How do you come up with an idea for a cable TV drama?

No, I’m asking.

Can you tell me? Because my next paycheck depends upon it.

First let me dispense with the bummer news: my network pilot did not get picked up. AGAIN.

This one hurt. They all hurt, but this one spun me around a bit. Last year, I kinda knew my network pilot wouldn’t fly. Though the characters and the world sprung from my very soul, I never quite got the pilot story to work.

This year’s try didn’t originate from inside my head. It was inspired by a real person’s life story. So it was more like an adoption. She didn’t look like me at first, but this baby became very much my own.

After much MUCH nurturing and care, she grew up powerful. Smart. She knew who she was, and she told her story well. I’m not the only writer who feels possibly delusional when she says her story works, so I’m relying not just on my questionable self-judgment but on others’ when I tell you: when there’s talk of casting, you get your hopes up.

So I waited by the phone, frantic and then frantic-er, as my network picked up one drama pilot and another and another. After its final pickup on a Friday night in February, the phone rang. If it was a go, on the call would be all my agents and my producers and my studio and my network. But no. Just my manager.

Facebook reminded me (thanks, Facebook!) that I posted the same news exactly a year ago. Which makes me wonder: why does it feel like such a gut-punch? Why am I not more prepared? I know the cycle by now, and its brutal punctuality. I know the odds. (If you’re curious, this article describes the process of the network pilot from pitch to pickup pretty accurately.)

I’ve been in this bizarro line of work for, what, five years now. This is my fifth script deal, my fourth sold pilot, third to network, one of those produced. None have made it to air. And each time one pilot dies, I feel like surely I will, too.

So before I bury this latest, please allow me a brief eulogy. My heroine was a lawyer, a veteran, a Latina and a mom. She pulled herself up from a violent past into a rarefied world of power and politics, on a mission to right old wrongs. How I wanted to see her come alive. Rest in peace, dead pilot. I loved you with all my heart.

And now: onto cable.

Got any ideas? Tweet them at me: @lisacullen. (I’m kidding. I dearly hope you’ll write your own ideas. But I’ll take your condolences, esp in the form of chocolate.)

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