One thing that’s certain is that writing for television is unique in its heavy reliance on formula. Also, there’s a bit of a paradox that goes on and this is especially true for writers hoping to break in. Not only must new writers follow the show’s format and characters to the letter, they also must showcase their unique voice.
We think you will find the following books helpful in your quest to write for television. If nothing else you will be armed with more knowledge and that can not be all bad.
Without further adieu, here’s our Top 5.
5) The TV Writer’s Workbook: A Creative Approach to Television Scripts — by Ellen Sandler
Ellen Sandler has written for Coach and Everybody Loves Raymond — here, she lays out techniques that can be applied to a variety of show formats as well as plenty of exercises and business tips to get you going. An essential reference book for any aspiring television writer.
4) Inside the Room: Writing Television with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program — Edited by Linda Venis
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to take a class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, then this book is for you. Edited by Linda Venis, this book is a collection of practical wisdom from some of the very best in the business. Contributing writers have written for The Simpsons, House M.D., and Pretty Little Liars, to name a few.
3) The Hero with a Thousand Faces — by Joseph Campbell
This tome on comparative mythology released in 1949 might not make your standard list of books to read about television writing, however, story is story and there’s something to be said for having a little theory in your toolkit. This acclaimed book provides an in-depth look at the monomyth, which has impacted storytellers such as George Lucas, Christopher Vogler, and television writer and creator of the television show — Community, Dan Harmon.
2) Elephant Bucks: An Inside Guide to Writing for TV Sitcoms — by Sheldon Bull
Sheldon Bull’s career in television, lasting over 30 years, has included some smash hits such as M*A*S*H, Coach, Newhart, and Sabrina- The Teenage Witch. It’s evident that Sheldon has a wealth of knowledge and experience and he provides readers with a clear, step-by-step guide to writing a spec script, getting it read, and navigating a career as a television writer. With plenty of examples, exercises, and encouragement, this book is sure to help any aspiring television writer.
1) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — by Stephen King
This best-selling book should be in every writer’s collection regardless of medium or genre. The principles and practices extolled within these pages are practical, honest, and inspiring. King cuts through to the very essence of what good writing is and shares his personal experiences with the craft. If ever there was a book to motivate you to keep writing, this is it.