You – in the Writers Room

You’re in the writers room, working on a TV series. Every weekday you arrive, ready to collaborate with other smart writers. The showrunner, your boss, has created characters you’re excited to write for and a series you’re thrilled to help on. You have a desk and an office and the show buys you lunch every day. Before the season’s over you’ll (probably) be chosen to write a script or two [that’s up the showrunner].

So what’s your day like?

You go into a conference room and consider the episode you’re working on and the whole season. Along with your colleagues, you move the story ahead as best you can. Your job is to throw in story ideas and suggestions that advance plot and character. This might sound simple but it can be challenging. Brainstorming, which can be incredibly fun, is a job when you’re doing it 8 hours a day, five days a week. (Yes, it’s an amazing job.)

I’ve started working on a brand new TNT drama and have been in the room now for about two weeks. Having been on a few shows before, I have knowledge of the routine, although every room and every show is different. This project, for example, is my first new show – the other jobs I had were shows that were already up and running.

How do you prepare yourself for a job like this?

Here’s a way you can practice RIGHT NOW for the day you’re in the writers room:

As you watch TV, shift your brain from audience to writer. With each commercial break (or each episode) imagine what juicy thing might happen next. Consider how your invented storyline would fit with the tone and flavor of the show. Think about how the characters and other stories would be impacted for the season. Next, figure out how you would pitch those ideas to other people. The more you do this, the more you’ll prepare yourself for being in a writers room. Be aware, too, if you get into a room, it’s your job to stay open and collaborative. It’s NOT about insisting that your idea is the best. It is about contributing in service to the strongest dramatic take. The goal is to do all that while staying hopeful, positive and working well with the team.

Try this exercise and train yourself to see each story as a writer.

Once you’ve tried it, let me know how it worked for you.

By | 2018-04-01T17:01:20+00:00 March 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Steve Harper
STEVE HARPER is a writer, producer and actor. He was on the writing staff of the Emmy Award winning ABC show American Crime (created by John Ridley) and spent two seasons writing for the USA Network show Covert Affairs. Steve's original web series SEND ME, about time traveling black people (writer, actor and Executive Producer) was nominated for a 2016 Emmy. As a playwright he has written more than 20 works that have been produced across the country. Through, Steve has been working with artists of all kinds since 2008, helping them achieve clarity and focus in their creative careers. His specialty is working with artists as they write dramatic scripts. Steve has run workshops in New York, L.A. and in between. Through live events, online seminars, and his channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he’s helped thousands of writers and artists. Steve taught for The Harvardwood Writers Group, Young Playwrights and The Creative Gym. He’s been an instructor at the UCLA Extension School and a guest artist at Interlochen School for the Arts, Drexel University’s summer program in L.A. and USC’s Annenberg School. A graduate of Yale, The A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard and the playwriting program at Juilliard, he was certified by the Creativity Coaching Association in 2013.