Tag Archives: TV writing

WRITING: Season Arcs and Season Formulae

Television has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years. Not only the standard storytelling methods of the typical day-to-day procedurals, but the existence of the purely-serialised and partially-serialised series. Now, many shows don’t just have episodic arcs and formulae, but seasonal ones. The funny thing is, it’s in a way a longer form of what is done at the episodic level, with a seasonal formula repeating every season with new elements.

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SCRIPT SHOWCASE: The Good Wife 1×16, “Fleas”

It’s important for screenwriters to read pro scripts. TV, movies, webseries, the works. We have to see how they work. Not just the functions of the various formatting elements (slugline, action, parenthetical…) but the interplay of the language. The expression of a complicated idea in simple actions and dialogue.

Sometimes I want to share the love for a really good, well-written script. Right now, it’s the episode of The Good Wife that convinced me the show was truly something special.

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CHECK OUT: The Compass Network

I’ve written about how I’d like to expand the script series model so that more training screenwriters can give it a shot. I’ve also been pretty clear that I love being part of a creative community, networking and learning from brilliant folks out there in the global Internet space.

This summer, I have, with the help of a pair of friends and colleagues, taken a big step towards all of these goals.

Check out The Compass Network, the online community we launched last month.

The culmination of a lot of years thinking about writer development, script series, networking and promotion for writers who aren’t in a place to prove themselves to Hollywood bigshots – or, alternately, aren’t in a place where training is easily accessed. I know MZPtv made me into the writer I am now, as much as Ryerson University did, and I’ve been thinking about how to pay that forward for ages. This is how I’m going to do it.

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PERSONAL: The Writersroom Model

I’ve written quite a bit about the Writersroom model. That is, taking a bunch of writers with only some experience and no TV credits and recreating the environment of a TV writing staff under an experienced showrunner in order to help train them. My pilot project in this arena has shown some success, though there are a lot of kinks to work out in the process.

I think the Writersroom model was key to my development as an early writer, and is a fantastic opportunity for developing writers to grow. Which is why, within the next decade, I’d like to turn it into an actual training ground for emerging TV writers in a hub like Toronto or Vancouver. And after that… the world.

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WRITING: Toronto Screenwriting Conference 1, Linwood Boomer (via Twitter)

Over the weekend bridging March and April, I attended the Toronto Screenwriting Conference. It was a fantastic experience, with talks by figures like Graham Yost (showrunner of Justified), Linwood Boomer (showrunner of Malcolm in the Middle), and Dean DeBlois (co-writer and director of How to Train Your Dragon). I livetweeted the entire weekend, and I was amazed at all the nuggets of gold in there, especially about the culture of working in a staff.

My livetweets from the first session, after the jump…

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WRITING: Series Pitches Need Focus

I’ve been developing series pitches for The Writersroom in the past few weeks, cherrypicking undeveloped projects from the depths of my computer and creating new ones for it. The process we’re following is: I propose a bunch of brief series pitches, and we slowly narrow them down as a group, based on how everyone feels and what they’d like to work on. And the process has been fascinating in a few ways, but I’d like to talk about one in particular: how ideas sometimes lacked a focus that prevented people from connecting with it.

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WRITING: Active Voice, Not Passive Voice

Having come across this screenwriting issue a few times with relatively experienced writers at my level recently, I thought it might be appropriate to take this rant of mine and share it publicly. Always active voice, not passive voice.

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WRITING: The Vomit Draft

Anyone not familiar with the term vomit draft might have a visceral reaction to the name. And to be fair, anyone reading a vomit draft might have a visceral reaction to it, as well. So what is a vomit draft, when would you write them, and why are they sometimes a pretty fantastic tool for writers?

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WRITING: Spec Scripts (Mine and Yours)

I’ve written a Community spec script (back in season one, when the show was pretty different and yet the same) and an Archer spec script, both for class. Funny enough, both are comedies. I consider myself a drama writer, but I’ve never written a dramatic spec, only pilots. I’d love to write a The Good Wife or Justified, and am hoping to tackle on this summer if I have the time.

How about you?

WRITING: Characters and Little Moments

Introducing characters is hard to do really well, particularly in the pilot. A cornerstone of my belief in how to do it right is little moments.

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