Posts TVWriter™ Wishes We’d Published

This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, TV biz, etc., etc. is dedicated to Ken Levine’s blog, AKA “…by Ken Levine.” We can’t help it. We keep finding useful nuggets of knowledge there every time we look and definitely think you will too.

As usual, the plan here is for you to click on the headlines over the excerpts below and visit the site to read the posts in full…and if anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?

The Levine & Isaacs writing process
by Ken Levine


 Hello from New York.  Here’s a Friday Question that became an entire post.

MikeK.Pa. asks:

Wonder if you can give a high level look at your writing process with David Isaacs – what sparks an idea for a script, how long it takes to get from idea to outline to first draft to final script?

(You can see why one or two paragraphs might not cover this.)

We have no set way of coming up with ideas. I think we’ve each trained ourselves to always be on the lookout for good ideas because you never know when that spark is going to come.

Speaking for myself, I’ll read an article or see an incident at In & Out or come across some historical tidbit, or even hear a song that might trigger an idea….


Tips on writing dialogue
by Ken Levine



This is a lecture I gave a few weeks ago at NYU and one I give every quarter at UCLA. It’s some tips on how to write good dialogue.

Mike Nichols said: There are only three kinds of scenes: a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. Every scene must have a dynamic. It can’t just be people talking to each other. That dynamic is your friend. Constantly ask yourself: What does he want? What is her attitude? (By the way, you can have fights, seductions, and negotiations all at once.)

Forget grammar, forget perfectly formulated sentences. Write the way people speak. Conversational….

More tips on writing dialogue
by Ken Levine


Yesterday was part one. Today is part two.

Hitchcock said a “good story was life with the dull parts taken out.” Same for dialogue. Don’t waste time with hellos, how you doing?, etc. Get in a scene as late as you can, and get out as early as you can.

Take great pains in writing the opposite sex. There is a tendency to make the opposite sex generic or stereotypical. If you’re unsure how a member of the opposite sex would act in a certain situation or what they’d say, ASK a few of them.

LISTEN. Eavesdrop. Make your dialogue as authentic as you possibly can. Make note of expressions. (If your show centers in a high school, don’t just assume the kids today will use the same expressions or act the exact same way that you did.) RESEARCH. Scour Netflix for documentaries that might contain characters similar to yours. See how the talking heads in the documentary speak.

Remember that real people have to say these lines. Actors will question things. Be careful with insults….


At first blush, this sounds like a fantastic thing for writers. A newly formed production company, Adaptive, is going through discarded studio screenplays and giving some of them new life.

All screenplay writers bitch about the dreaded “Development Hell.” You do draft after draft and eventually the studio says “Nah, we’ll just reboot SPIDERMAN again” and your project is dead. Sometimes you can get it in turnaround, and sometimes another studio will be interested, but most of the time the script just sits in a warehouse that must look like the final scene of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC.

Once it goes there, rarely is it ever heard from again. I don’t know a single feature writer who doesn’t have at least two screenplays in that graveyard. Maybe three….

Posts TVWriter™ Wishes We’d Published Instead of These Other Guys

This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, etc., etc., etc. The plan here is for you to click on their headlines and visit the sites and read the posts in full…and is anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?

The joys of binge-watching
by Scholars and Rogues



For the past year I have had some health issues that have taken me out of active circulation—nothing life-threatening, but certainly life changing during the period, and for a little while yet. One of these was a broken bone in my foot that had me sitting in front of the television for a solid six weeks, leg up on the hassock and (for the moment) out of the boot thing they give you these days.

The other stuff doesn’t need details, but it also involved being relatively immobile for long periods. Plus the interesting effects of some of what they put you on these days for various things. For someone with no real health issues since I got mono the summer I was 20 and some back stuff in my 30s, this came as something of a surprise. All of a sudden, I’m getting old. All of this has largely plunked me in a chair in front of the television, for a considerably longer time frame that I would have considered healthy, or laying on the couch with my laptop on wherever your lap is when you’re laying down. So this was a golden opportunity to catch up on stuff, through the joys of Netflix and Amazon….

Trendspotting: Old-Age Romance on TV
by Lara Zarum



In the second season of Jane the Virgin, the title character’s abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll), is disappointed when her first love interest in many years turns out to be a jerk. Her daughter, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) tells her not to blame herself. “You got swept up in the romance,” she says. “Yes, that’s the truth,” Alba replies. “Plus, I was horny.” “Oh, my god, welcome to my world,” Jane (Gina Rodriguez) replies. Her blooming romance may have wilted on the vine, but the experience makes Alba realize she wants to start dating for real. As with many old-age romances on TV, the first step is admitting it….

Breaking into Screenwriting: Features vs. Television
by Lee Jessup

The writer herself


When approaching the industry strategically, many writers consider not only what they enjoy writing or what format speaks to them, but also where they might have greater odds for building a tangible, sustainable, screenwriting career. Judging by the numbers, there are more opportunities in television than there are in film. In 2014, over 4,000 WGA members claimed income generated from working in the television sector; by contrast, only 1,800 WGA scribes made their money in the feature film sector. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that there are just more opportunities in television, and accordingly breaking into that particular sector should be easier. But is that really the case…?

Find Purposeful Work With The Joy-Money-Flow Model
by Kristin Wong



“Follow your passion” isn’t always the best advice, and that’s partly because it’s so limiting. Instead of looking for a single path to success, Chris Guillebeau recommends looking for work that overlaps in three areas: joy, money, and flow.

When you “follow your passion” that generally means you plan to work toward one specific thing. Maybe you want to be a cinematographer or a musician or a marine biologist. Life doesn’t always work out so neatly, though, and you might find you don’t actually enjoy the work, or maybe you’re just not good at it, or maybe it’s just not a viable career path. There’s nothing wrong with trying something specific, but as Guillebeau points out, there’s not necessarily a single path toward your search for purposeful work.