10 Steps to Writing a Pilot That Sells

No, no! Not that kind of pilot. Although, cute photo. (Image used without permission)

No, no! Not that kind of pilot. Although, cute photo. (Image used without permission)

1) Watch a lot of television; especially stuff you don’t like or think is bad. This will establish the belief within you that you could write something at least that bad and still get it on the air.

2) Conceptualize a show that combines one of your siblings or cousins, the second job you ever had, and a famous moment in history. Every idea after this will sound entirely plausible; and hell, this might actually work as a sitcom.

3) Conceptualize an idea that is morally offensive to you and then see if it was one of the shows in Step 1. If not, then the market is ripe for the picking.

4) Describe the absolute worst day of your life, a day when everything went wrong. Then switch one of the disastrous elements. Then, switch another element. Do this 10 more times. Season One!

If you can’t create 13 variants, your day wasn’t that bad and your life is too good for you to be writing for television. Go write greeting cards.

5) Grab a copy of Bulfinch’s Mythology and reset all of the stories in modern-day Seattle or the smallest town you’ve ever visited. Warning: Brace for complaints that it’s a rehash of Dallas or Friday Night Lights.

6) Grab a copy of Bulfinch’s Mythology and do not reset the stories. Hell, if it worked for The Borgias and The Tudors, it might work here. Call it The Olympians.

7) Start with Episode Two, because pilots suck and you’ll never want to show it to anyone. You need to know/believe your idea works.

8) No matter what your current idea is, when you go to pitch it and you think you’re losing your audience, suddenly reveal “And the protagonist is a ghost!” Vampire, werewolf and zombie are equally acceptable.

9) Stop reading advice on writing a successful pilot and just write your story, already. There is no telling why someone in a suit will get excited by your story, but I can guarantee they won’t if you’re not.

10) If all else fails, generate a top-ten list of ways to write a pilot that will sell and use it as the basis of a book you will later turn into a sitcom.

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