Writing for TV shows is quite different than writing a novel or short story. In a novel or short story, you’re looking to appeal to the reader’s interest through engaging narrative, story and characters that can only come alive through the words you pick and the strict pacing of your narrative. Writing for TV shows is significantly more complicated, as you have to account for the actors, the directing, the camerawork, the music and so much more.
Actors – especially good ones – will likely add their own spin to the character, which can bring it to life in a way you did not expect, forcing you to adapt the rest of your screenplay to fit this newest development. Writing for TV shows is somewhat unpredictable compared to novel writing. Script writing is like a living being, which changes and grows over time, developing into something different.
In writing for TV shows, you must realize that it is at heart, a collaborative effort. Your screenplay isn’t the only thing that will be driving the production; the actors, directors and the rest of the staff will each be contributing to the holistic vision of the show. In a novel, it is you and your editor and your editor’s job is to make sure you’re presenting what you think you’re presenting. In a show, the producer, director, and actors each have some creative control over the show. In fact, the director is essentially the client and if you do not write what he wants, then you will not have a job for very long. So cast aside what may be a strict sense of how the show should be. At the same time, be willing to speak up when you are confident others are making fatal changes.
At the end of the day, despite the lack of control regarding how the final script appears on screen, writing for TV can be a very rewarding job. If you are working with a good team, their contributions will only improve the overall TV show. At the heart of every non-reality TV show is a script, something that guides the actions of everyone else on set. It is your job to make sure that you provide enough for others to work with and expand upon. At the same time, you are of course expected to have a concise, tight, logical, and organized TV script. The revision and rewriting process is more intense for TV because there are so many players involved.