I am not an expert screenwriter, nor do I pretend to be. But when I was looking on the internet for how-to guides on planning and writing TV series, I found very little, so had to come up with a plan all by myself. The system I came up with has worked brilliantly for planning two very different series (see Writing Scripts 1, Writing Scripts 2 and Writing Scripts 3) and then writing them, so I thought I would share my planning method.
Step One: Think of a good title
I shouldn’t need to explain the importance of this, but I will anyway.
A good title can make a huge difference to your approach when writing and can send the plot in many different directions. If you want a good series, you need a good title.
Step Two: Characters!
Think about the type of character involvement you want in your show. Do you want it to focus on just one character and have other minor characters, or do you want lots of main characters? Do you want no minor characters or lots? Decide on how many main characters you want before moving on.
Step Three: Storylines
One of the most important things in TV shows and the thing that really sets it apart from other types of writing is storylines. Consider storylines within each episode (see Step Seven) and the storylines that cover the whole series. Write a list of your main characters and write the storyline/s that will affect them or that they play major roles in next to their name. Don’t have too many storylines or too few. Too many gets confusing and too few gets boring.
Step Four: Key Events
Once you have a list of storylines, come up with the key events for each storyline. Average between three and seven key events for each storyline, unless you’re going for a really, really long one, in which case you could have about fifteen.
Step Five: Chronological Order
Count how many key events you have and then write a list of them in chronological order.
Step Six: Episodes
Divide your list of key events up into episode groups. This gives you the number of episodes in your series, although if you feel you have too many or too few you can always add more in or take some out.
Step Seven: Scenes
Take one piece of paper for each episode you have and on it write every key event and storyline featured in that episode. Then divide the episode into scenes. On the episode sheets also put the story around which that episode revolves.
Step Eight: Locations
Write a list of each main location in your show and then give each location a piece of paper upon which is written the details of it.
Step Nine: Episode Titles
Episode titles aren’t a big deal, but they should sum up what happens without giving too much away.