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.