"No need for me to ever write a book on TV writing. Alex Epstein has covered it all...along with a few things I wouldn't have thought of. Save yourself five years of rookie mistakes. Crafty TV Writing and talent are pretty much all you'll need to make it."
Ken Levine, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, The Simpsons
"Crafty TV Writing dishes out practical advice from an author who's obviously been in the trenches. I wish he had written it 15 years ago. I could have retired by now."
Paul Mather, showrunner, Corner Gas
"No bull, no padding, no paradigms or diagrams, just an enormously entertaining account of the state of the art from first-hand experience, laid out with clarity and enthusiasm."
Stephen Gallagher, Dr. Who, creator Oktober, The Eleventh Hour

Introduction: Why You Want to Write TV

Part One: Thinking Inside the Box

Chapter 1: The Hidden Structure of a TV Series

What Makes Great TV?
A Hook
An “Attractive Fantasy”
Characters We Never Get Tired Of
A Place Where Stories Walk in the Door
Episodic vs. Serial Stories
Demographics and Networks
The Show Bible

Chapter 2: Great Episode Ideas

The Springboard
What Makes a Great Springboard
How to Come Up With Great Springboards
What Makes a Bad Story Idea
Mixing and Matching
Themed Shows

Chapter 3: Writing the Script

Act Outs
Breaking Story
Time Compression
Weaving Stories Together — The Beat Sheet
No Handwaving Please
The Most Powerful Screenwriting Tool in the World
Mix It Up
The Rule of One
Tracking Expectations
Going to Pages

Part Two: The Writer’s Toolkit

Chapter 4: Bad Writing and How to Fix It (Or At Least Get Away With It)

Writing is Rewriting
When is Your Draft Done?
Contracts and Drafts
Taking Criticism
The Flavors of Bad Writing
Pulling vs. Pushing
Suspension of Disbelief
Off Screen Story
Point of View
Communicating Without Dialogue

Chapter 5: Bringing The Funny

Comedy is Harder Than Drama
What’s So Funny?
Great Comic Premises
Plausible Surprise
Funny Word Last
Comedy Is In the Characters
Comedy Is In the Pauses, Too
Don’t Break the Frame
Joke on a Joke
Up and Back
Learning to be Funny

Part Three: Working in TV Land

Chapter 6: Preparing to be a TV Writer

Learning to Watch TV
Writing Partners
Film Schools and Classes
The Free Alternative Film School
Seminars and Workshops
Awards and Competitions
The Spec Script
Spec Pilots as Samples
Screenwriting Software

Chapter 7: Breaking In

Getting an Agent
Staffing Season
L.A., The Big Nipple
The Back Door
Other Back Doors

Chapter 8: Getting Hired

Getting Your First Paid Gig
Killer Story Pitches
Be Fun
Just Do It
Be Flexible But Passionate
Writing Your Freelance Script
Multiple Jobs

Chapter 9: Moving Up the Food Chain

Who Are All These People?
Story Editors
Your Master’s Voice
Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due
Production Notes
Playing Nice With the Other Kids
How to Run a Writing Room
Surviving Getting Fired

Chapter 10: The Holy Grail: Creating Your Own Show

Spec Pilots for Real
Pitching Festivals: Any Use?
The Pilot Episode
Coming Up With a TV Show
Enjoying the Process
A Parting Word

Appendix: Resources

Where to Find Scripts
Writing Contests
Final Draft vs. Screenwriter: a more in depth comparison
Scale Payments
Sample Springboard, Breakdown, Beat Sheet and Pages