I Researched How to Pitch a TV Pilot and Remembered How Discouragement for New Writers Really Feels

You forget what it’s like to try something for the first time.

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I am so, so sorry.

I may have forgotten what it’s really like to be new at this. And that’s totally my fault.

To be clear, I’m not currently writing, and have never technically finished, a television pilot. I’ve thought about it. I have some ideas stored in a compartment deep down in my brain. I’m not an expert in this area of writing or production.

Which is exactly why my latest Google search left me feeling so … small and insignificant.

I’ve written books, articles, sales copy … honestly, a little bit of everything. The only area I really haven’t touched, or even looked into out of curiosity, is screenwriting.

But a small flicker of an idea for a show appeared in the background of my thought chorus the other day. And for the first time, I found myself wondering: how does pitching work in TV?

It turns out, it’s not much different from any other kind of pitching, process-wise.

Except the actually getting it in front of people who matter part.

It’s not like looking for a literary agent, where you can be a nobody and have a pretty decent chance, all things considered, of everything working out in your favor.

Oh, if only.

(For the record, I also don’t have, nor have I seriously started looking for, an agent. I haven’t finished a book in awhile. It’s a process.)

The truth? Unless you’ve been writing for TV for awhile, good luck.

I appreciate the truth. I’d much rather someone tell me my efforts are best spent on other, more achievable professional goals than lie to me and say it’s easy to create and produce your own television series.

But … still. The truth stings.

Hearing it actually made me think, “Wow. There’s really no point in even bothering to write this potential pilot script in my free time at all, is there?”

Which is silly. Of COURSE I’m still going to write it (NOT RIGHT NOW). Who cares if nothing ever happens with it? I have an itch, it sounds fun, and I literally have nothing to lose.

But I do get it. It’s been awhile since I’ve really thought about how it feels to hear someone say succeeding as a writer, in any field, is challenging and — for most people — won’t happen on a grand scale.

To be told your shot — if you even have one — is many years of nearly impossible-to-obtain experience away … it’s like someone just took your manuscript in both hands and ripped it down the middle while looking you right in the face, expressionless.

Ouch.

Also, that was my only copy, you inconsiderate nerf herder.

In reality, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Anyone who wants to write professionally can do it in some capacity, if they have the skills and work ethic necessary to get there.

But it’s important to be realistic. Which isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, because, well, dreaming about Shonda Rhimes-ing your way through Hollywood — or whatever your equivalent ambition may be — is a lot easier than thinking about how long she spent working her way up to even being able to pitch the concept for Grey’s Anatomy to someone.

You’re just one small person with a big dream who has to compete with many other small people who have the same dream. You’re not guaranteed to succeed, no matter how hard you work. You might be really good at what you do, but that’s not always enough.

We don’t like hearing this. Even though we know it’s true.

Should we let it stop us from creating what we want to create anyway? No. Have you ever felt like you’re going to drop dead tomorrow if you don’t start working on the idea taking over your entire existence? That’s because you need to create. Whether it will get published/produced or not.

Is it worth trying, despite the odds? Yes.

You have to start somewhere. And that somewhere is likely at your kitchen table, with a five-year-old laptop that takes 20 minutes to boot up, wondering if any of the words you’re typing will get seen by someone important someday.

You might as well take a chance on them. Why not? You never know what could happen. Now there’s a fun thought to chew on through your silent tears of despair.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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10 thoughts on “I Researched How to Pitch a TV Pilot and Remembered How Discouragement for New Writers Really Feels

  1. I have quite a few friends who write for TV in various forms and guises – it really does seem to be a question of who you know, not what you know, in many cases. And screenwriting is a completely different discipline to almost any other writing I’ve come across! Kudos to the screenwriters, those rare and special beasts :)

  2. Thanks for the encouraging thoughts to end on (through the silent tears ;) ) Also, any time someone insults someone else as a nerf herder, I’m impressed.
    What style of show were you thinking of? (if you don’t mind me asking.)

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I am in the midst of writing a TV pilot and even though I don’t know anyone really in the business, I figured I’ll write it just to prove to myself that I can do it. It may not go anywhere, but like to old expression goes “it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.” And who knows…maybe I’ll meet someone during the journey…thanks for sharing, Meg.

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