• How to write for television

    So, you want to get that killer screenplay finished and produced? Struggling to get it off the ground? Take a step back and check Mandy News' guide to writing for television.

    24th Oct 2017By Matthew Whitehouse

    Take a writing course

    Writing courses can be expensive, but if you’re starting from the very bottom they're a great way to learn the basics as well as a great way to meet other writers.

    Make writer friends

    It can be hard finding people who will give honest feedback and having a solid network of other writers around you who want to have their work read too is an important step to mastering your craft. Getting feedback in general is valuable, as you are sometimes so close to your material you can fail to see even the most glaring of errors.

    Know your shows

    Watch a lot of the TV shows you want to make. What is the structure? What are the rules? How long are they? What channel are they on and what time? Once you start approaching TV from a writer's perspective, you’ll start watching shows in a different way, and – consciously and subconsciously – it will affect your writing.

    Watch and read bad examples

    We all try and avoid bad TV, but watching mistake-ridden, cancelled shows to analyse why they didn’t work can be invaluable. Were the characters underdeveloped? Was the concept unbelievable? Was the season finale frustrating or didn’t deliver?

    Get script writing software

    Professional screenwriting software will ensure your script is correctly formatted without you having to fiddle about and waste precious time. It will also stop you turning in something that is unreadable for an executive, producer, director, actor or showrunner.

    Final Draft, Celtx, Script it, Adobe Story! Get professional and get yourself some screenwriting software!

    Formatting your screenplay

    When taking notes and coming up with film or TV ideas, go ahead and scribble, scribble, scribble away! But when it comes to the script it must be formatted correctly. Most shows and studios have different formatting requirements so familiarise yourself with them. An hour-long thriller is written differently to a studio sitcom.

    Read as many different scripts as possible with a keen eye for formatting.

    Write every day

    If screenwriting is your passion and you want to be paid to do it then you must be disciplined – even when you don't feel like it. Sitting down and writing a page of dialogue or scene or story arcing for even ten or twenty minutes every day will get your head in the right space long term for writing. Do character studies, understand who you’re writing about and what their motivations are. Write every day. Even if you can only afford to do it just a little.

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