The Bitter Script Reader’s Guide to Writing a Spec TV Episode

Here it is, gang. Just what you’ve been waiting for. Or should’ve been waiting for: The most complete guide to writing a spec episode of a TV series this TVWriter™ minion has ever seen.

Um, LB…why haven’t you done this? (Uh-oh. Am I in trouble now?)

by The Bitter Script Reader

For years, I’ve toyed with posting one of my scripts on this site and using it to explain my process of breaking a script. In all cases, I ran into the same problems: I couldn’t use something that I was still sending around as a sample with my own name on it, and anything older I was no longer using as a sample was probably such a sub-par example of my work that it seemed foolish to put it out there publicly. Every now and then I thought of writing one of those “gimmick” specs, like the infamous FRIENDS spec where they all get AIDS, but was often confronted by a lack of either time or inspiration.

A couple months back, after season two of 13 Reasons Why had dropped, but before it had been renewed, I saw a lot of speculation about where season three would go. On Twitter, I made a joke that season three should be a tribute to the short-lived NBC series Awake(which also featured 13 Reasons Why‘s lead Dylan Minnette) and have Clay suddenly finding himself moving between two worlds – the one we’ve lived in for two seasons and another one where Hannah survived her suicide attempt.

For those not in the know, Awake was about a police detective whose reality fractured after a car crash. In one reality, his son died and wife survived. In the other, the reverse happened. Each time he goes to sleep, he wakes up in the other world and he doesn’t want to figure out which one is real, as the experience lets him maintain contact with both his wife and son. The series was cancelled before any kind of story resolution was reached, and honestly, that might have been for the best because it’s hard to imagine the explanation that would be as satisfying as the concept itself.

It was a stupid joke, but I also happened to make it at a point where the show I’m working on had sent all the writers off to script and I had days with very little to do. The idea kept buzzing in the back of my brain as I saw the potential in a story about Clay getting a second chance with Hannah, a Hannah still being treated for her suicidal depression. I had a particular image in my head, figuring that Clay’s first encounter with Hannah could happen in his room, just as his first scene with the imagined Hannah in season 2. She’d reach out to touch him, he’d instinctively grab her forearm and get a double shock… she’s solid… and she still bears the deep wrist scars of her suicide attempt.

If that visual hadn’t popped into my head, it’s unlikely you’d be reading this post. But pop it did. And it lingered….

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader’s Blog

EDITOR’S NOTE: When we saids this was “complete” we meant it. This is only Part 1 of – wait for it – 10. Here’s the complete list (which also is available via The Bitter Script Reader, of course):

Part 2: Character
Part 3: Story and Theme Development
Part 4: The Break
Part 5: Act One Scenes
Part 6: Act Two Scenes
Part 7: Act Three Scenes
Part 8: Act Four Scenes
Part 9: When your lead character demands a rewrite
Part 10: Act Five Scenes

SCREENWRITER SALARY: WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

The answer to another question frequently asked by neophyte TV and screenwriters. Yes, there’s a bit of the dreaded overthink here, but what better way to be informed than to learn even more than you expected?

from Script Reader Pro

The goal of any aspiring screenwriter is to get paid for, well, writing. But what exactly does it take to be compensated for your work? What do you do once you’re offered money for a script? Is there even such a thing as a “screenwriter salary” in the first place?

The answer to these queries—as with most things in the entertainment world—can be rather complicated, but this post aims to shed some light on all these screenwriting money matters and more.

In this article you will learn:

  • Whether there’s such a thing as a screenwriter salary
  • All about your screenwriter salary as a non-WGA member
  • All about your screenwriter salary as a WGA member
  • What happens after a sale
  • If it’s ever okay to write for free
  • When you can quit your day job to just focus on writing

Without further delay, let’s dive on in.

Is there such a thing as a screenwriter salary?

 

We’ll be using terms like “screenwriter salary” and “TV writer salary” throughout this post but, in all honesty, they’re rather nebulous. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a fixed screenwriter salary—the kind you might expect to find in a more traditional industry such as, say, the medical or hospitality industry.

This is because rather than the fixed yearly salaries workers receive in traditional industries, screenwriters are paid on a freelance, ad-hoc basiscommon to most creative industries.

Whether a screenwriter has zero credits or a hundred, they’re essentially in the same position: looking for the next paycheck. Granted, established screenwriters—whether they be A-list writers, such as Christopher Nolan, or successful independent writers, like Mike White—have a distinct advantage in the form of a track record….

Read it all at ScriptReaderPro.Com

Today is the last Day to get the PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 Early Bird Discount!

OMG! OMG! OMG!

We love you guys so much that we’ve cancelled everything else at TVWriter™ today to clear the decks for your last-minute bargain PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 entries.

Like the headline says, Today, August 1st, 2018, is the last day for you to enter the World’s Most Beloved Interweb Writing Contest since the last World’s Most Beloved Interweb Writing Contest for 30% off the regular entry fee.

That’s write, e-media pilot-writing fans, this is your last shot of the season to enter at only 35 bucks a shot instead of $50. (Which isn’t all that much either – lunch in L.A. can easily cost that much for one hungry gourmand, but money is money, yeah?)

For those who’ve been in hiding, here are some PEOPLE’S PILOT highlights:

Over $20,000 in prizes & entry bonuses!

FREE FEEDBACK! 

FREE STORYTELLING PATTERNS E-BOOK!

SPECIAL DISCOUNT for Web Series & Audio Series Pilots

SPECIAL BONUS PRIZES for Web Series & Audio Series Pilots

“INFINITE REVISIONS!” Replace Entry Draft With Rev Version Any Time till Final Closing! 

PEOPLE’S PILOT’s official closing date is November 1st. Learn about that and more at our landing page, HERE

Have we told you lately that we love you? Well, PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 is telling you now!

Is This THE Most Common Rookie TV Writing Mistake?

Although TV and film comedy writer-producer/playwright/baseball announcer extraordinaire Ken Levine’s funny and perceptive blog posts often show up in TVWriter™’s Writing & Showbiz NewsFeed, we haven’t featured him on this site for awhile.

But this one is just too, too, too right on important to let slip by:

A Common Rookie Writing Mistake
by Ken Levine

EXT. HOUSE — DAY

TWO DETECTIVES APPROACH A HOUSE. THEY RING THE BELL. THEY WAIT A MOMENT UNTIL A WOMAN ANSWERS.

WOMAN: Yes?

DETECTIVE 1: Are you Mrs. Hanson?

WOMAN: Yes. What’s this about?

DETECTIVE 1: I’m Detective Green. This is Detective Brown. We’re from the LAPD.

WOMAN: Oh.  Really?

DETECTIVE 1: Yes, ma’am.

WOMAN: Well… can I see some ID?

DETECTIVE 2: Yes, ma’am.

They both root around their pockets and pull out ID. She scans it.

WOMAN: Okay… I suppose.

DETECTIVE 2: You have a daughter named Mindy?

WOMAN: Yes.

DETECTIVE 1: Is she home?

WOMAN: No. What is this about?

DETECTIVE 2: You’re aware that a student was killed Wednesday night at the Westfield Mall?

WOMAN: Yes, it was horrible.

DETECTIVE 1: A tragedy, yes’ ma’am.

WOMAN: But what does Mindy have to do with it?

DETECTIVE 2: We think she might have a notebook that the victim gave her that might shed some light on just who did this.

WOMAN: Oh my.

DETECTIVE 1: Do you mind if we come in and take a look?

WOMAN: Now?

DETECTIVE 2: Yes, ma’am.

WOMAN:  Well, Mindy’s not home.

DETECTIVE 1:  That’s okay. Can we come in?

WOMAN: I don’t know.  Do you have a warrant?

DETECTIVE 1: No, but your daughter is not a suspect. This is just a piece of evidence that might help us solve the puzzle.

WOMAN: Still… I… Maybe I should call my lawyer.

DETECTIVE 2: Seriously, we just want to see if this notebook exists.

WOMAN: Let me call Mindy.

DETECTIVE 2: Fine.

THE WOMAN GOES BACK IN THE HOUSE. THERE’S A MOMENT AND FINALLY SHE RETURNS WITH HER CELLPHONE. SHE PUNCHES IN THE NUMBER. SEVERAL BEATS, THEN:

WOMAN: Mindy, this is Mom. There are two detectives here wanting to go through your room to see if you have a notebook belonging to that boy who was killed at the mall? (long beat, to Detectives) She says she doesn’t have it.

DETECTIVE 1: We just want to take a look.

DETECTIVE 2: Is there anything she’s hiding that she doesn’t want us to see?

WOMAN: (on phone) Mindy, they said is there anything you’re hiding that you don’t want them to see? (beat, to Detectives) No.

DETECTIVE 2: Then can we just look around?

WOMAN: (on phone) Then can they just look around? (long beat, to Detectives) Okay.

DETECTIVE 2: Thank you.

WOMAN: (on phone) Okay, Mindy. I’ll tell you what happened. Bye. (hangs up).

DETECTIVE 1: So can we come in?

WOMAN: Oh, yes. Please.

DETECTIVE 2: Thank you.

WOMAN: Can I get you something to drink?

DETECTIVE 1: No, we’re fine.

THE WOMAN HOLDS THE DOOR OPEN AND THE DETECTIVES ENTER.

Okay, now let me suggest an alternate scene. Instead of the above scenario, you just go straight to this:

EXT. TEENAGE GIRL’S ROOM – DAY

A WOMAN USHERS TWO DETECTIVES INTO THE ROOM.

WOMAN: Okay, this is Mindy’s room, Detectives. But she said you’re not going to find any notebook.

I think you can see what I’m getting at. There’s a rule of writing: Get into scenes as late as you can and get out of them as early as you can.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read scripts from young writers that have versions (usually longer) of the first scene. Let’s be blunt. It’s boring. Nothing happens. People just talk. Often in circles.  Or they wait. Or….

Read it all on Ken Levine’s peerless blog

TV Writing Goes to College

We admit it. The headlinel on this post may be a bit misleading. Television writing has, after all, been a major area of study for more than at least a couple of decades now (our own LB taught it at The College Formerly Named The College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1990s), but this article coming from a web page dedicated to  college student work, is perhaps the most knowledgeable one – and certainly the hippest – to come from a student yet:

Florida State University, where at the time this article was written, its writer was spending a whole lotta time

3 Television Shows Every Aspiring Writer Should Watch
by Eliana Dubosar

For writers, inspiration can come from any and every facet of life, including their surroundings, the people they interact with on a daily basis and sources of entertainment.

Although there are many movies that follow the lives of individuals trying to make it in the journalistic or publishing world, many of them tend to paint a perfect picture, tying up conclusions in a bow. Something that I learned in an introduction to creative writing course is that this is not always the case, and sometimes it’s perfectly fine to leave some questions unanswered.

For that reason, certain television shows tend to provide a better source of inspiration for aspiring writers, not only through their storylines, but also through the ways in which the shows are written. So, writers, grab a notebook and a pen and see what you can learn from these television shows.

 1. “Jane the Virgin”

Written in a manner similar to a telenovela (or a Spanish-language soap opera), much of what makes “Jane the Virgin” a resource for writers comes from its unique structure.

The way in which the narration is written, and spoken, presents the audience with even more information to keep them hooked on the show. Although the actual way in which the show is written is important, Jane as a character is where many aspiring writers can pull lessons from.

While much of the series thus far has dealt with Jane’s love life — mainly her relationships with Michael, Rafael and now Adam — it is her journey to become a novelist that is something many can learn from.

In the earlier seasons of the show, Jane worked hard to create her master’s thesis, working with two separate advisors and taking all their notes into consideration when making revisions. One of Jane’s largest challenges with this was the fact that her thesis was a romance novel and the advisor she worked with was a feminist professor that didn’t necessarily believe in romance.

As a result, Jane learned how to work with someone who may not have shared her ideals, while sticking to her guns the whole way through, which is something many writers can learn from.

In the most recent season of “Jane the Virgin,” which takes place years after the death of Jane’s husband, Michael, Jane’s novel gets published. The novel, “Snow Falling,” is a piece in which the setting is in the early 1900s but is a loose retelling of Jane’s time with Michael.

After countless back-and-forth’s with her editor, something all writers are bound to go through before seeing their work take shape, Jane’s dream of becoming a published writer turns into a reality. Once again, the show reminds viewers to never give up, constantly pursue their creative vision and follow through with their projects….

Read it all at studybreaks.com