Part 1 was feature films.  This is Television (does anyone else hear angels singing?)

Huge season finales.  Gigantic series premieres.  Tremendous casting news.  Record-breaking ratings.  This is the new Golden Age of Television (cue “Hallelujah” chorus) and you crave to be part of it.  Wake up, rookie, and smell the sweat dripping into your eyes.  You know, the droplets that mix with your tears.  The reality is some TV writers make it and most don’t.

No, this isn’t another one of my drunken rants on how I can’t believe my life sucks so bad.  This list is supposed to be helpful.  What do staffed writers have that you haven’t?  A fucking awesome pilot script to show anyone who can get it to the top of the pile.  Now it’s your turn.  Start writing.

Record scratch.  Have the angels stopped singing?  What’s that you say?  You’re stuck in a confidence loop and fear your script may not be good enough?  This probably doesn’t help, but you’re not alone.  We all want our work to be the next Breaking Bad or Orange Is The New Black but you know, our own original work.  My head hurts.  Sometimes you put so much pressure on yourself to do the best ever out of anyone because the competition to break in is so fierce. You can no longer see the forest for the trees.  Time to unpack this shit and start from word one.  And you can’t do it alone.  Don’t expect the Archangel Gabriel to whisper sweet plot points into your ear.  No shade, just the facts.

When you get stuck on your spec script or pilot, it always helps to seek information from people who’ve taken the time to study TV craft and write what they know.  You’re doing everything right, of course, but just in case you need back-up check these books out.   I don’t swear by all the advice all the time, but each one has something to offer.  You’ll pick your own golden nuggets.

Comedy Writing for Late Night TV by Joe Toplyn

Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box by Alex Epstein

Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story  by Jen Grisanti

TV Writing ToolKit:  How to Write a Script that Sells by Jen Grisanti

Successful Television Writing by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Television Writing from the Inside Out by Larry Brody

The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap by Neil Landau

The TV Writer’s Workbook:  A Creative Approach to Television Scripts by Ellen Sandler

Writing the Pilot by William Rabkin

Writing Television Comedy by Jerry Rannow

Writing Television Sitcoms by Evan S. Smith

Writing the TV Drama Series by Pam Douglas

Writing for Visual Media by Anthony Friedman

Baby writers, rejoice! Remember, you’re not stuck, you’re reaffirming your commitment to great writing.  Do your best and you, too will be one of the chosen, golden few.


One Thought on “Books You Must Have On Your Shelf (part 2) TV

  1. Gayle, thanks for recommending “Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV.” I’ve read more than half the books on your list so I know your recommendations are solid.

    My advice to beginning writers: Don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel. Read a bunch of these books, maybe take a writing class, and then apply what you’ve learned to your own scripts. You’ll get up the learning curve much faster that way.

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