And welcome to my stop on the Susin Nielsen tour.
You know what I love about this post?! The realisation that behind a TV show there is a script writer and maybe a team full of them. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that TV shows’backbone relied on a heavy amount of writing, but maybe the bookblogger in me only really associated writing with books only. Writing for TV or writing for a book may have different processes, but once you know how to write, the sky is the limit!
I hope you enjoy Susin’s experience of both worlds!
Susin Nielsen Writing for TV Versus Writing YA Novels
Writing for TV is great fun largely because it is so collaborative. When I work on a TV show I tend to work with a group of writers, in a room, and the energy is high (as is the hilarity. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I have in a story room). And everything is very, very structured. You have to follow a pattern: Story idea, beat sheets, multiple outlines – before you go to draft. There are usually a lot of layers of people who need to approve what you’re doing (and some who try to water it down or change it dramatically). These steps are very necessary because a TV show is very structured; you’re writing to act breaks, they have to be a very specific length. Every beat needs to move the story forward. And, very important, you have to know how to work fast, and meet pressing deadlines.
I think there are definitely transferable skills that I bring to my book writing. I love writing dialogue, and I think I’m reasonably good at it because of all my TV training. I like to think I’m decent at writing to chapter endings that make you want to keep reading, much like act breaks. I think I’m pretty good at cutting out flab, “dead zones” in a manuscript where energy flags.
What I had to work on, however, was layering in description – I had to remember that books aren’t a visual medium! And when I write my books, I take a very free-flowing approach. As in, I just sit down and start writing. I obviously have an idea, and a few more ideas about where the story might be headed. But then I just have to sit down and start writing, and see where things take me. Some days I’m taken in great directions, other days not so much. But I never outline, which I find very liberating. The books are definitely much harder to write because I’m alone in a room and it all has to come from me. But it’s also incredibly gratifying when it “works.” And I also love that I can slow things down once in a while (without causing a dead zone!) and spend more time with the internal thoughts of my characters. You can’t really do that in TV.
Thank you Susin