Now you can read Writing The Pilot for free!

Writing the Pilot. But if you’ve got friends or relatives or writing group members who’ve been thinking about it, but can’t bring themselves to invest the massive $4.99 for the Kindle edition or the almost doubly massive $8.99 for the paperback, I’ve got great news! Now they can read the entire book for free!

Well, they can read the book for free as long as they’re Amazon Prime members.  Because Writing the Pilot is now part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program. Which means that Prime members can borrow it for free and read it at their leisure. Check it out today!

The Huffington Post Loves Writing the Pilot!

At least their blogger Jen Grisanti does. She’s got a terrific post today called Adding Character to Your Story, and in talking about The Shield‘s Vic Mackey she references a certain Amazon best-seller about pilot writing:


In Writing the Pilot, William Rabkin writes, “The most important thing about Vic Mackey was that he believed he was a good guy. Sure, he made deals with criminals but that was to keep worse criminals off the street. As for killing the other cop, that was required for his own self-defense, but even then he knew it was wrong and it tortured him for the entire run of the series.” Rabkin goes on “… Vic Mackey acted like a bad guy in order to be a good guy. And that was the theme as well: How much evil can you do in the pursuit of noble goals before you stop being one of the good guys?” Rabkin says that the heart of what defines a character is his goal and the choices that he makes in trying to obtain it. This book is excellent. It really is a brilliant discussion on what works on certain shows and why it works well as opposed to what didn’t work and why it didn’t work.

The whole post is worth reading — but I know what my favorite parts were!

The Dead Man is Roaring to Life!

I try not to use this blog for self-promotion — except, of course, for promoting  my Amazon #1 best-seller Writing the Pilot, available for the Kindle and as a beautiful new paperback, and also available for the Nook — but this news is too exciting not to share. As some of you may know, for the last few months Lee Goldberg and I have been self-publishing a series of supernatural action novels called The Dead Man. Today I can announce we’re not self-publishing anymore. We’ve just been picked up by the biggest name in the book business.

I could say more… but instead I’m going to quote from Lee, who has the whole story up on his great blog:


Okay, I can finally reveal some of big news I’ve been dying to share with you… 

I am thrilled to announce that Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint has picked up THE DEAD MAN series in a unique and exclusive 12-book digital & print deal … with an option for more. But that’s not all. Brilliance Audio will be also be rolling out their own editions of the books.

The five books that we’ve already published — FACE OF EVIL, RING OF KNIVES, HELL IN HEAVEN, THE DEAD WOMAN, and THE BLOOD MESA — will be re-released in the days leading up to Halloween … so keep your eyes peeled for great offers.

The sixth book in the series will be released in November and will be followed each month by another new adventure in the continuing saga of Matt Cahill, a man resurrected from the dead to battle evil among us that only he can see.

Amazon will also be releasing three-book compilations of THE DEAD MAN series in trade paperback (as well as in specially priced digital editions). The release dates of the first compilation, and the Brilliance Audio editions, have not been determined yet … but we’re hoping they’ll be ready for Christmas.

Bill Rabkin and I will continue to run the series, which we’re writing with a terrific group of action, horror, mystery, SF and western authors, like James Daniels, David McAfee, James Reasoner, Harry Shannon, Joel Goldman, Mel Odom, Jude Hardin, Lisa Klink, Mark Ellis, Matthew Mayo, Joe Nassise, Bill Crider, Matt Witten, Marcus Pelegrimas, Burl Barer, and Phoef Sutton.

And we couldn’t have hoped for a better partner than Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer. I just returned from meeting with the Thomas & Mercer team (including editors Terry Goodman and Andy Bartlett) in Seattle and was blown away by their creativity, enthusiasm, and eagerness to see THE DEAD MAN reach its full potential. They get exactly what Bill and I are trying to do with this series.

And what is that, you ask?

We want to capture the spirit of the “men’s action adventure” paperbacks of the 70s and 80s – short, tightly-written books full of hard-boiled heroes, outrageously sexy women, wild adventure, and gleefully over-the-top plots – and reboot the genre for a new generation that maximizes the potential of the Kindle.

And with Thomas & Mercer behind us, I don’t see how we can fail.


Another Fun Thing To Do When You Buy Writing the Pilot at Amazon

Whether you’re going for the Kindle edition or the spiffy new paperback, when you stop by Amazon to pick up Writing the Pilot, you can now download a free Kindle version of the pilot script for ABC’s new drama series Revenge.

It’s a great — and rare — opportunity to see the pilot script before you watch the actual show. (There’s a link at the back of the script you can follow to see the filmed pilot, as well.)

The script itself is a modern day version of The Count of Monte Cristo combined with The Real Housewives of The Hamptons. Which is actually a lot better than that sounds. My own feeling reading it was that it would make for a great ten episodes or so, and I’d have absolutely no idea how to keep the series going after that. But I assume ABC asked — and received answers — to that kind of question.

Of course, it is the same network that thought they could get multiple seasons out of Life on Mars and Flash Forward

Writing the Pilot — Finally In Paperback!

Until now it’s only been available as an ebook from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but now you can read Writing the Pilot without any kind of e-reader. Yes, thanks to the bold new invention of putting words onto paper, Writing the Pilot is available in a completely self-contained edition that will never run out of battery power. Even better, in its full 8.5 x 5.5 inches, you can treasure JT Lindroos’ brilliant cover as the work of art it is.


Write and Shoot Your Own – But Know Your Audience First!

I make a big point at the end of my book Writing the Pilot (currently available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, soon in paperback) that writing a spec pilot should not be an end, but a beginning. Technology for both filmmaking and distribution is so cheap these days there’s no reason to leave your script gathering dust on a shelf when your filmed show can be grabbing audiences on the web.

Of course finding that audience is always going to be the hard part. One quick shortcut? Find a bunch of viewers who feel like there’s nothing on that reflects their lives and write a show just for them.

That’s what Greg and Jennifer Willits are doing. They’re shooting the pilot for a new sitcom for and about Catholic families.

“There is a lot of Catholic catechesis out there but not a lot of Catholic entertainment. We want to prove that it can be done,” Greg said. “This is going to be a pilot, simply a proof of concept to hopefully inspire others in Catholic and secular media to push the envelope a bit creatively.”

I’ve got to admit, I’m not going to be going out of my way to hunt this down on the web, or to call DirecTV and demand they add Catholic TV to my channel list. But that’s exactly the point. I’m not their audience. They don’t need me to watch.

The Willits figured out who would want to watch their series and then set about writing and producing it for them. And even better, they found a large, wealthy institution that wants to reach the same audience, and seems to be providing the funding.

Will it work? Who knows? But it will have a chance to succeed or fail on its own merits… unlike a script that’s sitting in a drawer.

Why Pilots Fail – Special Wonder Woman Edition

Sometimes you hear about a pilot in production and it sounds like a slam dunk — star writer, hot concept, lots of early publicity. And then it goes away, never to be heard of again, and you’re left wondering what went wrong. But you’ll never find out, because for the last few years networks have been burying their failures.

Here’s a rare chance to see exactly why a high-profile pilot ended up going nowhere — it’s David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman, which has begun to leak out onto the web. Take a look.  (If the embed doesn’t work, click the link…)

You notice something special about that clip?

Probably not — because there’s simply nothing special here. It’s four minutes of absolutely routine running and chasing and superheroing. Four minutes. That’s nearly ten percent of a current network drama, and it’s taken up by fights and chases that are no different than anything you’ve seen a million times before. At its very best, the action makes you think of the movies its ripped off from — movies that did it so much better. At its worst, it’s two people running down a busy street, one of them wearing a silly costume.

And this is even worse:

Ever seen that scene before? I mean, except in a million other TV shows?

At least when a pilot is truly horrible, it stands out. This is just mush — bland, obvious, predictable. And that’s the biggest mistake you can make when developing your own pilot ideas. You can’t assume that just because you’ve got a Big Idea — in this case, an iconic superhero interpreted by an even more iconic showrunner — that the idea alone will carry you. You’ve got to make every minute count. That means even the standard hero-visits-wounded-pal-in-hospital scene has to have something fresh and new about it.

You can read much more about writing the spec pilot in my book, which is cleverly titled Writing the Pilot, and is available for the Kindle and the Nook — coming soon in paperback.

Writing the Sitcom Pilot – Great Video Series

My book Writing the Pilot (now available for the Nook!)tells you everything you need to know to write a drama pilot. But when it comes to sitcoms, there’s a whole different set of questions — and since I have no idea what the right answers are, I don’t even try. (I’m old fashioned that way…) Fortunately Ken Levine, whose decades of great work includes M*A*S*H and Cheers, as well as one of the best blogs around, now has a video series cleverly titled “How To Write a TV Sitom.” This is the first installment:

You can check out the rest of the series here.