TV Writing for Novelists

Work on the novel has been slow recently, so I’ve been stealing from the structure and clarity of TV writing to help move it forward. I picked up *tons* of useful energy from this approach. Below are some of the great links that helped me figure out the process.

Often TV shows are structured with A, B, and C storylines. They intertwine and influence each other to varying degrees. Each story line premise is broken into beats (called ‘breaking the episode’) and is plotted out step by step, to create a beat sheet. These are then blended together and fleshed out in an outline document. This is a simple prose version of the script.

From low to high levels of detail, the outputs on the writing journey are: Premise > A,B,C storylines > beat sheet > outline > script.

This great blogpost breaks down an episode of Community into its storylines and creates a beat sheet, to show you what it looks like. The most important thing i took from this, is that:

A point on the beat sheet isn’t just an action happening. It’s action + the character’s response.

Once I started outlining my story in this way, it moved so fast! No more dawdling around with characters not going anywhere.

Mike DiMartino also has a great series of posts that go through the process of writing a Korra episode: