The TV Writing Journey

Published: 4 weeks ago

Animated or Live-Action TV Show Spec? (Readers’ Mail)

Now here’s a question…
Is live-action better than animation when it comes to writing TV specs?

On today’s Readers’ Mail, we tackle the big debate thanks to Paul’s question:

Would an animated show like Archer or American Dad be a good choice as a spec script for [the TV writing fellowships]? I worry that a live-action show would be a more appropriate idea and I don’t want to immediately shoot myself in the foot with a bad show choice.
I typically prefer watching and writing comedy, but if sticking a group of zombie snacks in a prison and calling it Walking Dead gets my spec to the top of the pile, that works too.

First off, you need to pick your lane. By that I mean: if you want to write comedy, by all means focus on comedy. But you shouldn’t write a one-hour spec “just because” it may be more well-received (or not). A Walking Dead spec will only work for a drama writer.
Considering that you seem to prefer writing comedy, your next point of order should be to pick a good comedy to spec.
Which brings us to your great question: should you spec an animated show, or a live-action comedy? And does it really make any difference?

The short answer is: no, it doesn’t really make a difference. Up to a point.

Now onto the longer answer.
If you want to apply to the Nickelodeon fellowship, although they do accept animated specs, they can occasionally frown upon them. Or, at the very least, frown upon animated Nickelodeon specs. It’s their bread-and-butter, and they’d rather you show your comedic writing chops through the live-action model.
In regards to the other fellowships, the door is wide open.

With that said, the reality is that there are fewer legitimate animated options to spec. This year for instance, you could write an Archer, a Simpsons/American Dad, a Bob’s Burgers, a Bojack Horseman, a Rick & Morty, and—that’s about it. Four of those six are pretty much over-specced and old, and the other two are somewhat of a gamble. Bojack will undoubtedly become popular this time next year, but it still is a risk right now. Warner Bros. for example is not accepting it.

So, what does my convoluted answer really mean?
Half-hour animated specs are just as valid as live-action ones. In a vacuum. Given their rarity and varying popularity, finding a good animated show to spec is already a difficult task, much less crafting a great one.
FX’s Archer was a very popular comedy spec for a lot of people in its hey-days, but you could argue the show was already this close to being live-action.
Yes, a great animated TV spec will always be a strong choice for any TV writing fellowships. The format is rarely what detracts readers from pushing your script to the top. It’s more likely that the animated show in question isn’t that well-regarded to begin with.

As usual, the answer to most spec choice questions should be boiled down to: pick the show you will write the best spec for. Uou should not discard a great spec idea just because a show is too much or not enough popular. If you have the bestest Archer spec ever, by all means write it and send it out. Just be aware it’s pretty much most people’s only choice (with Bob’s Burgers) when it comes to recent animated shows.

Finally, in regards to professionally writing in animation as opposed to live-action, I’ll refer you to this post by BFF Kiyong Kim on the subject. Here’s an excerpt:

Several animation writers in the studio all gave us the same advice – don’t write for animation! They told us to go work in live action. The pay is better because it’s WGA and there are residuals.

Gotta love straightforward salary advice.


So what do you think dear reader? If you have a question, feel free to send me a message.

Write on.

Published: 1 month ago

Profiles of Television: Meghan Pleticha — TV Writer’s Assistant & Script Coordinator (Silicon Valley/Married)

Profiles of Television is an ongoing interview series showcasing the variety of professionals in the TV industry, from writers and producers, to those in development, representation, and post-production. These are the many talents involved in television, and the personal journeys behind them.

Today’s guest is Meghan Pleticha. A very talented comedy writer, she started as both writer’s assistant and script coordinator on a freshman show (season 1 of FX’s Married). Meghan is currently working in the same capacity on another cable series, this one in its second year: HBO’s Silicon Valley.

The Medium

First things first: why the television calling?
I love TV more than most other things in the world. I was really into poetry in college. Yeah, I was “that girl”. I remember that writing my first script felt a lot like writing a sonnet. I loved how structural it was. I’ve never been a film person but I’ve watched probably more television than is healthy.
Pursuing television as a career is now a no-brainer. The writer is in charge. I like how fast it is. I like constant deadlines. I like the visual medium. I like making people laugh quickly. I like that you’re generating something constantly, versus a film which can take years. I want to be forced to generate as much material as I can. It might not be all amazing, but percentage-wise, you end up with a larger “good” chunk. It’s a numbers game.

Three words to describe what you write.
Sweet dick jokes. Like dick jokes with heart, not like “Dude, sweet dick joke!”

Three words to describe how you write.
The ideal way would be: Early. A game-changer in my life was getting up and writing before I go to work. Often. That’s the only way I can write and keep doing it. If you stop you’ll never start again. And to steal a phrase from Parks & Rec—“full-assedly”. You can’t half-ass it. You have to try, fully. Sometimes I do write crap but when my writing is good, I did not bullshit it.
On a bad writing day, I’m writing: Rushed. Never. And only transcribing whatever I wrote in an outline or something. “Hi. Hi! How are you? I’m good, you? I’m fine.”

Name—
—the television series that has influenced you the most:
It’s got to be something before I was aware of television writing as a career. Everything I’ve watched since then is tainted by the “how would I do this” question. It would probably have to be something I grew up with.
I think it has to be The Simpsons. It started airing when I was a kid, and watched it all the way through adolescence. It’s funny looking back, because I’m not sure how I understood it as a child. There are so many levels. There were things I remember about it that really connected with me. Maybe I wanted to be Lisa Simpson and maybe wanted to play the saxophone—which I did for like two months. And it was the first time I saw a television show that was very funny, but about things that applied to the real world we lived in.
It’s probably that or Full House. I can vaguely tell you some plotlines but I know I watched it constantly, so it must have influenced me. Pete & Pete was another big one I watched. Or Hey Dude. I’m just giving you a list at this point. [laughs] It’s hard to say just the one thing influenced you. Whatever was on SNICK. Clarissa Explains It All. What a role model. She used computers in the 90s. Ahead of her time!

—the one episode of television that defines you:
Off the cuff, the one episode of television that defines me is probably Triangle, from X-Files. It’s just an episode I remember very well. It defines me because it was very fun with interesting storytelling methods. It also has playfulness.
That was around the time people started complaining on the Internet. People bitched that it wasn’t a “real” X-Files episode. I remember reading those reviews and being confused because I enjoyed it. So I was like: “Am I dumb?” [laughs]

—the television episode that impressed you the most:
It has to be the Archer pilot. It genuinely surprised me, which can be hard for a TV show to do once you start trying to write for the medium. It’s especially impressive with a comedy because part of what makes it good is the surprise. Good storytelling involves a believable surprise. Pilots are so hard to write. Archer is very well done in terms of establishing relationship and character while telling a story that I couldn’t see where it was going.
The moment that impressed me the most was when Archer got a boner. I didn’t see it coming—but even better, I didn’t see his mother’s reaction to it! Everything about it was amazing.

—the show you wish was still on the air:
I was recently disappointed that Surviving Jack and Enlisted got cancelled. Sometimes it’s better than things do end. This is horrible for jobs but if it goes too long—I didn’t enjoy for example the last season of The X-Files. Season 8 was a clear resolution in terms of the existence of that story.

—the show you would never publicly admit to watching, except right now:
I’m trying to think of what I watch on Hulu. Sometimes you go down holes… The other day, I accidentally got sucked into some Korean reality show. It auto-played after something so I dove right in. I was curious at first, and then wanted to see how the rest of the episode played out. I have no idea what it’s called. There were these girls in schoolgirl outfits—it felt very pervy. I think they were some sort of pop group. Weirdly, they also had to go through these challenges—like photoshoots, pretending they were paparazzi. So are they pop singers? It was just very confusing.

—the show you wish you had worked on:
Buffy. But more because everyone who worked on it says how great it was to be on it. By the way, one of my favorite things in interviews is when people talk to writers who worked with Joss Whedon, asking them: “what’s it like working with him?” And the answer is always just: “Oh, it’s great.” It’s the funniest thing. In general, when something is really good, you can’t always describe why it is.
Parks & Rec would also be an amazing show. It had a good combination of things I’m interested in. Bureaucracy, feminism, being nice to people. [laughs]

meghan pleticha landscape

The Journey

What has been, so far, your journey in the television industry?
In high-school, I thought I’d be a theater actress. In college, I studied English while doing Shakespearean performances. I also got involved in student sketch comedy. Towards the end of school, I thought I would end up writing for magazines. I knew I was a “writer” but not necessarily a novelist, and since magazines are shorter than novels it seemed more doable. [laughs] I moved out to New York to pursue that. When I graduated, my dad [who is not in the industry] told me he’d hire me as a PA, but I rebuffed him. “I don’t want to work in entertainment. Dad, that’s dumb!”
Since print is a dying industry, that path didn’t exactly work out. Then the recession hit. I also reached a point in my freelance career where I wouldn’t meet the editors in person. They would just e-mail me. I had this moment where I asked myself: “Why am I living in New York to e-mail people?” I could literally do that anywhere with Internet access. One of my friends suggested I take a writing class to meet other writers, and reconnect with New York.
I ended up taking a television writing class. The very first one, the teacher said to move to Los Angeles if we really meant to write for TV. I ended up coming back to LA. After that, I tried to get assistant gigs but no interviews. Months of unemployment later, I eventually took an internship at a boutique talent agency. You do so much free work when you first get to LA—but it usually leads to paid work if people aren’t assholes. So I did free work, then temp work, then got a full time office gig at BAFTA LA. Bounced around a little bit.
Eventually, someone offered a job to a friend working as script coordinator. She couldn’t take it, so she recommended me. And it worked out. Ultimately, I’d only say I’ve worked in TV (production) for six months. So uh, take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt.

How did you get hired as a writer’s assistant?
Being a writer’s assistant is something I actually did not believe was going part of my path in the industry. When I started out, I was trying to get low-level jobs on shows to work my way up. But I wasn’t even getting those interviews. Looking back, I’m sure I could have done things differently, but I’m not sure what. Working at BAFTA, I figured I’d just have the day job and could write my scripts.
For both writer’s assistant gigs, someone recommended me. In this industry, you need people to vouch for you but you need to earn that. And the thing with being hired at the assistant level is that it’s the last thing they’re figuring out. It’s really a roll of the dice, numbers-game. You know someone who knows someone who at that exact moment needs someone.

Can you talk about your experience being in the room?
That’s probably the best part of being a writer’s assistant. Getting that experience without having the same pressure of being in the room as a writer. You learn a lot about how to pitch things. Just seeing how people do it is really useful. Seeing how people interact. The etiquette. There is a hierarchy in the room that’s very helpful. Obviously the showrunner is calling the shots. When they say they like an idea, follow that train. It’s exciting seeing people pitch on the path that’s being created.
It’s also interesting because people have this idea that a writer’s assistant position is going to be their ticket in. “You’re going to get a script” or “you’re going to get bumped to staff”. There’s no guarantee of that, and it’s not even appropriate to expect it. I’m learning so much about production, being in the room, how different writers work. But it’s not the golden ticket people believe it is. It’s a job.

What is your day-to-day like?
I get to the office about an hour before the writers and make sure to take care of anything needed then. It also helps if you can organize on the go. Most of the day is taking notes on what the writers are saying. You might also be asked to pull videos—whatever is being referenced (casting videos, etc.). My computer is usually directly connected to the TV. We’re not in production yet, which should be a little more hectic. Since I also work as a script coordinator, it’ll be different then. More about making sure script stuff is there. Putting out pages and revisions as required, proofreading, making sure everything makes sense.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer’s assistant?
For me personally, it’s not panicking every day that I’ve screwed up my career forever. Which is also a general thing I worry about in my life. I used to not care about the jobs that I had. But now the day job has such weight—as if it could matter to your career.
The main challenge to being a writer’s assistant though is staying focused. Even when you’re tired. Even when someone’s pitching something you’ve heard a bunch. You need to make sure to capture any nuances to it.
The same can be said for being a script coordinator. The hardest thing is that the scripts you receive needed to go out ten minutes ago. Whatever changes are happening, they need to go out ASAP, while being perfect. Keeping your wits about you is the hardest thing.

What is the easiest thing about being a writer’s assistant?
Eating. [laughs] Lunch just arrives for me since the writers production assistant gets it. I don’t have to make lunch in the morning. Which is a lifesaver. You’re not rolling in the dough as an assistant, so being fed is a huge money-saver. That’s probably the biggest change between working a random day job and this one.

Who do you look up to in the television industry?
I am impressed by anyone in Hollywood who seems normal. “You’re a nice, normal human being and you’ve lived in LA for 30 years?!” [laughs] That’s impressive because I feel like I’ve only become crazier since moving to Los Angeles.

What is the ideal job you would like to ultimately have?
Showrunner. But not for a long time. My ideal career would be me working as a staff writer and up. Preferably on multiple hit shows and pleasant working situations. Renewed with long terms, so when I leave I know I’ll come back to a job. [laughs] Ultimately, I’d like to a run show. Mostly because I like being in charge of things.

When people from outside the industry ask what you do, what do you tell them?
I tell them I’m a writer’s assistant because no one outside the industry knows what a script coordinator is. I then usually explain that most television shows are written by a group of writers sitting in a room together. And it’s my job to write down everything they say and take notes.

What is your best professional advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
A big thing about being a writer’s assistant: practice your typing. Transcribe episodes of TV that you like. Most people in my generation are pretty good typists because of IM so it’s not something to freak out about. But you can always be better.
If you’re trying to get a job in Los Angeles, take the meeting even if it’s not exactly what you want. You never know who you’re going to meet there. Especially when you’re starting out with no contacts. It’s a lot of baby steps.
If it’s not the right position, be okay with walking away if you can avoid burning bridges.
Work for free. Again, only as long as it benefits you. You’re definitely benefiting them more than you. I got opportunities off of doing a few gigs. You then have something on your resume and know some people who can vouch for you.
Be clear about what you do want. Even for random assistant interviews I used to go to, unrelated to writing for television, I’d still say I wanted to write for TV. That said, I would also be clear, “I’d love to work here for XYZ valid reasons.”
Also, don’t be a dick. Most of life is don’t be a dick. Although in comedy rooms you can kind of be a dick if it’s funny. I think. I’m still learning that one.

What is your best personal advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
Maintaining friendships in Los Angeles is harder than other places. Maintaining relationships in Los Angeles is harder than other places. Relationships and friendships are the things that are going to last, regardless of where you work or what you’re doing. It’s really important, especially if you’re working on a show or a place with non-regular hours, that you make the effort to see your friends and loved ones. Eventually, the show will be over, and no one will have heard from you in four months. They’re not going to invite you to anything. It’s such an effort, but your real friends will understand that you don’t want to go to the movies but they can come over on your couch (watching TV with a bottle of wine).
This is a marathon. You can’t get too down on yourself if things aren’t going the way you’d expect or you didn’t get the recommendation you wanted.
Writing, relationships, work, sleep. You can only pick two. Maybe three of those. Choose wisely.

What is your next step?
It’s very similar to when I was working an office job. I’m very grateful and happy to be a writer’s assistant and script coordinator. These positions have been amazing opportunities, but they could be stepping stones just as they could not. There’s no guarantee. There are always unseen obstacles and ones you don’t even know about. TV is so hard to make that getting that first writing gig is such a crazy random thing.
That all said, my immediate next step is to finish the pilot that I’m so close to finishing—hopefully tomorrow. It just needs a punch-up! [laughs] The next creative step is probably working on a web-series I’ve been talking about with a few friends. It’s nice to have a finished product. It feels like you’ve accomplished something.
After that, probably another pilot. Everyone wants pilots. Although my theory is that within the next few years, the transition that happened between spec scripts to pilots, is going to happen with pilots to web-series. It’s an easy way for people to see someone’s voice. They don’t have to read anything. Five years from now, we can talk and find out if I was right.

Any last words?
There’s always more opportunities. I’ve definitely missed out on many jobs. Maybe some agent read my stuff and didn’t like it. There’s always going to be more people. You grow up being taught you only have so many chances in life, but that’s not true. Hollywood has the shortest memory of any city I know. I’ve messed up interviews, typos on my resume– You fuck up sometimes, but just keep at it, don’t fall over.
Just stand up. Look at what you did wrong, figure out why it happened, figure out why it’ll never happen again. And then when it happens again, have a mild heart-attack, drink a bottle of wine, and get up again—this time with a hangover. Drink some coffee. It’s going to be fine.

Many thanks to the amazingly talented (and awesome) Meghan Pleticha!
You can follow her on Twitter.
Season 2 of Silicon Valley airs Sundays at 10PM on HBO.

Published: 11 months ago

Profiles of Television: Kiyong Kim — TV Writing Fellow

Profiles of Television is an ongoing interview series showcasing the variety of professionals in the TV industry, from writers and producers, to those in development, representation, and post-production. These are the many talents involved in television, and the personal journeys behind them.

Today’s guest is Kiyong Kim. A multi-talented comedy writer, he had the opportunity of working through two amazing fellowships (Nickelodeon and NBC’s Writers on the Verge) as well as currently participating in the CAAM mentorship program.
Let’s see what he has to say.

The Medium

First things first: why the television calling?
Originally, I wanted to write features. I had a writing teacher who suggested I try writing for TV, which I had no interest in until The Office came out. It was different, and I felt like I really got that show and the sense of humor. There was a sadness to the show that I really liked.
Around the same time, someone I knew got into the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship. Until then, I didn’t know these fellowship programs even existed. I saw that as an entryway into television that didn’t really exist for features, and I thought I should try.

Three words to describe what you write.
Comedy without heart? Though I’m trying to add some to the pilot I’m working on now.

Three words to describe how you write.
Structured, because I like outlines. Slow, with pilots. And then—what is one word to describe when you’re on the verge of quitting? Whatever that word would be is the third word. Despair?

Name—
—the television series that has influenced you the most:
The Simpsons for the sense of humor. I’ve been watching it from the beginning and I still see the latest episodes, even in season 20-something. It influenced a lot of people. What it did really well was make good use of the medium of animation, unlike something like King of the Hill which could have basically been live-action.
And again, The Office as the show for making me actually want to write for TV.

—the one episode of television that defines you:
I don’t know if it defines me, but I thought about it a lot, and that Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones was something else. I saw those YouTube videos of people freaking out while watching that one crazy scene at the end. People started crying, screaming, and throwing things at the TV. Seriously, people don’t react like that when people die in real life. It was a great reminder at how much impact a story can have.

—the television episode that impressed you the most:
Recently, the season finale of Silicon Valley was pretty amazing. Before that, the ‘Chaos Theory’ episode of Community.

—the show you wish was still on the air:
I liked Happy Endings. I was disappointed it got cancelled.

—the show you would never publicly admit to watching, except right now:
SpongeBob Squarepants.

—the show you wish you had worked on:
Friends. It’s still funny. I watch reruns now and it holds up. So many shows since then have tried to recapture that. Each character was so distinct and likeable.

Kiyong Kim Smiling

The Journey

What has been, so far, your journey in the television industry?
I did web design for years and years despite never wanting to do web design. On nights and weekends, I was making short films and was thinking of writing and directing a feature soon. Around that time someone I knew entered the Nickelodeon Fellowship.
I had meant to write a spec for a while, so I wrote one for The Office. I made it to the finalist round but didn’t get in that year. The next, I tried again, and got in.
I learned a lot at Nickelodeon but didn’t get staffed. The following year, I got into the NBC Writers on the Verge program, which was about four months long. Again, noting happened. I had to go back to doing design.
This year, I got into the CAAM Fellowship, where they assign mentors individually to each of the fellow. I was lucky enough to get the person I wanted, Kourtney Kang (How I Met Your Mother). She’s helping me with my pilot and it’s been great.

What is the hardest thing about being a television writing fellow?
There’s a lot of pressure since you feel like you’re so close. Both times I felt like it was my chance, but nothing happened. Of course, there are never any guarantees in the industry, even for people already staffed or repped. Their shows get canceled or they don’t get asked back. That’s just the nature of the business.
At some point, I had to seriously ask myself—Is that something I can live with forever? Is the uncertainty something I can accept? Because if not, I should just quit now and save myself the aggravation. Since I’m a masochist, I’m still going.

What is the easiest thing about being a television writing fellow?
There’s nothing easy. There are lots of really short deadlines, trying to impress the right people, trying to push yourself, or being good in the room. Luckily, all the other writers were supportive of each other. Everyone was extremely talented, and generous.

What is the biggest takeaway from your experience in the fellowships?
For Nickelodeon, it was how much the non-writing stuff matters. Presentation, pitching yourself, egos, the politics of things, and even how luck is involved.
For NBC, the biggest takeaway was that I need to speak up more in the room.

Can you talk about the CAAM mentorship process?
It’s been about a month since Kourtney and I started. When we met up, I pitched her two pilot ideas, and she liked one of them, so that’s the one I’m working on. I fleshed out the story, figured out the characters, and am ready to start outlining.
Having someone with so much experience give notes is incredible, especially in the early stages when you’re trying to figure out the conceptual stuff of how the show will work. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

What is your day-to-day like?
I have my full-time day job. 40–50 hours a week, fairly regular. So then I have to write on nights and weekends, which is difficult. But I do remind myself that even on a show, I’d have to work on my own projects nights and weekends. Luckily, I also have my writing group, which meets every other week right now. That’s been a life-saver—receiving notes, pitching ideas, all the free therapy.

Who do you look up to in the television industry?
I love Greg Daniels. The Office, Parks & Recreation. He also did animation with King of the Hill and The Simpsons. That’s a pretty ridiculous resume.

What is the ideal job you would like to ultimately have?
Running my own show, which is probably what everybody wants. Or just writing for a good show with people you can get along with. Can’t really ask for more than that.

When people from outside the industry ask what you do, what do you tell them?
Currently, I probably don’t mention that I write, just the web design since that’s how I pay the bills.

What is your best professional advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
Well, I don’t feel qualified to give “professional” advice because I’m not a professional writer. I got into a couple fellowships, but I’m not staffed or even repped.
However, what I’m personally trying to do is to have solid writing samples, and meet people who will read my writing. Between writing and networking, I’d probably give more priority to the writing. A sub par writing sample read by the right people isn’t really going to help you.

What is your best personal advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
Give up now. [laughs] Why would you do this to yourself unless you had to? There are so many other, easier ways to make money. When I took the Nick Fellowship, it was huge pay-cut for me. Logically it made no sense. No sane person would do this. If there’s anything else you want to do, do that instead. If you’re cursed like me where you have to write, then prepare to be in it for the long haul.

What is your next step?
I’m finishing this pilot, and hopefully Kourtney will like it. Ideally, the pilot will lead to me getting representation, and then hopefully staffed.
After that, I’ve been wanting to try some sci-fi, either as a low-budget feature to direct, or as a pilot script. I also want to try to pitch an animated show at Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network. I met people while I was at the Nick Fellowship, and I went to art school for illustration, so I think animation would be something I’d be good at.

Any last words?
Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame your lack of success on others. Get feedback from others; it’s hard to be objective about your own work. Be prolific. Finish things.

Many thanks to the wickedly talented Kiyong Kim!

You can follow him on his personal blog of creative pursuits, where he chronicles his own television journey. He is also on Twitter.

Published: 1 year ago

Scribosphere Carnival #2 – Workflow

The Scribosphere Carnival is a weekly discussion from a variety of screenwriting blogs around a rotating theme.

And I’m catching up on all those I missed.

Instigated by Jonathan Hardesty, today’s topic is:

WORKFLOW — Everybody has one, and none are the same. Inspired by a post from John August (referencing this site), you should explain where and when you write, what hardware you use, what software you use, and what you would change about how you write. Have at it!

Where and when do you write?

Unlike some writers, I actually prefer to write in the comfort of my own home instead of going out to a coffee shop (and spend $5 on a latte).
With that said, I like to create an appropriate “space” for the magic to happen. Even if my desktop is in the bedroom, I will try to physically separate the “writing workspace” from where I sleep by moving stuff over to the living room.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but when I do, the complete set-up looks something like this:

workflow
As you can guess by what’s happening on the TV, this is during my “research phase” for my Good Wife spec last year. Yes, I like to reverse-engineer the show.

When I’m actually writing, the TV will usually be off, while I display my outline on the external screen (i.e. the one in the middle). My preferred screenwriting software will be pulled on the laptop itself.
And then I type away. On reddit.

My writing schedule is, at best, inconsistent. I rarely have “real” deadlines, so it’s often hard to shoot for consistency.
With that said, I enjoy (in a manner of speaking) going into what I call “lockdown modes”.
As the name implies, it’s a pre-determined amount of time (usually an entire week-end) where I force myself to sit in front of the computer and write/achieve something with very little breaks, and, crucially, no going out. No escape!
This extended, dedicated period of time allows me to completely focus on the one story/task, and think deeper about the problems than, say, a 2-hour writing block every other day. I also try to divide the task evenly across the days (e.g. 2 acts per day for a 3-day lockdown).
Lockdowns are especially great for outlines, first drafts or imminent deadlines.
Binge-writing FTW.

What hardware do you use?

I enjoy the good ol’ pen and paper when I’m brainstorming dialogue/scenes, however when it comes to the nitty-gritty, 90% of the work is done on my computer(s).

As for the tech nerds out there:

Desktop
I love to build my own computers. This is my latest beast (minus a graphics card).
Processor: Intel Core i7 2600K clocked at 3.40 GHz
Mobo: MSI Z68A-GD80 (MS-7672) 3.0
RAM: 16 GB DDR3 Corsair (800 MHz / PC3-12800J)

Laptop
Purchased almost four years ago, so bear with me on the specs (although who needs a gaming laptop for writing?!).
Sadly it has a battery problem that makes it less portable: the battery isn’t recognized, which means it only works when plugged in.

HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx
Processor: Intel Core i5 430M / 2.26 GHz
RAM: 4.0 GB
Graphics Adapter: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
Display: 14-inch LED / 1366×768
Weight: 2kg

External displays
Main display: ASUS VE278Q / 27.2-inch / 1920×1080
Secondary display: BenQ FP241WZ / 24-inch / 1920×1200
I also have an amazing TV (primarily used for shows/movies), which is a Samsung UN60D8000.

What software do you use?

When it comes to breaking my stories, I start off using Scrivener. Pretty much the best outline-building option out there (save for actual index cards and corkboards). It’s a great tool when it comes to visually seeing your outline/acts/breaks/stories. Gotta love the color-coded labels.

For the actual scriptwriting process, I exclusively use Final Draft (currently version 8). I may or may not try Fade In for my next script. It looks fairly interesting. Plus, I love black.

What would you change about how you write?

It’s less about how, and more about when.
In a word: consistency.
Trying to find a “sweet spot” is very hard, and I know I should really discipline myself to sit down and dedicate X hour(s) to writing, every single day. And yet, I don’t.
Like getting in shape physically, it’s one thing to say you wanna do it, and another thing to actually do it.
Time will tell if I succeed in that regard.

There’s also the thing about “less procrastination, more content”, though I believe this is less of an issue. You need these short bursts of mental distraction in between your mental back-and-forths when breaking a story.
When it comes to the actual writing portion of things, I’m happy the way I do things (when I do them). Sometimes I talk to myself, or rather talk the scenes out. I’m crazy that way, but it’s not something I’m keen on changing. It’s part of the process.
And then when you’re in the zone, well, you don’t even think about getting distracted.

Write on.


Scribosphere blogs also on the topic:

Shouting in the Wind | Red Right Hand | Jonathan Hardesty | Bamboo Killers