Writing the Pilot

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Television networks are so desperate for new voices and fresh ideas that for the first time in history they're buying spec pilot scripts and turning them into series. Today's aspiring writer can be tomorrow's showrunner. But it's not easy. Conceiving and writing a pilot that can launch a series is a complex assignment even for a seasoned pro. This book will take you through the entire process, from your initial idea through the finished script. You'll learn how to identify a concept that can carry one hundred episodes or more; how to create characters who will stay interesting year after year; how to design the unique world those characters will live in; how to identify the essential elements that will set your series apart from everyone else's; and most importantly, how to capture it all in one 60-page script. Riverside-Palm Desert's low residency MFA program.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: moon & sun & whiskey, Incorporated; unknown edition (August 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615533612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615533612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces

Customer Reviews

Short and to the point

43 people found this helpful.
 on August 7, 2012
By Robert J. Sawyer
A short but information-packed book. I wrote the novel FLASHFORWARD, upon which the ABC series was based, and was also a scriptwriter for that show; the analysis of what went wrong in transitioning FLASHFORWARD (which is referred to as FLASH FORWARD — two words — in this book) from a pilot into a TV series is cogent, and the advice on writing pilot scripts is excellent. The last chapter should, perhaps, be the first, though: yes, spec pilots are selling — the claim made on page one and here on the Amazon page for the book — but almost exclusively from established writers who have years of experience working in writing rooms on other shows; otherwise, as the author says, without some other reason — huge Twitter following, real-life experience in a heroic profession — the chances of getting your pilot script read by someone who can actually produce it are almost nil. Still, the book is called WRITING THE PILOT, not SELLING THE PILOT, and it very much delivers on that score.

Terrific, Especially for Feature Writers

20 people found this helpful.
 on October 14, 2012
By P. Taegel
Rabkin writes about writing the dramatic 1-hour pilot. If you’re planning on writing a half hour, read something else. Half hour comedies are a weird animal. But back to this book: It’s a straightforward insightful book that I would suggest you read at the outset of your endeavor to write a pilot. And if possible, know your logline first. Otherwise, Rabkin’s ideas will be too abstract if you can’t immediately use them to scrutinize what you’re working on. This book is not for the novice writer who has never written a play, screenplay or at least attempted to write a dramatic pilot. I say this because it’s not a nuts and bolts step by step instruction manual for writing pilots. There are those out there, but this isn’t it. Neither is it a book that’s going to tell you how to put a scene together or write dramatically. Writing is a tenuous dance between a psychotic dissociative state and structural engineering, and reading books like this is great for reinforcing the engineering. Rabkin takes writing a pilot down to the conceptual fundamentals of conceiving a television series. If you’re a feature writer and figure writing a TV pilot is easy–it’s just a feature only half as long–read this book. There is so much you have to get right in creating a series, and you’ll have a much easier time of things if the scrutiny comes sooner rather than later. And lastly, Rabkin references a lot of shows I really dig, and his prose style is articulate but breezy. I have the attention span of a toddler when it comes to books on writing, but I managed to tear through this book from cover to cover (figuratively speaking) in one sitting. I am now going to write my new pilot. If it sells or I get staffed, I’ll update this review 😉

Very helpful, concise resource

2 people found this helpful.
 on February 15, 2017
By R.A.
I hadn’t paid attention to the number of pages when I bought this, so when I got it in the mail I was a little *meh* that I’d spend $9 on what felt like more of a pamphlet than a book. But man. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. This book gets straight to the meat of the matter again and again and again, and the examples provided are all reduced down to the most important and helpful details. I’m underlining things all over the place in this book, writing down notes from it, using it to add to the questions I’m asking myself as I write, etc. It’s a great resource, and it’s so much cheaper than so many other recommended books on the subject, that it only makes sense to add this to your reference library. If you’re looking for a good place to start, this can be it. Go for it.

Essential Read for Anyone Interested in What is Happening to Writing

 on April 10, 2014
By Claude Forthomme (Nougat)
In our digital age, it is clear that forms of entertainment are rapidly changing. TV series that used to be looked down upon as a minor form are now hot while Hollywood, once the Queen of entertainment has a hard time keeping up. Novels – even in the ebook format – are beginning to look like they’re coming in last, even behind video games. It is time therefore for writers to look at what is happening on TV and learn how to do it.

Well Written, No-Nonsense

7 people found this helpful.
 on July 16, 2012
By Chris
I had my first Pilot script, or at least the outline of it, pretty well under way before buying this book. It occurred to me that, despite having written a number of short films of varying length, and even a feature-length screenplay, I knew nothing about writing for TV – aside from the fact that there are generally more than 3 acts in an hour-long drama.

Invaluable for coming up with and writing a TV pilot for a successful series

 on March 11, 2017
By L. Dey
Excellent book. I have only written features and had to write a TV pilot. From the start, the book has been indispensable. I had several ideas for a TV series and “Writing the Pilot” helped me determine which one could work for 100 episodes or more. The author also delves into the unspoken elements that make a TV series successful. A small book but packed with valuable information!

Amazing value, amazing advice, amazing price

 on October 2, 2016
By Amazon Customer
I loved everything about this book. I was already familiar with some concepts of screenwriting because I follow Film Crit Hulk’s blog but Rabkin summarizes the important concepts of screenwriting so well and with so many good examples of bad and good screenwriting that you simply can’t go wrong with buying this book.

A must have for anyone writing an original pilot

2 people found this helpful.
 on March 3, 2012
By Silversound7
I love reference books that get right to the point in the friendliest, most straightforward terms with good examples. This is one of the best I’ve found. Have been developing an original new series with a fellow writer for the past few months, and we had come up with amazing characters, premise, scenes, cliffhangers; basically a ton of good material. And yet something wasn’t quite finished yet, not enough to start writing the series bible and pilot with confidence.

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