Four Simple Steps to Making Millions as a TV Show Writer

Some people believe that even the best content writer doesn’t have what it takes to be a real author. If we were more creative, better disciplined, or maybe just a little more talented, we would all be professional writers. As a content writer, you know that you are a professional, but have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to become one of the writers behind your favorite TV shows?

Have you ever watched a show and thought, “I could have done so much more with that plot line.” You have as much or more ability. After all, do you think any of those Hollywood writers were ever tasked with making keywords like “linoleum floor San Francisco” fit naturally into a sentence 10 times in a 300 word essay? Now, that takes creativity!

So why aren’t you in Hollywood knocking down the big bucks? While most TV writers make between $28,000 and $200,000 a year, some like Shonda Rhimes, the producer and writer of Grey’s Anatomy, earn millions. You have the talent, and the money is attractive, you just don’t know where to begin.

Here are a few tips:

Major in Scriptwriting.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creaters and writers of “South Park” began colaborating on scripts while they were students at the University of Colorado Film School. Tina Fey of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” studied scriptwriting at the University of Virginia.

MOVE.

If you want to write for big-time television shows, you need to be where you can do some face-to-face networking with producers. After graduation, Carlton Cuse, writer and executive producer of “Lost” headed straight to Hollywood where he landed a job as a script-reader. There, he developed a friendship with writer David Burke which led to him getting a job as a staff writer for the 1986 TV series “Crime Story.”

DEVELOP A CONCEPT.

It is up to the writer to come up with a story line. Damon Lindelof, was a comic book writer as well as a Hollywood staff writer when he developed the idea for “Lost.” Once a concept is sold, it is up to the writer to act as executive producer of the show but Lindelof hired fellow writer, Carlton Cuse, to take over production duties.

WRITE A SCRIPT.

Write a complete spec script about your concept. It will be great if you can sell it and become the producer of your very own show right away, however a spec script is more like a resume. If you have talent but aren’t already a Hollywood insider, this may help you land a job as a staff writer.

There are some instances where a script writer can develop someone else’s concept, as in the case of Alan Ball who adapted Charlaine Harris, True Blood book series to television. When she picked his script over those offered by several other writers, he became the executive producer of the show.

That’s all there is to it. Major in scriptwriting, move to Hollywood, develop a concept, and write and sell a script about it. Then you are on you’re way to the top.

Peggy N is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments. WriterAccess is powered by ideaLaunch.


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