How to write a TV show in 7 Steps (plus a bonus)

How to write a TV show is a question usually tackled in entire books, not a single blog post. But we like a challenge and will post a series of blogs outlining the process, from: how to write a TV show synopsis, how to write a TV show treatment, and how to write a TV show pilot.

For now, let’s start with an overview of the basic steps on writing a TV show.

How to a Write a TV show script:

 

  • 1.Determine the genre. Comedy? Drama? Crime thriller?
  • 2.Decide the concept. Is it a “show about nothing”? (Seinfeld) or about a group of single women in NYC looking for love… and shoes? (Sex in the City). Whatever your concept, ensure it has legs and is an idea worth pursuing. Ask yourself if the idea and characters are compelling enough to take the audience through several seasons. Get feedback from your friends.
  • 3.Who are the characters? In a comedy, there are often four characters: the hero, the anti-hero, the love interest, and the comic relief or best friend. What do these people want? What’s the hero’s goal, and what is their biggest obstacle? Is it an unsavory neighbor (Newman!) or the hero’s PTSD to the time he went to Sprinkles, and the ATM was out of his favorite donut?
  • 4.Write a beat sheet. Also known as a “plot line,” break out the beats for your first episode. Consider this as the set-up for the rest of the potentially 8 seasons (fingers crossed). Often, the first episode is a kind of teaser for what’s to come. Think Breaking Bad – where chemistry teacher soon-to-be- chemo patient Walter White tests the water of the drug underworld. In Blake Snyder’s words, does the premise “bloom in your mind”? The Breaking Bad set-up certainly does, how about yours?
  • 5.Write a logline. This is one of the most crucial aspects to the tv show writing process. A logline is your one or two sentence that describes the person, the goal, and the conflict. More ironic, the better.
  • 6.Write a TV show treatment. Anywhere from 5-10 pages, a TV show treatment gives a view of the major beats in the story – set-up, twist, climax… Unlike a synopsis, a treatment can be written with a bit of personality, so feel free to use your writer’s voice with this.
  • 7.Write a TV show pilot. An entirely different beast from the treatment. A TV Show pilot is the flesh and blood of the story – action description and dialogue culminates in scenes – one building upon the other to achieve a story that tells network execs they HAVE to see episode two.
  • 7 1/2 BONUS. TV show bible (optional). Every series has a tv show bible. However, this is optional for you at this point. Depending on how detailed your world is, you may or may not want to write a bible. If you’re writing a tv series that is set in a fantasy world, such as Game of Thrones, then you will likely want to write out a series bible to help readers understand your tv pilot better.

This is an extremely BRIEF overview, and is a stop gap in answer your question how to write a TV show, hopefully it gives you an idea where to start.

Here are some cool clips that will help you on your journey to writing a TV show.

How to write a tv show pilot

Chuck Lorre offers a heartfelt tip to beginning writers in tv: write what you love, and others may love it too.

This clip from Kaplan is a fantastic approach to making your characters relatable. This advice is useful not only for tv show script writers, but screenwriters and even novelists. Terrific stuff!

How to write a tv show pilot and break into the industry

Sometimes, it’s easier to hear not-so-great news from a puppet.

John Truby describes the experience of binge watching a series akin to wine tasting. This clip is great to watch when thinking about writing your tv show bible, as well as your characters’ journeys from season to season.

 

Written by: Mich Medvedoff