake of writing. Oh, writers may say they do (ahem) but the cold, hard truth is, we’re not writing for posterity or just for the sake of storing stuff on our hard drive.

Get real.

When I’ve been rejected and passed over like a week old monkfish, I’ll rant and say I don’t care, as long as I like it, who gives a motherclucker.

But when I calm down, and I always do, I realize it’s just me blowing off steam.

My computer hard drive is slow enough. I don’t need to add more stuff to it that no one will ever read.

We all get anxious, frustrated, antsy, depressed, down in the mouth, about our writing, our progress, or our lack of it. And a writer who says they never have a moment of doubt, isn’t being honest.

I freely admit that I’m my own worst enemy. But I’ve been through the wringer and lived to tell the tale, so that’s something. I’m still standing, warts and all.

Which leads me to my next rant, uh, musings.

Lately on various writer blogs, a hot topic has been when to accept an agent’s or publishing offer. No, I don’t mean you, or you. Just general observations on my part. Unfortunately, some of these posts have the whiff of desperation, and it clings like cheap after shave. And since I’ve been stuck in that valley of low self-esteem, I can sympathize.

But I can’t emphasize enough: a bad agent is worse than no agent. And re publishing, money goes to the writer, it’s not the other way around.

This isn’t rocket science, but it bears repeating every millennium.

If a publisher asks you to pay for publication, RUN.

If a publisher says you need to pay an illustration fee, SKEDADDLE.

If a publisher looks sketchy, their online presence is minimal, they have no track record, their website looks like something a toddler threw together at nap time while their caregivers were busy on their cell phones, SCOOT.

And as for agents…please, I implore you, my fellow writers, don’t sell yourselves short.

Take this from the voice of experience. Don’t accept the first agent offer that comes along out of fear you’ll never get another or some misguided sense of well, this was a huge fluke so I should say yes before they find out I’m a big, fat fake.

And don’t accept onerous terms because you’re a lowly nobody and agent person is a big somebody.

We all have our demons. Mine is being thought “mediocre”, as I was told early on. Even now, as a mature writer, I still have to slap myself upside the head fighting against feeling like I’m a fraud and a failure.

And if you’re a baby writer, it’s just as crucial to take a step back and do your research.

This is your career. Your life. But it’s business, plain and simple. Don’t make it personal—well, it is, but you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner. But you’re not being a nerd or a nudge not to hop on the first streetcar that swings by.

Some writers seem afraid to ask questions, like it’s offensive. It’s just the opposite. Beware the agent, agency or publisher who doesn’t welcome questions and lots of them.

If you were advised that you needed brain surgery, wouldn’t you ask for a second opinion and find out as much as you could about the surgeons, hospital, your condition, etc.? Or would you pounce on the first car mechanic who came around the corner to perform the operation simply because they were handy with tools?


And listen, take it from me, if you get liked at pitch contests, as exciting as it is, you must do your due diligence to avoid disaster.

I’ve turned down publishing offers from pitch contests. It was a new outfit that made a big splash on social media and was liking everything under the Tuscan sun. I was suspicious, and when they offered me contracts on two picture books in a matter of days, it didn’t take me all of two minutes to decline and withdraw. My gut told me that this was fishy as all get out, for many reasons, and I wasn’t surprised to hear a few months later that it all blew up. Whew. I’d dodged a bullet on that one.

Same thing with agents. You think they hold all the cards, the power? In fact, it’s just the opposite. They need YOU. They need your stories, your vision, your voice, your passion. They need fresh meat, I mean, new clients.

I get that it’s scary and overwhelming and sometimes you make mistakes. And that’s okay. Because on this journey it’s going to happen. No one’s perfect, not even me. And you learn from those missteps, and sometimes you cry and take solace in a big bowl of vanilla ice cream.

You fasten your seatbelt and put on your big pants.

The saddest book is the one that is never written.

Don’t let your book be a sad book.

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 appeared in her most magical blog.

106 Ways to Describe Sounds

Yeppers, kids, you read that right. We’re talking about not one, not 10, not 50, but 106 ways you can describe sounds in your screenplay, teleplay, novel, short story, personal essay, article, whatev. Not bad, huh?

by Amanda Patterson

According to Oxford Dictionary, to hear is to ‘perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something)’. Sounds are ‘vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s ear’.

You have to use the five senses when you write. Readers want to experience what your characters see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. Using the senses is one of the best ways for writers to learn how to show and not tell.

Writers Write is your one-stop resource for writers and we have written about words that describe taste, and touch in previous posts. In this post I have included words that describe sounds.

General Words Describing Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing PleasING SOUNDS

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound….

You ain’t seen nuthing yet. Read it all at Ms.Patterson’s uber helpful and popular Writers Write blog


Ya gotta love Script Reader Pro. It’s articles like these that show why:

by Script Reader Pro

Before accepting a writing gig and spending hours of your time working on someone else’s project, always remember: not all screenwriting jobs are worth doing.

There are many people who seem to think newbie writers are there to be taken advantage of. In other words, to write for them for free.

If someone promises payment “down the line,” or that they’ve got “a big star attached to direct,” proceed with extreme caution. This is not what we mean by great screenwriting jobs.

Always remember: if it seems to be good to be true, it probably is.

The truth is, there is no one, easy, quick-fix way to get screenwriting jobs. Answering an ad on one of these sites is highly unlikely to land you a gig writing the next Hollywood blockbuster. But, if you’re lucky they can turn up some very interesting opportunities.

Our Top 8 Scriptwriting Jobs Websites

If nothing else, applying to screenwriting jobs on the sites listed below can be a great way to meet fellow writers and make connections. Some of which may bear fruit later on down the line. (The list is in alphabetical order. )

screenwriting jobsCraigslist

We get that this may seem a strange addition to the list, but it is possible to land some good writing gigs on this site.

The link will take you to scriptwriting jobs based in Los Angeles but you can edit this to anywhere in the world, paid and unpaid. Check out Craigslist >>



In case you thought that our own Larry Brody was the only one in showbiz who’s crushing on outlines, here’s a very helpful guide to outlining from our friends at Script Reader Pro:

by Script Reader Pro

Writing a script outline is probably the most important preparatory step you can take as a writer.

It can save you from having to go back and fix things in a screenplay that could’ve been fixed much earlier—fundamental things like a basic problem with Act 2. Or a missing character flaw. Or a faulty three-way triangle of conflict between protagonist and antagonist and stakes character.

In this post we’re going to show you how to write a screenplay outline and figure out all your character motivations and plot points before writing the script.

In other words, how to figure out your story first and then transpose it into screenplay form. All of which will potentially save yourself months of rewrites and frustration. So let’s get to it.

Why Writing a Script Outline Is So Important

A movie is essentially a story. The blueprint for that story is a script. But the blueprint for that script is a movie outline. In other words, a breakdown of the story beats in prose that will make up the script.

Hence, the process of writing a script for most professional writers goes something like this:

Story Idea > Notes > Script Outline > Script

(Some writers also like to add a screenplay treatment in there before or after the outline.)

There’s nowhere for the story to hide in a film outline. Without all the distractions of dialogue and formatting, a movie outline either interests the reader, or it doesn’t.

If you read it aloud to someone, they should be able to understand it as a fully realized, comprehensible story. And if your story doesn’t interest people in prose form, it’s unlikely to in a screenplay.

But What About Tarantino? He Doesn’t Bother Writing a Script Outline  

Some of you may be asking, why do some famous writers such as Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers not bother writing a movie script outline…?