Happy New Year to all of you!! I hope that your writing plan for the New Year is off to a great start!

This past weekend I read the last batch of 8 scripts for the year for Writers on the Verge, the diversity program at NBC where I teach.

Here are some of the overall notes that I noticed are common with writers writing TV spec and pilot scripts and may help your writing to think about;

  • Show versus tell when it comes to important story information that puts us in the heat of the moment.
  • Not having a strong enough dilemma or even a dilemma at all in the set up of the story.
  • Giving us a sense of the wound that is driving your central character.
  • Waiting too long to set up the stakes.
  • When you set up a goal, make sure that there are several actions taken toward the goal and obstacles that get in the way.
  • Make sure that we know the personal stakes as well as the professional stakes for your central character.
  • Make sure when you give personal information that is driving a character that you service your central character first versus giving us more information on your supporting characters.
  • Waiting until the last act to give the story beat that shows us what was driving your central character.
  • Starting your episode with what happens and giving us the answer to the question that you’re exploring during your episode at the beginning. It’s fine to open your show with the end of Act III but do not answer the question that you are exploring by using this formula.
  • With comedy, make sure that your act outs end on an obstacle to the goal.
  • If you have a series arc and a pilot arc, have the dilemma for the series arc get set up in the Teaser and the dilemma for the pilot arc get set up in Act I.
  • With spec scripts, make sure that you don’t veer off from the formula of the show.
  • In every scene we should know what the character wants and what is getting in the way of what he wants.
  • Make sure that the goal is clear in every scene so that the momentum is there.