The Next Bestseller: Why writers need their own reality show

One of my day jobs involves providing transcription services for a variety of reality TV shows. It’s a super fun gig, since I get to see all the behind-the-scenes drama and find out who wins different competition-based shows before they air (sorry, my lips are sealed!), but one thing that I haven’t seen during my daily work is a reality program centered around writing.


At first you might say, “Well, duh! That’s because writing is a solitary activity, done by people in their underwear, and it would be an extremely boring activity to watch live.”

But that’s where you’re wrong.

Entertainment Weekly posted an excellent article by Stephan Lee back in 2012, half-jokingly pitching a writer-centered reality show, and I am all for it. His proposed title was “Great American Author,” but he says it’d probably be changed by execs to “The Next Bestseller,” which I think is more apropos for the format.

What I particularly liked about Lee’s pitch was the workshop angle. As a former student of creative writing, I know all about the politics and bitchiness of the workshop environment, where one’s peers are allowed – nay, encouraged! – to tear apart your writing as well as your personality and ideas for having written whatever it is you submitted for criticism. Though a good workshop instructor will moderate comments by suggesting that your peers stay on topic and focus on the work, rather than the person who wrote it, many workshops quickly devolve into a fight for the teacher’s good graces or the most caustic insult.

This would make for great reality TV.

So why isn’t there a reality show about writers? It’s not as if we writers are too proud to hit the casting couch, that’s for sure. And, indeed, if there were a huge book deal to be had as the prize, I’m sure many of us would be tempted to try out. I know I would.

So, reality TV producers, take note: we writers are hungry for attention, both for the recognition due our brilliant prose and for the possibility of a six-figure advance. And some of us will stop at nothing in order to succeed, including participating in crazy writing challenges on national television. We’re also a pretty large chunk of the American TV watching populace, believe it or not (hey, those episodes of The Simpsons won’t watch themselves!), so I think this is a pretty bankable idea with a sizeable audience prepared to tune in weekly. Maybe even during primetime!

What about you, my fellow writers? Would you answer a casting call for a writer-based reality TV show?


  • Laura Roberts

    Exactly, Susan! I mean, who wants to waste all those hours behind a desk struggling for the right words when they could just be famous? I wonder if this is why people turn to poetry – at least you get out of the house for open mic nights.