When it comes to breaking into TV writing, the best thing you can do is read TV screenplays and write a ton. But you might need guidance on the actual process of writing. We have articles on writing your sitcom and drama, but if you want a tangible book to hold...we have a list for that, too.
I wanted to sit and compile a list of the best books on TV writing.
The ones that can help guide you on your process from breaking in and getting read.
So without further ado...
The 20 Best Books on TV Writing
This was inspired by female psychology and gender issues, this how-to book casts a refreshingly honest and empowering women-centric light on every stage of the screenwriting process. It's also a great read to understand points of view as well. As a man, I really think it helped me find great female characters in my work.
A classic, this book helps you understand where all stories come from. Their origin and also the key elements we look for to connect with what happens on the screen.
Yeah, I know "movies" is in the title but this book does a great job describing the difference between movie and TV ideas. It also talks about how the industry has changed and what kinds of stories are emphasized in each medium. It's good to have as you beat out ideas.
Plot is one of those words that gets a bad wrap. People think plot can be formulaic, but if you learn to master it, you can use plot to bend the audience to your will. You can make them feel anything and persuade them to believe anything. That' the core of TV.
The most important skill in all of Hollywood has become pitching. You need to talk about ideas in the room and get people to buy in. You also need to talk to execs to prove why people will tune into your stories. Learn how to pitch and the world will open up to you.
15. THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
One of the things you forget about writing is that you have to come up with words to describe people. I have trouble not sounding repetitive, so I grabbed these amazing thesauruses for writers to help me build out how I want characters to sound and act.
There are times when I find it hard to understand a character's motivations. Knowing basic psychology can help you reason out the choices these people make as well as build backstory and future plots based on the pitfalls they experience.
So much of writing is imagining, but at some point, you'll see your words acted out practically. How can you prepare the dialogue so that actors not only want to say it but also want to embody the characters that think of it?
No matter what happens with your idea, at some point you're going to have to write the pilot. That means you need to know what execs are looking for when they read the story.
Got stuck in a scene or can't seem to move the story forward? TV is about ongoing problems. If you need episode ideas, just consult the major dramatic situations. This book can help you brainstorm and create the conflict that keeps stories going.
Yes, and? The idea of improv and building a story via improvisation is a particular skill all TV writers need to understand. When you're working around a table and throwing ideas out, you want to build, not shoot people down. Learn how to add with grace.
9. THE IDEA by Erik Bork
Got an idea? Let the guy who wrote Band of Brothers help take you through how to build it outward, You don't just need a logline, but also a way to make the story come alive and stretch into many episodes.
This one is pretty straightforward. If your passion is writing a 60-minute pilot, you should know the ins and outs of getting that accomplished.
As the adage goes, "Write what you know," but how do you know what you know? Grisanti helps you mine for those details and access the interesting parts.
Sorkin was already famous when The West Wing came out, but this certified him as one of the best working writers in history. This book has 8 TV scripts you can study to see the beats, dialogue, and professional way he conveys action.
They shot some of these scripts word for word, too.
You can't write TV if you don't have a good handle on the structure of a story. McKee is a self-appointed expert, but I find his musing here to really be helpful when it comes to crafting an idea.
When Mamet was showrunning The Unit, he sent a famous memo to his writer's room. It's too long to copy here, but it really opens your eyes to the business, the decisions we make, and the difficulties of being a TV writer.
While Goldman worked in features, this is the best book about a writer working in Hollywood. Many of his experiences are relatable and beneficial.
If you want to be a TV writer then you're going to want to be in the WGA. The guild is responsible for you getting fair pay, healthcare, and watching your back. You should know all you can about them and how to use their services to your advantage.
Ahhh, this is one book on writing I think everyone should read. It doesn't matter the medium, King reflects on what it takes to get ideas on the page and enlightens us on the very idea of coming up with your own process.
Up Next: Learn to Write a TV Show Bible
Writing a TV show bible is the first step in seeing your idea go from paper to the screen. It's also the document that will ensure executives and future staffed writers know what's going on. But how do you make one?
Follow our lead...