Things I Learned From One Season Writing on a Show

It takes talent, chutzpah, and more networking than just about any writer in the universe is comfortable with to get started as a TV writer. No one owes you a gig no matter how talented you may be.

In spite of the difficulty – well, probably because of it – few new TV writing pros do all that much to help other noobs into the game. (Gotta watch out for “rivals,” don’tcha know?) Which is why our TVWriter™ hats are off to the “Watching Cartoons in Your Underwear” tumblr blog and its proprietress Gina for posts like this:

by Gina

So, as some of you may know, I got my first real staff writing job a little less than a year ago. In exactly one week, my job writing for season 8 of Regular Show will be over, and, as of right now, I have no idea whether there will be another season. If there is another season, there’s always the question of whether or not they’ll hire me back. I hope they do! I THINK they will. But nothing is 100%, and it’s possible I’m not QUITE as talented and charming and smart and wonderful as my parents would have me believe.

I’ve never been super worried about getting jobs. I’m an eternal optimist, and I’m pretty good about keeping the mindset of “something else will come along,” in all aspects of my life, and now is no exception. I would love, love, love to be hired back, but if I’m not, I’ll continue to do what I’ve done for the past 12+ years in LA and plug away like a tiny, Italian, little engine that could.

I really dug my time working on the show, and not being picked up for another season wouldn’t dampen that enjoyment at all. If anything, I can take what I learned to my next job, and so I decided to write this about some of the lessons I’ll take away from this, if only to remind myself of them again at some point down the line. Maybe these things will help give a few aspiring writers some perspective, or help them when they find themselves falling into some of the same traps. Maybe it won’t, and I’m just a super egomaniac whose sense of self importance could rival Donald Trump’s. Either way, at least I’ll have accomplished something today other than taking too many photos of my cat!

1.) Stop it with the self doubt

When i first got hired on Regular Show, I was ecstatic. Such a cool show to work on! Such an awesome place to work! Such rad people to work with! Then the self doubt started to creep in. The biggest one, which is often in the back of my mind, and which I blame on a combo of societal bullshittery and a few assholes I’ve encountered in the past for, is always, “Did I get this because I’m a woman?” Someone once told me, “You’ll never be able to be completely sure you didn’t get hired for something just because you’re a cute girl.” Yeah, it’s a crappy thing to say, and basically discounts any talent I may have, but he was just echoing something that a lot of women in entertainment are afraid of, and a lot of men legitimately believe….

Read it all at Gina’s blog


N.T. Sexton, a frequent contributor to sites like Good Reads and YouTube, and an aspiring novelist who knows how to command a video or three has uploaded a series of videos called – aw, you guessed it – “Things That a New Writer Should Be Doing.”

The dude has some interesting thoughts, and an even more interesting way of communicating them, so, hey, we think it’s worth taking a look:

Check ’em out and let us know how helpful they are!

Pixar Tells Us All We’ll Ever Need to Become Animation Mayvens

The greatest and most educating series on film and video-making evah!

There’s whole lots more where this sweet and salty goodness comes from. Find out more HERE

Peggy Bechko’s World of the Innocent, the Eager & the Doomed

“My hopes, dreams and aspirations were no match against my poor spelling, punctuation and grammar.” Red Red Rover

Okay writers, is that you? It might be, even if you aren’t aware of it. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the STORY that counts, right?

Hmmm, well, yes. BUT, if you can’t get anyone to read your story because you just can’t handle the basics then your STORY won’t mean much.

People are busy… editors and producers even more so. They don’t have time to mess around with your work if it’s littered with spelling errors, grammar that makes no sense and punctuation that throws everything into a tailspin.

You can sit there at your computer and argue with me all you want in your head, but facts are facts (no, there are no ‘alternative facts’). If your material is all but unreadable it won’t get read.

Readers for screen scripts don’t have the time to mess with it and it sure won’t reach a producer’s hands (unless you know him personally and put it in his hands, in which case he won’t read past the first few pages). An editor will pitch a fit.

So, what to do if your skills are lacking. You can take some courses, not a bad idea in any regard. But there are helps out there.

You can try Grammarly.  Sign up for an account and get the free version to test out. If it’s really helpful and you really like it, there’s a fee-based version you can go with

No, I’m not associated with Grammarly in any way. I don’t get paid. Your choice. I have used it and found it helpful. Be careful not to take what it tells you too literally as you’re writing fiction, not staid business correspondence.

There are some of my favorite books as well. They’re small, slim volumes by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Picked them up while working in a college bookstore so mine are kind of old and battered hardcovers:

The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Both of these books are amusing and helpful and have been on my writing shelf for years. Yes, you read that correctly. I can still get myself into a corner when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Despite the fact that it’s obvious and a lot of you reading this will groan, pay attention to whatever writing software you’re using.

MS Word, Scrivener (you can get a 30 day free trial on this one!) and most dedicated script softwares have features that highlight errors in some way.

I’ve just begun using Scrivener and despite the learning curve I’m coming to love it. And it even has a ‘script’ writing element. Check it out if you’re interested. (Again, I’m not profiting from mentioning it).

These are the tools I use. You may have discovered equally wonderful, or even more wonderful ones you use. If you have suggestions go ahead and post them in the comment box. It never hurts any of us to have new tools in the tool box!

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

LB: At Last! The Real Differences Between Writing Film, TV & the Printed Word

by Larry Brody

One of my favorite blogs is ComicMix, which quite simply is the most more interesting and best written and edited sources of comics industry information on the net. (You may have noticed that TVWriter™ regularly features columns by two of Comic Mix’s glorious writers, John Ostrander and Dennis O’Neil.)

I admire the blog’s entire staff for its varied comic book work and its amazing insight into creativity as a whole. Today’s case in point is the most recent column by CM’s Marc Alan Fishman, one of the creator-partners at indie comics company Unshaven Comics and a force to be conjured with indeed.

“Game On, Comics Off,” the particular column in question is a look into the relationship between video games and their comic book spin-offs as Marc discusses why the comic book versions of hugely successful games like World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed et al so often end up tanking when it comes to sales.

It’s quite a perceptive analysis, but that’s not a subject that TVWriter™ has much to do with. What knocked me out, as we used to say back in the days of Frank Sinatra and the ratpack, was an absolutely spot on throwaway paragraph that positively screamed, “Epiphany! Epiphany!” and which I think all of us who write TV, film, and prose fiction of any kind should take to heart.

Here’s The Paragraph To Always Remember:

When a book becomes a movie, the movie must drop nuance and backstory for increases in action and visual exploration of settings. When a movie becomes a TV show, it drops the quality of the settings, and becomes stifled by commercial breaks interrupting story. When a TV show becomes a movie, it loses the ability to explore nuanced characterizations afforded to longer interactions across multiple episodes.

Got that? Read it again. And again. The bottom line here is that Marc has answered, clearly, succinctly, and incredibly accurately, the age old fan question: “But why isn’t the [film] [TV show] [book] more like the [book] [TV show] [movie]?” in a way that not only is easy to explain to fans but also clarifies the adaptation process for everyone involved in writing said adaptations.

In other words, if you let Marc’s words roll around in your head and become fully absorbed, the odds are very, very good that the next time you attack an adaptation project the writing is going to be not only better but easier because you’ll have a finer grasp on what it is you have to do.

And anything that makes the world’s most difficult creative endeavor (AKA writing) easier is to me as important and sacred as the most revered pronouncementfrom, yeah, God.

Thank you, Marc Alan Fishman, from the bottom of my creative soul.

And as long as we’re talking about it, why not check out the full column HERE ?

Dennis O’Neil: Ha Ha Ha

by Dennis O’Neil

Here’s the plan. You’ll wait until the office is closed for the day and the lights are all out and then, possibly wearing a tool belt, you’ll sneak inside and remove the appliance from its place near the big chair and take it home and put it on the couch and sit next to it. Then you’ll tune in NBC’s new comedy, Powerless. (Did I mention that this will be on Thursday night?)

You’ll turn on the laughing gas machine, the one that belongs to your dentist and place the mask over your nose and mouth. This is necessary, according to you, because you might not find the show funny and yet it’s supposed to make you laugh and if it doesn’t you’ll feel frustrated and to avoid this ugly feeling you can sniff the laughing gas and have yourself a good chuckle and maybe a gas-induced laugh is better than none at all.

Enough of that.

I know very little about Powerless, not much more than it’s about an insurance company that deals with the collateral damage that would inevitably accompany the damage superheroes cause while doing their superstuff. Not the worst premise I’ve ever encountered.

This is not new, this conflation of humor with superheroics.

A few weeks back, I mentioned Herbie the Fat Fury, who appeared in the American Comics Group titles, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, part of the Captain Marvel posse,  and The Inferior Five which, if memory serves, was about a quintet of costumed goofballs who did superheroish feats of the goofball variety. And on television there were Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific, whose live action adventures may have been inspired by Batman.

Ah, Batman. Saving the best for last, were we? Batman, of course, was a comic book crusader for years before he made his way to the tube. He had also appeared in two movie serials, in newspapers, and as an occasional guest star on the Superman radio series. So it was probably no great surprise that he’d pop into your living room sooner or later.

But how he popped – that may have qualified as a surprise. This Batman was not merely a dark clad vigilante who prowled the city ever seeking to avenge his parents’ murder by assaulting crime wherever it was found – he was a dark-clad comedian who assaulted crime. Yep. Funny ha-ha kind of dude.

I won’t burden you with my opinions on how Batman’s comedy was achieved. Let’s just agree that is was achieved, for a while quite successfully. Then public taste moved on, leaving Batman to a protracted afterlife in rerun city. Quirky thing: Adults coming to the show for the first time tend to see it as what is was intended to be: funny. Kids, though, are more likely to enjoy it as action-adventure. I await explanations but not, I confess, on tenterhooks.

Meanwhile, we have a new show to sample.

Maybe we’re lucky.

Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Writing Myths

by Peggy Bechko

Here’s the first writing myth that needs exploding – “Being a writer is a good way to get rich quick!”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA – need I say more?

Well, maybe I do. Yes, it’s true, there have been those rare souls whether through luck, talent, connections or some incredible combination thereof, have become ‘overnight’ writing successes in a big way. I guess that would be ‘get rich quick’.

But, TRUTH – that is so rare you might win the lottery first. Writing, whether script or novel or articles or anything takes time and disciple and it can take a while before the writer is paid anything! Submit, submit, submit. Look for an agent – convince him or her how great you are. Write more. Submit more. You get it and no doubt you’ve been there.

The ones who’ve ‘gotten rich quick’ have almost always taken years to do it. You’re a writer – so write. Write because you love films and want to be a part of it. Write because you love the well-plotted novel and creating one just as good as the best you’ve read is your ultimate goal. Don’t expect a nice safe life on either count and figure you’re probably going to have to have a day job for who knows how long.

Here’s another myth. “You don’t actually have to write that much.”

Really? How does that work? Okay, scripts look sparse, lots of white space and all that. That doesn’t mean the writer isn’t writing a whole lot. There are rewrites and notes and more writing. Ditto for writing novels.

On top of that, very short writing can be harder than writing long (sorry novelists, but I’ve done both and it’s true). Somehow, somewhere along the line almost everyone decided they could be writers. Yeah, well here’s a newsflash. Writers write. If one talks about it but doesn’t do it then one isn’t a writer. And you always have to ‘write a whole lot’. That’s just part of the gig.

Here’s the third myth I have to blast. “It doesn’t take all that much time to write a script. Not like a novel!”

Uh, well, that can be true. You can crank out a script quickly; there are a lot of folks who write for TV who do that, even some feature length writers. But let’s circle back to what I said above. You have to write. You have to write a lot. There are producers with notes. There are editors with revisions.

You think you’re done after you’ve slogged through your 6th draft? Nope. And if you’re on a tight schedule with a script because it’s actually sold – woohoo, yay for you! Go ahead now, make yourself crazy meeting deadlines. Seriously.

And all that is still time. You may be writing all night, all weekend, all month but just because it’s compacted into a tight time-frame doesn’t mean the hours weren’t put in. And, if it’s a novel, oh, boy. Yes, the rewrites and then the re-reading of the galleys takes plenty of time. Writing is one of the biggest time sinks of your life – hope you really love it.

Oh, and in the ‘time’ category, don’t forget the rejection. All writers get rejected – mostly over and over again. And, while that isn’t actual writing time, it is, nonetheless, career time. After all, getting drunk after that last painful rejection takes a chunk of time away from your writing.

So, my advice? Don’t even think about all those myths floating around out there.

Are you a writer? Then focus on your writing and get it out there.

The rest will, with considerable work, get taken care of.

Or not.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.