Across the arts there are people with various ranges of talents and TV scriptwriting is no different. So how is it then that we see such a range between those who are able to write a standard script which makes the grade, and those like Roger Wolfson who’s work has helped him forge a career as one of the most successful in the TV industry? We can easily say that the difference is talent, but that stops short of getting into the real nitty gritty of what it is that makes a great writer, and what makes someone who can write well, like Roger. Let’s take a look.
In the world of TV time waits for no man or woman and that is why a scriptwriter for TV must work hard on delivering with consistency. During a year a team of writers may scribe over 30 episodes, and there is no room for days off or poor episodes, at least not if they want the show to keep running or stay in a job. This is a key difference between those who are great and those who are not, the ability to just keep it going and going.
Someone could write 3 shows a year and the difference between a good writer and a bad writer would be consistency as aforementioned, in the world of TV however it is not just about being good every time, but having time be good every time, many times. This means that a writer has to keep going back to the well of creativity and finding new and unique ways to be funny or emotive or quirky, and that is not easy. A standard writer may be able to do this 10 or 15 times before they misfire, the very best in the business are doing it day in and day out.
When you play chess against someone better than you, they are able to see more moves ahead than you can, they are aware of more threats and more channels of action. This is the exact same thing which takes place between a great writer and a standard writer. A good writer may come up with a solid storyline and perhaps even draw a link between one story and another, a great writer will have multiple plots and connections in their mind which they will interweave with style and grace, another huge difference between these two types of writers.
Speed of thought isn’t always necessary in the world of TV writing but it is clear that the great writers have this in abundance. This is not to say that they think quicker than a writer who is not at their level, but they think with better accuracy and make faster decisions as to what their characters or their plot should be doing.
As you can see, there are some big differences between a great writer, and someone qhwo considers themselves as good.