The British Sitcom Guide

Writers Area WRITERS' AREA

Comedy Writing Area - Writing Related Books

If you're seriously considering writing a sitcom we can't stress how important it is to purchase some books. There is knowledge, advice and information in the books below which we haven't been able to include in our small area here but you really do need to know if you are to have any chance of creating a successful sitcom.

Obviously some books are more relevant than others so pick which ones to purchase carefully. We personally recommend the top three books as, in our opinion, they're the most relevant and useful of the lot. They're pretty cheap too!

We've linked all the books below through to Amazon UK however you'll probably also find them stocked in most other large bookshops too.

If you've read any of the below or have browsed any other writing related books please do get in touch - we'd love to know what you thought of them!

How to be a Sitcom Writer How to be a Sitcom Writer - Recommended!
Marc Blake - Summersdale Publishers

This book offers comprehensive advice on all the stages involved in creating a sitcom - it'll help you fulfil your potential by encouraging, testing and pulling you through the world of sitcom-writing - from getting a really good first idea right up to dealing with production companies and agents.

Filled with advice to inspire the would-be sitcom writer, this book analyses what makes a great sitcom and guides you through the workings of the business with great up-to-date references and examples throughout.

Written by sitcom expert Marc Blake the book contains some unique tutorials and exercises which will help you really analyse what your doing. It's also anything but boring and dull as the pages are peppered with the writers' humour and a number of funny ideas for situations.

The main chapters are: (1) Sitcom Essentials (2) Where Do I Begin? (3) Practicalities of Sitcom (4) Character (5) Situation and Relationships (6) Plotting (7) The Script (8) The Business of Sitcom.

At under a fiver (on Amazon anyway) this book is a real must-have in our opinion and we're fairly confident reading it will definitely boost your chances of getting your script commissioned!

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Writing Sitcoms Writing Sitcoms - Recommended!
John Byrne & Marcus Powell - A & C Black

This book by Radio 4 sitcom writers Byrne and Powell is our other recommended book - if you've got another seven pounds spare ( Amazon 's discounted price) get this book too.

'Writing Sitcoms' is well laid out and covers all aspects of sitcom writing from the planning stage through to sticking it on screen. It's slightly more wordy that Marc Blake's book however does contain some really useful advice. The book spreads itself quite widely spending some time on writing for the radio and stage too.

What we particularly like about this book is that the writers have included pages of example scripts written by themselves which they analyse and discuss.

The main chapters are: (1) The Sitcom (2) Starting Your Sitcom (3) Settings and Scenarios (4) Plot and Dialogue (5) The Finished Article (6) Drafts and Rewrites (7) Selling your Sitcom (8) From Script to Screen (9) The Business of Being a Sitcom Writer.

In summary Writing Sitcoms is a great companion to 'How to be a Sitcom Writer' - if you can, get both these two books!

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Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2006 The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2006 - Recommended!
A & C Black

This yearbook, at a basic level, functions as a huge directory of useful contacts. It lists the names and details of loads of companies and people including TV stations, publishers, agents, magazines and more - not every entry is sitcom related as this book is aimed at lots of different professions however there are plenty of entries which you will find of use.

The Writer's and Artist's Yearbook is more than just a glorified phone directory though. It also offers loads of short guides on everything from getting started to the copyright issues surrounding your script.

The 2006 edition, introduced by Terry Pratchett, is out now and well worth your investment if you are planning on looking to sell your script in the next year.

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Jerry Rannow - Allworth Press (USA)

Drawing on more than 25 years experience, prolific writer Jerry Rannow (who's writing credits include 'Happy Days') provides a humorous and eye-opening guide to conceiving, writing and marketing a winning TV sitcom in this book. He shows how to construct a story outline; structure and format scripts; develop character and dialogue and work with networks and studios.

The book contains some useful information but be warned - it is very much geared towards the American market. Quite a lot of the pages are just not applicable to British sitcom writing - after all it is a whole different comedy world on the other side of the atlantic - different things make people laugh over there and the business world surrounding script commissions operates differently too.

This book is ideal if you're planning to write for the American market, probably as part of a writing team, however if your planning to write a British sitcom, unless you've got some spare cash for another point-of-view, it's probably not worth purchasing this book in our opinion.

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Successful Sitcom Writing Successful Sitcom Writing
Jurgen Wolff - Saint Martin's Press

We've not had a chance to read Jurgen Wolff's book yet however the blurb on the back says it discusses methods for developing original scripts for sitcoms, offers advice for selling scripts, and includes sample scripts, interviews with industry experts, and analyses of recent successful sitcoms.

It sounds fairly promising - especially the interviews - however it is clearly written by an American so much like the book above is probably not that applicable to the UK market. We imagine the examples and analysis will mostly be of American sitcoms and the advice for selling scripts only really applicable within North America.

If you give this book a try do let us know what you thought of it.

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Julian Friedmann - Intellect Books

This book is a little different from the books above in that it offers a more in-depth practical guide to the business side of scriptwriting. It covers in some depth how you should deal with producers and agents and offers tips on such areas as pitching ideas, handling meetings, negotiating contracts and establishing copyright.

It's not a sitcom specific book so contains some irrelevant examples and tips from our point-of-view however, if you're getting to the stage where you think your sitcom is about to get picked up by a production company, it could be a very worthwhile investment of £15.

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Writing Television Sitcoms Writing Television Sitcoms
Evan S Smith - G P Putnam's Sons

Written over six years ago this book is getting a little dated now however it does offer another take on how to write a good sitcom. In the book Evan Smith outlines his premise-driven comedy writing method which some writers have said really gets rid of their writers block.

The writer also examines how comedy affects character development and story structure, discusses guidelines on script layouts and offers advice on establishing a career.

It's not a bad book however like some of the others above it is irritatingly geared towards writing within Los Angeles thus the section on careers and some of the examples are irrelevant to those looking to make it in our world of British sitcom.

If you've got some spare cash though it may be worth picking up a copy as the book is well written in a straight forward manner and the premise-driven method outlined in it could be for you?

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The Sitcom Career Handbook The Sitcom Career Handbook
Mary Lou Belli & Phil Ramuno - Backstage Books

Written by two experienced television directors this book offers a very broad view of the American sitcom scene.

It is a pretty chunky book which covers everything from filming a sitcom to getting an acting role in one. There is a bit of useful information on the rules, the language and the traditions of sitcom and, interestingly and uniquely, the authors walk readers through a typical, five-day sitcom schedule and offer first-person accounts of what it feels like to be on a set.

Much of the book will be irrelevant to most people reading this page though as a lot of the book is taken up with non-writing related profiles and advice.

If you're looking for a broad view of the American sitcom scene this could be for you however be warned - it is very American so not suitable for anyone looking for an insight into British sitcom filming as we do things totally differently over here!

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The Eight Characters of Comedy The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to Sitcom Acting and Writing
Scott Sedita - SCB Distributors

The Eight Characters of Comedy is a Hollywood "How-To" guide for actors and writers who want to break into the world of American situation comedy.

It's as much about acting as writing and, like some of the other books above, is entirely geared up to the American market so is not really suitable for those looking to break into the British market.

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Marc Blake - Summersdale Publishers

At the top of this page we've recommended Marc Blake's 'How to be a Sitcom Writer'. His other book which looks at the more broad category of comedy writing is also very useful and interesting.

This book doesn't focus on the mechanics of writing a sitcom - that's left to the other book - this one is more about how to write funny things. It analyses and describes all the various forms of humour and offers advice on how to structure the perfect joke.

If you want your sitcom to make people split their sides with laughter this could be what you need to help you achieve your goal.

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How to get Published How to get Published
Stewart Ferris - Summersdale Publishers

This book is also part of the 'Secrets from the Inside' series. It's written by Stewart Ferris, a key player in the publishing world. In the book he covers the world of publishing - offering helpful hints and advice throughout.

It won't be useful to everyone however if you find yourself heading down the book route instead or dealing with commissioners it could be just what you need!

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Other related books you might find interesting...

Books about developing characters:
Developing Characters for Script Writing , , Creating Unforgettable Characters , Building Believable Characters

Radio based books:
, Writing for Radio (Horstmann)

General comedy writing books:
, The Comic Toolbox , Writing Comedy , Teach Yourself Comedy Writing , ,

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