Writing & Screenwriting Advice from Maria Semple

By Jason Boog Comment


In this vintage edition of the Morning Media Menu, we interviewed Where’d You Go, Bernadette author Maria Semple. Press play below to listen on SoundCloud.

She talked about her transition from television scriptwriter to novelist. Semple wrote for shows that included Beverly Hills 90210Saturday Night LiveMad About You, and Arrested Development.

During the interview, Semple (pictured, via) delivered some tough and timeless advice for writers considering moving into scriptwriting.

Here’s an excerpt from the 2010 interview:

I would say pick your imploding industry. I think the era of huge TV writing money is totally over. I know from talking to my friends. Right now, if I was working in Hollywood, I would make a half to a third of what I was making four years ago…it’s going through a lot of brutal changes. The amount of viewers is scary compared to what it was ten years ago, five years ago when there was real money and careers to be made.

She concluded with television writing advice:

You have to do what everybody does. It’s very humbling. You have to have to pick a show (or two shows) and write a spec script for them and show that you can write the form, basically. Some people, especially literary people, they think, ‘I’ll write this original script and it will be full of ideas. I’ll submit it, and they’ll hire me for television. That’s not the case. It might make them interested to see you can write a Mad Men, but they don’t want a Mad Men filled with a lot of original ideas. They want to see if you can be broken and conform to the strict set of internal rules for any show.