Hollywood Writing

By Seth Raab, Guest Blogger

When I moved to LA in 2006, I did so with the hopes of writing either teleplays or screenplays. Six years later, I landed a job as a staff writer on the NBC show “Go On.” And while six years seems like a long time, I consider myself very fortunate.

Getting a job in TV is much like getting a story or book published: it takes skill, persistence, and plenty of luck. First you have to write (and re-write…and re-re-write) some sample scripts. Then you have to send them out to agents, and if you’re lucky, someone will like your work. Then, if you’re even luckier, your agent will use your samples to find you a job on a show.

For some lucky, super-talented folks, that process doesn’t take long. For others, it can be an eternity. Writing staffs are getting smaller and smaller, and scripted TV is fighting with reality programming for timeslots, so it’s a tough fight for those precious few positions out there.

The job isn’t for every writer, either. The writer’s room is a collaborative place, and for those used to the very solitary (and autocratic) process of fiction writing, it can be a shock. You have to pitch story ideas in the room. As a group, you shape those ideas, identifying the scenes you’ll need to make them work. Once an outline has been created, a writer is sent off on his own to write the script. But that script will be re-written by the group, perhaps many times before it’s finished. It can be a hard process for one who’s used to control, and it can sometimes require a thick skin. But I’ve enjoyed it.

I hope my current show will be a hit, and I’ll have a writing home for years to come. If not, I’ll have to continue writing samples. And continue seeking new jobs. So like other writers constantly submitting stories and poems, I can never simply rest. But so far, it has been worth the hard work.

Seth was an assistant editor for Natural Bridge, and earned his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2006.