How To Write For TV:
The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Writing For TV and Breaking Into the Industry.

And why feature writers should write a spec TV script too.

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by Script Reader Pro in TV Writing
June 15, 2022 188 comments
how to write for TV

How to write for TV: a step-by-step guide to starting your career as a TV writer. 

As an aspiring screenwriter, you may have noticed there’s quite a bit of confusing information out there regarding writing for television.

In this post, we’re also going to dispel many of the myths and confusion surrounding writing TV scripts.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:  

Should I write a spec TV script if I’m a feature writer? (Yes)

If I want to start writing for television, should I try writing a TV show that’s already on air, or an original?

What about single or multi-camera?

Network or cable?

How should I format a TV script?

What can I do to break into television writing once my script’s done?

So let’s get to it. (Full disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase something we make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

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If you want to get into TV script writing you’ll need a “spec” TV script (or three).

As in the land of features, if you want to break in, you’ll need a spec TV script. This is a script written “speculatively” that showcases your talents and can be used as a calling card.

In TV, there are two main types of spec script:

“Spec TV episode” for an existing show

• “Spec TV pilot” for an original show

Let’s take a quick look at both of these in turn.

What is a spec TV episode?

In the world of TV script writing, a “spec” usually means a sample episode of an existing show. It’s also known as a “TV spec”, “sample episode” and “spec episode.” For the sake of clarity, we’re going to use the latter.

Writing a spec episode is the traditional way writers use to break into television writing. But it’s less in vogue now than a few years ago.

This entails writing an episode of an existing TV series that showcases your ability to write current characters that people know and love. In a way that feels real and familiar, yet fresh.

It means writing characters with pre-set voices and personalities in order to demonstrate that you’re a powerful writer with imagination. But also one who can follow the rules. This means following the show’s formatting structure and overall “voice” of the show.

Writing a spec episode of, say, Modern Family, would require you writing all the families as we know them now. In other words, their quirky character personalities, breaking the fourth wall, etc. And all within intertwining, compelling and funny stories.

How TV writing used to be… 

A while back, this used to be by far the best way to break into writing for television. You’d write a spec episode of a series you loved, and then submit that work through your agent or manager for consideration for a staffing position.

If you “totally got” the way Ross and Rachel bounced off each other. Or had a terrific take on an episode of Law & Order. And you were able to execute a spec TV episode of those shows with confidence, then chances were pretty good that you would be happily considered for a staffing position on that show. Or a similar one.

Executives and showrunners would hire writers who could effectively emulate the tone and voice of the show they were staffing. And a spec episode was the best way to measure that ability.

But times have changed, and so too has the professional strategy for breaking into television writing.

In Hollywood today, spec episodes are much less popular than they used to be. Some showrunners now only read spec pilots for original shows.

This is not to say, however, that writing a spec episode is a complete waste of your time. You’re still building your writing chops, and will also be able to use it as a sample of your writing ability that could get you noticed.

Fellowship season (more on this later) is a prime example of an avenue you can pursue that looks exclusively for spec episodes from aspiring writers.

But let’s bring things up to date with another strategy you can use to begin a career writing for television…

How to write a script for TV

What is a spec TV pilot?

This is a TV script written on spec for an original show you’ve created from scratch and is also known as an “original spec”, “sample pilot” or simply a “pilot.” Again, for clarity, we’ll be sticking to the term “spec pilot.”

It’s easy to imagine that writing a TV show that’s compelling and original is as simple as writing a feature screenplay, but shorter. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong on two counts. Not only is writing a feature about as difficult as it gets but writing a television pilot is in some ways even more difficult.

Sure, the page count is slimmer. But the reality is a pilot functions as a seed for the series it’s jumpstarting. And in order to write a pilot that works as both a writing sample and a potentially saleable series, you have to consider the rest of the tree before you even plant the seed.

How TV writing is today… 

Now, it’s all about “voice.”

Whether you intend to write a TV series for a network or cable, the most important element is that you bring your voice to the project. Your unique view of the world that stands out from the stack of spec TV scripts piled on the desk of any rep, producer or executive.

It’s no secret that we’re going through a second “golden age of television.” Bold, creative choices garner critical praise and admiration. Not only from executives and producers but also, ultimately, high ratings from audiences worldwide.

In other words, television that makes bold creative choices is good for business.  Shows like Master of None, Stranger Things and Atlanta have inspired networks to pursue standout TV show ideas and original voices.

All of which means that showing you can emulate the voice of an existing show has become much less valuable than demonstrating that you have a unique point of view. And the ability to tell an original narrative in an exciting way.

Should I choose to write a spec episode or spec pilot?

Spec feature scripts are written with the intention of being sold and produced. Or at least function as a calling card to showcase a writer’s ability.

TV specs, on the other hand—both spec episodes and spec pilots—are generally used solely as calling cards. The ultimate aim is to get staffed on an existing show.

Just as no one is going to actually film your spec episode of Game of Thrones, it’s super unlikely that anyone is going to buy and produce your original spec pilot.

Only a select few have been made in this way, such as Mad Men, Glee, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And even then, their route to the small screen wasn’t a traditional one, in the sense of being shopped around and bought.

Surely there are exceptions to this TV writing “rule”? 

• The Mad Men spec pilot was written by Matthew Weiner, an established TV writer who had all the right contacts and was able to sell it to AMC.

Glee was written as a feature by an undiscovered writer and found its way into the hands of Nip/Tuck creator, Ryan Murphy.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was a short film, made by and starring a bunch of L.A. actors.

The TV specs that do get bought, tend to be by writers who have a track record. Either in TV (Mad Men by Matthew Weiner), or features (Crisis In Six Scenes by Woody Allen) or both.

So don’t fall into the trap many aspiring TV writers make of concentrating on writing a spec pilot with the sole aim of selling it and getting it produced.

Never say never, of course. But the problem is that there is no traditional “spec market” in television that operates in the same way as in the feature market.

Keep in mind that execs and producers are not really looking for those next big TV show idea from aspiring writers. They do everything in-house.

Can I write a spec TV episode and a spec TV pilot?

Yes! Ideally, you should have both.

The odds of having an original pilot purchased and produced are astronomically high. Even less than selling a feature spec. But having an original pilot is still important. An original pilot shows what you can do when it comes to creating fresh new worlds, marketable concepts, and original characters.

Fresh voices are always sought after and always welcomed. As in the land of features, your voice and your view on the world is what makes you stand out on paper.

So we advise writing a spec episode and a spec original pilot to show the breadth of your talents, and to give yourself the best possible chance of getting staffed on an existing show.

Becoming a TV writer means being flexible. 

As someone looking to start a career writing TV show scripts, we also recommend creating a portfolio that tonally compliments itself. In other words, write an original spec pilot of a show that tonally and thematically explores the same areas as your spec episode of an existing show.

For example, let’s say you’ve written a dark spec pilot that really pushes the envelope when it comes to crime drama. In this case, you’d probably do well to spec an episode of, say, Sneaky Pete, which shows your ability to also handle more mainstream TV sensibilities.

Let’s now take a look at six steps you should take when learning how to write for tv. These are the fundamental questions that should get you started as you consider how to write a script for a TV show, whether that’s a spec TV episode or pilot.

how to write for TV

How to write for TV step #1: decide where you’d feel most at home.

Imagine for a moment your ideal TV writing gig… Are you staffed on a network channel like ABC or NBC? Or on cable, i.e. on a show airing on HBO or FX?

This is a crucial distinction, as your answer will dictate the tone and style of spec TV scripts you’ll be writing.

TV writing on networks explained.

If you think you’d feel more at home writing for a network, you’ll be defined by a sense of (for lack of a better word) conventionality. These channels are the homes of workhouse series that rarely veer too far from a relatively rigid format.

Think of shows like Grey’s Anatomy or Modern Family. If you consider their structures by breaking down individual episodes into specific beats, you’ll find that they follow the same arc in almost every episode.

While it might sound like this would make these series easier to write, the opposite is most often true, as finding a series that will function on the 500th episode in a fashion similar to its first episode is a taxing process.

TV writing on cable and streaming explained.

If, on the other hand, you think you’re more of a cable or specialty homes type of writer (think streaming services like Netflix and Hulu), your work will have more scope for originality.

This medium naturally invites a more exciting degree of novelty as it allows the writer to branch out from traditional structure for both comedy and hour-long drama. In this space, you can let your wildest creative impulses guide you in a more broad and expansive direction.

Look at a series like Atlanta, or True Detective, or Insecure. These shows upend convention and focus more specifically on the creators’ unique voices.

They play around with audience expectation, giving us one-off episodes that follow secondary characters. Their protagonists and worlds that are often reflective more of their creators’ worldview than any expectation of what a show “should be like.” A worldview which is often imposed on new writers by network and studio executives.

On a more pragmatic level, cable shows offer more flexibility in terms of profanity, violence and on-screen sexuality. These series are often presented in a limited number of episodes, i.e. to tell an anthology story, as opposed to a franchise designed to run for decades.

In other words, there are more creative liberties for you as a creator and, currently, there is also more opportunity in this space.

Overall, if you want to write this type of show, your choice of content is not so restricted. Procedurals—including shows about hospitals, police work and legal fields—tend to land on traditional TV.

But if you want to go all out with zombies, sci-fi or any other genre, you will find endless creative freedom beyond the boundaries of network television.

How to write for TV step #2: pick a couple of shows you love.

Firstly, what TV shows do you absolutely love? And secondly, what genre are they?

This may seem like a simple statement to make. But it’s important that you focus on the genre and type of show that’s going to keep you excited, rather than writing something just because it’s “current.”

Your enthusiasm for the tone and genre of script you’re writing will come across on the page—in the story world, plot, characters, dialogue, and so on.

Start by writing a list of your favorite TV shows.

Start by making a list of your favorite shows and then decide what one you want to write as a spec episode or emulate in a spec pilot.

However, rather than write a list that contains both drama and comedy, pick one over the other. As a newbie television writer, you’re much better off positioning yourself within a certain genre, instead of attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades who can “write anything.”

Deciding on a genre is about as elemental as it gets, but it will give your script its first embryonic shape.

Do you want to write drama? If so, then your TV scripts should typically fall somewhere between 55 and 65 pages. If you want to write comedy TV show scripts, then they should be landing around the 25-page mark, but these are by no means hard and fast rules.

Once you know where your natural TV writing habitat lies—network or cable—what your favorite shows are within that space, and whether you want to kick off with a spec episode or spec pilot, you’re ready to start some serious research.

A quick note on writing spec TV episodes: pick a show that’s popular and currently on air.

For example, even though Frasier may be your favorite show of all time, once a show is over it becomes obsolete in terms of using it as a writing sample.

How to write a script for a TV show step #3: research your chosen show(s) to death.

Attempting to learn how to write a TV script without actually studying your chosen show, is a bit like trying to learn to play rock guitar without learning any Jimi Hendrix licks.

Make it your mission to know whatever show you want to write or emulate, inside out. Do this by following these steps:

Read as many TV scripts as you can.

A good starting place is this collection of 50 of the Best TV Scripts to Download in Every Genre. You should also go to a screenplay download site, such as SimplyScripts or Script City and download as many episodes of your favorite show as you can and get reading.

Note: You want to go for the actual teleplays, though, and not one of those ubiquitous “transcripts.” These just contain someone’s transcript of the dialogue and nothing else.

Reading the real TV scripts of the series you want to write or emulate is probably the best way to learn how to write for TV.

Write outlines of TV shows.

We’re big believers in writing outlines of movies as you watch them and then breaking them down in order to master structure, and the same goes for writing a TV series.

Simply, sit down with your laptop and type out what happens on screen in one or two sentences. Then break down the resulting document into sequences and acts.

Transcribe TV shows.

I know a moment ago we told you not to bother with reading transcripts, but actually writing them yourself is another matter.

You’ll learn so much about how to write a script for a TV show. Whereas writing outlines is great for learning about structure, writing transcripts is great for dialogue and will really help you find the voice of your characters.

Read books on how to write a TV show.

There are some great books out there on how to write for TV such as Writing the TV Drama: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV by Pamela Douglas.

We also highly recommend Writing The Pilot, by William Rabkin.

Do all of the above and you’ll not only learn the exciting stuff on how to write for TV. But now it’s time to get to the less exciting stuff—the technicalities…

how to write a TV script

How to write a TV show step #4: master television script format. 

Now, we know you can’t wait to get stuck in and start creating that unique world or kick-ass episode of an existing show, but it’s important to also be able to present your TV script professionally.

If you’re used to writing feature screenplays, then switching to TV scripts shouldn’t be too much problem as the fundamentals are pretty much the same.

Especially when it comes to writing a single-camera show for cable or streaming.

Do I have to buy screenwriting software, or can I just write my TV script in Word?

The first thing you want to do is purchase one of these five best screenwriting software if you don’t already own one. This will help make sure your script formatting is up to industry standard.

Final Draft handily has the TV script formats for many of the most popular shows preloaded in its template database.

There are also some free screenwriting software options out there, but if you want to take breaking into TV script writing seriously, we’d recommend spending a bit on some pro gear.

Professional scriptwriting software will take most of the formatting heavy lifting out of your hands, leaving you to concentrate on what counts: the story and characters.

The biggest thing you’ll have to watch out for when writing a TV script, is its structure, as this will affect the formatting.

Television script format and structure: a clear overview. 

Broadly speaking, your TV script’s structure will fall into one of the three categories below:

• 1-hour drama. This is a 60-minute show that may or may not contain commercial breaks. They can roughly be broken down into procedurals such as The Mentalist, i.e. self-contained stories every week, and serialized shows such as Homeland, in which the plotline develops from episode to episode.

• 30-minute single-camera comedy. Single-cams feel more like a feature film as they’re shot in the same way, sometimes utilizing a hand-held camera style. Examples include The Goldbergs and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

• 30-minute multi-camera comedy. Multi-camera comedies represent the traditional way of filming sitcoms: in a studio, sometimes in front of a live audience, sometimes with a laughter track. Frasier and Last Man Standing are both examples of this format.

As we’ve mentioned, there’s not a great deal of a difference between writing features and TV writing. The main difference between the two—and also between writing a 1-hour drama and 30-minute comedy—is how the stories are structured.

So let’s now take a brief look at the different structures of each of these three TV script formats. 

(Note: The following examples are all for networks as they include teasers, act breaks and tags. Writing for cable generally means you leave this out and format the script in the exact same way you would a feature.)

1-hour drama.

Here are the main elements of a 1-hour TV drama—all of which, unlike in features, are written directly onto the page by the writer:

• Teaser
• Act 1

• Act 2
• Act 3

• Act 4
• Act 5 (sometimes)

Some contain commercial breaks while others don’t. If they do, then the next time you watch your favorite drama, note where they land as these will give you your act breaks.

Here’s an example of 1-hour TV script formatting from the Breaking Bad  pilot:

how to write for TV

Generally speaking, the Teaser takes up the first two to five pages, introduces the audience to the characters and story world, and (hopefully) hooks them into wanting to see more.

Then the subsequent acts each gain in conflict, much like in a feature, and end on a big cliffhanger to hook the audience into watching the next act or episode.

If you’re writing for a network, each one prefers their acts at different lengths and to be broken down in different ways, so you will want to tailor your script according to their preferences.

This is where you as a writer need to do your research.

Here are some 1-hour TV scripts to read:

Breaking Bad

Game of Thrones

Sneaky Pete

30-minute single-camera comedy.

The way a 30-minute single-camera show is formatted is pretty much the same as a feature or a 1-hour TV drama.

While some single-camera shows confusingly actually sometimes use more than one camera, the key element to bear in mind is that they have more of a cinematic feel to them.

Here are the main elements of a 30-minute single-camera show—again, with headings written directly onto the page:

• Cold Open (same thing as a Teaser)

• Act 1

• Act 2

• Act 3

• Tag

And here’s an example of a single-camera TV script from Parks and Recreation:

how to write for tv

The obvious difference here is that all of the conflict is condensed into just three acts (sometimes only two).

They also contain a Tag at the end of the script which acts as a “button” to the whole show—that final joke for the audience to take away with them.

Here are a few single-camera TV scripts for you to read:

Modern Family

New Girl

 Parks and Recreation

30-minute multi-camera comedy.

Multi-camera TV scripts are kind of an entity all to themselves when it comes to formatting.

Unlike, features, 1-hour drama scripts and single-camera sitcoms, multi-camera TV show scripts tend to have a more technical “production” formatting style, which can bloat an otherwise regular 22-page script into 52 or more.

This is because they’re shot fast, usually in front of a live studio audience, and so their formatting needs to be that much more specific.

Here’s an example of the formatting in a multi-camera sitcom script, Frasier:

how to write a script for a tv showThe first thing you’ll notice is that all action lines are written in ALL CAPS. There are also many more stage directions and much more underlining going on than in other script formats.

Also, all the dialogue is double-spaced which, along with the description being in ALL CAPS, helps beef up the page count.

Here are some multi-camera TV scripts to read:

The Big Bang Theory



Now, some people advise against aspiring TV writers employing the multi-camera format in their spec episodes and just write them in the more familiar single-camera style. This is because it’s deemed too complicated and specialized to pull off correctly.

However, we think that if you do your research correctly there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the opportunity to show whoever reads your script that you’ve really taken the time to master the craft.

In closing, remember that aside from the structure, different networks, cable and streaming services also have their own formatting requirements. One may want scene headings underlined, while another may prefer they’re not and so on.

The best advice we can give is find produced scripts in your chosen field and then study them until their format and structure become second nature.

How to write a TV show step #5: write a jaw-droppingly good script.

Now that you’ve decided where you’d like to work, in what genre, and mastered the basics of formatting, you can start to get into the fun stuff: writing a killer TV script that will open doors for you.

This is, of course, easier said than done, but this is where your talent and perseverance as a writer needs to come to the fore.

We don’t have space in this post to get into the minutiae of how to write a TV show script (there are plenty of great books on writing for TV out there.) So we’re going to focus here on the most important element you should take away with you.

How do I make my spec TV script unique?

The most relevant question you can ask yourself if you’re writing an original 1-hour spec pilot is: What’s my personal connection to this material?

In other words, why are you the only person who could tell this story? The more specific and honest an answer you can give to this question, the more value you’ll bring to the material.

The first step of breaking into the TV writing business using a spec pilot is writing one that communicates you, your worldview, and your unique story.

Not only should this pilot sample be a reflection of your interests and vision, but it should also be loud and attention-grabbing. This is your calling card, so make it something special and you will be presenting yourself as a strong addition to any writing staff.

How to create a TV show bible.

A way to really stand out amongst the crowd of TV writing aspirants, consider building out a “show bible”—a document that touches on the broad goals of your series. Address character, set up, what each individual episode feels like, and how you view the series growing beyond a single season.

Really dig into what your primary story arcs are, and how they’ll integrate into the B and C stories. Basically, what are the beats that define your series? What are the most significant elements that make your series unique?

Is your series a procedural, where every episode of each season follows the same pattern? Or is it an anthology series like American Horror Story, which reboots its story each season, in spite of having a thematic through-line?

In other words: you’ve written a great pilot, but you’re also considering the future of your concept.

Admittedly, this is a challenging prospect, but one that will serve you well in the long term. Not only will you have a greater understanding of what your series is (and how to pitch it), you’ll also be in a stronger position to sell your work if you ever find yourself in the position of doing so down the line.

In our post How to Pitch for TV, you can find show bibles examples and practical tips on how to pitch your tv show idea. Take your time, build your world, and execute your vision with confidence and precision.

How to write a script for a TV show

How to write for TV step #6: research how to break in. 

Once you’ve completed the hard work of actually writing your brilliant new TV script, you’re undoubtedly eager to share your work with the most powerful hands in Hollywood. And this is where the real work begins…

As with writing features, your best bet is to find a manager or producer who accepts submissions or queries and do whatever you need to do to get your work in front of them.

Check out this post How to Get a Screenwriting Agent for a more in-depth guide.

How to gain representation as a TV writer. 

The general thing you want to do, though, is to fully research the lay of the land and where your TV spec may find a home.

Work out who are the people you want to get your work in front of—people who fit your brand, genre, sensibilities, and target demographic. For example, there’s no point submitting your dark n’ edgy crime thriller to Nickelodeon.

In short, even if you have a terrific manager already, or land one in your pursuit of staffing success, the truth is you truly do need a television agent to break into the industry.

Television agents have a special relationship with staffing executives and producers, and without making it past this threshold, you have very little chance of even booking a general meeting with television executives.

There are, however, a few other viable routes which you can use which circumvent the traditional need for representation in order to staff: TV writing contests, fellowships, and labs.

Let’s take a look at each in turn.

TV script writing contests.

There are a number of television writing competitions that promise to boost your career in impossible ways, but we can assure you: there’s no “get successful quick” scheme that actually works.

Instead, do some due diligence and seek out the reputable contests that’ll guarantee to help advance your career.

Do your research on the best screenwriting contests out there, most of which have dedicated TV writing categories.

TV writing fellowships and labs.

Several networks run television writing fellowships and labs for talented, aspiring writers and are a fantastic way of breaking into the industry if you’re lucky enough to get picked.

They often offer the opportunity to get paired up and mentored by seasoned TV writers, but you’ll have to submit a TV spec episode and the competition is tough.



• Universal

 Sundance Episodic Storytelling Lab

 Warner Bros.


These are all trustworthy incubators for television talent that rely on just your writing, as opposed to the staffing process that involves several rounds of meetings (and having to impress a whole network’s worth of people!)

how to write a tv show“My experience put to work a bit of all of the above. I trained as a writer in a graduate program that opened a lot of professional doors for me. Through the connections I made there (and unfortunately, undeniably, connections are an enormous part of this process), I was able to get my work in front of a manager who saw my vision and supported my goals as a writer.

“After working on features with my manager, I sold a script for a high-concept feature that opened lots of doors for me, including pairing me with a features agent. Months later, I was invited to participate in the Sundance Episodic Storytelling Lab for a television project that eventually found me a terrific television agent who also supports my vision and abilities”. John McClain (Screenwriter)

How do I work my way up the TV writing ladder? 

Finally, another tried and trusted way to break into writing for television is to get a job as a writing assistant, or at least in the mail room at a production company or agency.

Age plays a factor here, though, as most of these positions are taken by graduates and people in their twenties. In fact, when learning how to write for TV, it’s also important to consider other factors within and outside of your control…

Is age an issue when becoming a TV writer?

It is important to note that age is definitely something that dictates your options in TV land. The younger you are, the more attractive you are to a showrunner because your voice and style are expected to be young and current.

It is how it is, though, so keep that in mind if you are going to turn your life upside down to try and get staffed on a show.

We have a post on Agism in Hollywood that you might want to check out too.

What about location?

If you’re writing features you can be practically anywhere in the world when it comes to breaking in.

Of course, we recommend being in Los Angeles which we’ve already written about in our post 4 Bad Reasons Screenwriters Give For Not Moving To LA (And Why You Should Ignore Them).

When it comes to writing for television, however, you really do need to live where they make TV. This is because you’ll not be able to get staffed on a show if you can’t walk in the next day and start work.

In this respect, it’s much more like a regular day job, and you wouldn’t expect to get a job on Wall Street while living in Tacoma.

Click to tweet this post. 

How to write a script for a TV show: frequently asked questions. 

Q1. What degree do you need to write for TV?
A. If you’re wondering how to get a job writing for TV, put any thoughts about needing a degree first out of your mind. The best (and cheapest) way to break in is as outlined above in this post. However, if you have the time, money, and are relatively young, then here are the best screenwriting courses in the US, Canada and worldwide.

Q2. How do you break into writing for TV? 
A. Follow the advice in this post! Keep writing, breaking down and analyzing TV scripts, getting feedback on your spec TV scripts, reading TV scripts, marketing, networking, etc. and, with some patience, you can  make it. Is it hard to become a TV writer? In a word, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Far from it.

Q3. How much do TV script writers get paid? 
A. It all depends, of course, but if you’re in the WGA, it’ll probably be somewhere between $5 and $50 per episode.

Q4. How do you become a Netflix writer? 
A. Luckily we have a post on how to do just that: How to Pitch a TV Show to Netflix, Cable and the Networks in 8 Steps.

How to write for TV: conclusion.

In the end, we recommend attempting to break into Hollywood armed with a portfolio that contains both feature screenplays and TV scripts.

The two play off each other and so you may get an assignment in one format which leads to greater things in the other. Keep your options open and be flexible, because having success in either medium will naturally help the other.

Like with writing features, writing for television all comes down to story and character. So remember to always be original and fresh, even if you are writing a spec of a pre-existing show.

Always come up with original TV show ideas, always stick to your unique voice, put them down on the page and see where they take you.


We hope this guide has helped dispel some of the confusion surrounding how to write a script for a TV show and wish you the best of luck on your journey. Leave a comment below and feel free reach out with any questions you may have on how to write for TV. 

Got a TV script you want us to review? Check out our TV script coverage services.

how to write for TV

Enjoyed this post? Read more on how to write for TV (and features too)…

How to Pitch a TV Show to Netflix, Networks and More Like a Pro

50 of the Best TV Scripts to Download and Study to Improve Your Writing

Screenwriting Managers List to Download: 130+ of the Top Hollywood Managers

[© Photo credits: Unsplash]

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  3. Dwayne Pagnotto says:

    I’m a 59 yr old writer/artist, and my mind is overflowing with ideas. As a result, I already have a substantial portfolio that I have developed. I have one screenplay. One TV pilot, plus a second episode. An episode of Seinfeld that I came up with. Yes, I do know I need to have written about a current TV show. But I no longer bother watching too much current TV. Old movies and dead sitcoms from the 70’s and 80’s are what I watch. Plus I have a Romantic/Reality game show that I’ve also written.

    Plus I have about thirty or so other stories that I wish to develop into other screenplays or TV shows. My question to you all is, what if I don’t wish to be a staff writer? What if wanna keep on working on my own stuff and submit whatever I finish and get paid for those? I don’t wish to be stuck working on just one TV show.

    Is this possible? Or is it just submit my stuff, hope to get staffed on some well-established TV show on one of the big networks, or that’s it?

    I still have to work on my show bible for the TV show I came up with, so my portfolio is not quite ready yet. But it’s getting there.

    I truly appreciate any advice you can give me.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      If you’re not interested in getting staffed on a TV show then we’d recommend writing movies. That’s more the model you’re describing here, so maybe your stories can be adapted to feature format.

  4. Muzamal ali says:

    What is the posted price on

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Not sure what you mean.

  5. Henry Killingsworth says:

    It was interesting when you mentioned that TV writing is all about voice these days. I would imagine that a television show would need to have a perfect voice in order for people to continue watching. It would be interesting to learn more about the process that professional transcript writers go through to create an effective voice.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Henry!

  6. Kai says:

    Do these also apply to making a animated tv show? (also thank you so much for putting this together, it really helped.)

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Kai, glad you enjoyed it. Some tips will apply but animation is a very different area to get into than regular TV.

  7. Joseph Moyale says:

    Good really been helpful

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it, thanks, Joseph!

  8. Sam says:

    Such a comprehensive plan, thank you!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thank you!

  9. Angela says:

    im in my 50’s
    are you saying its unlikely my work will be looked at

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hey Angela – you should check out our post on ageism in Hollywood.

  10. oscar julian lopez rincon says:

    great-job, guys!!!

  11. Winner says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article scriptreaderpro. I found it very helpful. Just have a couple of questions though if you don’t mind.
    1) When you talk about writing spec “episodes”, do you actually mean writing on a particular episode of an existing show or writing out the entire show?
    2) Pertaining which one to write first between a spec pilot or an episode… If eventually my spec episode gets accepted, how would I then proceed to go about submitting my original pilot to a different producer?
    Would love if you can clarify me on rhese. Thanks.

  12. M. Amin Rana. (Writer) says:

    Thank you.. Very Help Full.

  13. Victor Simon says:

    I have a Nigerian Anti cultism movie script titled DENSE BETROTHAL for sale. DM if interested.
    WhatsApp and calls:+2349074711409

  14. Nkonge fauzi says:

    It’s fabulous lit, I wish these Uganda film mark pass through this and see how awesome and honey it is, especially in ensuring viewer’s satisfaction

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Nkonge!

    2. Dave says:

      Now I can pen down this tv idea that has been in my head for months…thanks for for the guide this post was really helpful

      1. Script Reader Pro says:

        Sounds good, thanks Nkonge!

  15. Steve Nichols Jr. says:

    Great post!! It was clear and very helpful.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Steve!

  16. William Whiteford says:

    Thank you for the helpful advice.
    Diversifying and expanding are welcome ideas.
    A cascade of comments is proof.

    Regards, William W.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you liked the post, William! Thanks for the comment.

  17. Eric Bandari says:

    Basically, useful information.

  18. Vivaan says:

    I have a great TV pillot that is ready to sell. I want to talk to some one at script writer pro today about it. How do I do this?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We’re not a production company.

  19. Myron Platzer says:

    Excellent post. I absolutely love this clear instruction on how to write for tv!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks a lot, Myron!

  20. Horatio Nelson says:

    The next time I read your site, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to learn how to write for TV, however I really thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of steps that I dont have the time to do.

  21. Erick Kopczyk says:

    I think I will sell my TV script this year and I have to say a lot of that has been down to Script Reader Pro. Such great articles and I also had them review my pilot and there notes are fantastic. Kudos to you Alex and this company.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      That’s great to hear, Erick! Thanks for the shoutout.

  22. Devon Diggler says:

    Why do most writers fail? Because they don’t implement step by step plan like what Script reader pro has given us here. Stop whining and start DOING.

  23. Meg says:

    Fantastic advice! Thank you for such a thorough and in-depth article! Question: I noticed that your brief examples of 1 hour drama, 30 minute comedy single camera, and 30 minute comedy multi-camera scripts were all written with camera direction and phrases like “we pan across…”. In all of the feature film screenwriting classes that I took in film school I was taught to leave out camera direction because this is the job of the director and DP. Do different rules apply for writing TV scripts, or were your examples written this way because they were in a final draft stage that was closer to a shooting script? Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      The main difference is pro scripts in which pro writers can more or less format how they like, vs spec scripts in which an aspiring writer is trying to break into the industry. There is no law that says you can’t write camera directions in the latter either – it’s one of those myths that somehow started but, in reality, if you think using a camera angle is the best way to get across what you want to say then use it. We just don’t recommend overdoing it.

  24. Arthur G W says:

    Wonderful article. Has really helped me, I’ll share my success story soon!
    I’m in Kenya.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Arthur! Keep at it.

  25. Edwina Martel says:

    With a pᥙrpose to achieve success with writing for TV, its necessarу to be self-disciplined, motivated, and organized. Thank you for this post. Very inspirational.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Edwina!

  26. Glenn Hill says:

    There’s all you need to here to write for telivision one day. Thanks Srp.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Glenn.

  27. David F says:

    I write in word but everyone keeps telling me to spend $$$$ on fancy screenwriting software. Do I have to?

  28. Ruchi Singh says:

    thank you for sharing the wonderful article

  29. Ahsan Ahmed says:

    This is the first time I actually read the whole thing with uninterrupted thoughts of any kinds.

    For long I wanted to start writing and was lacking inspiration or guidance. Though I completed the whole blog in 30 mins but in my mind I’ve analysed next few months of my and placed them down like a format of my own in my head. Will work or blueprint. Thank you so much for an amazing article; it was an amazing narration.

    Will give my content for review for sure. God bless 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the feedback Ahsan, greatly appreciated!

  30. Joyous Akhivbareme says:

    Awesome post. I’m glad to have read this post. It’s very thorough and informative, and it’s going to help me write my first TV series. Thank you mucho, from Lagos Nigeria.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, thanks for the feedback!

  31. Remy says:

    Great article! Do you have an in-depth document about tv script structure in 4/5 acts? (catalyst, themes, call to action, cold opening,etc. and how these elements are being structured and connected throughout a tv-series screenplay). Thanks a lot!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Remy! We’re working on it.

  32. monika garg says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing stuff with great content you have in this article in regards of writing scripts. It is really helpful for me and my coming career.

  33. priya says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing stuff with great content you have in this article in regards of writing scripts. It is really helpful for me and my coming career.

  34. Ashley Maxwell says:

    Thanks for your tip to make sure that you have the best software for writing a TV show script. I also like how you said that you should also have the right structure for the type os how you are writing for. My cousin is looking into learning how to write production transcripts; ill pass on your post.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Ashley!

  35. Olas says:

    A very reliable advice, as a theater practitional, I found it useful. I wish I can learn more from you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks – sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t already for more info!

  36. Maria says:

    Hey, I’m 14 years old and my dream it’s to become a screenwriter and, who knows, maybe even a director, and this post is not only incredibly helpful, but very interesting as well. Knowing there are articles like this that can help me makes the whole journey of learning this all even better. Thank you very, very much for your help.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks a lot Maria – that’s great that you’ve started so young. You should sign up to our newsletter if you haven’t already as I’m sure we could help you out.

  37. Lisa Habermann says:

    you synthesized my summer reading into one blog! awesome work. thanks for sharing

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Lisa 🙂

  38. kanon says:

    A lot of aspiring writers need to see this,it’s really helpful and also worth the time it takes to finish reading. thanks a lot

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks a lot – you’re welcome!

  39. Joni says:

    I have checked back on this website a few times now over the past few months – Really helping me learn how to write and for that I really thank you Script Reader Pro.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Joni!

  40. Grover Deacon says:

    I found this really long but so inspiring. Thanks,

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Grover.

  41. Fabio Essien says:

    Should I write a pilot for TV if I really want to be hired to write a feature?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It can help as a writing sample, yes.

  42. John Coyne says:

    Running late with my submission to TV contest, may need a rush service from you guys.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We’re ready when you are 🙂

  43. Shelley says:

    This is the best blog post I’ve seen in a long time! You guys are awesome!! Can’t wait to get my TV script started

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the shoutout, Shelley!

  44. Karen says:

    This is an amazing help to me. I want to write for TV but didn’t really know what to do with my script.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Have you seen this post on how to sell a screenplay?

  45. Tom Newton says:

    This is a timely piece.TV is so much better than film now.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      There are still some pretty good films out there, though 🙂

  46. Matt Simon says:

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Matt.

  47. Denita says:

    Fantastic! Thanks guys.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Denita!

  48. Red says:

    My script has a character that commits suicide at the end of the pilot. Is this too much for the first episode?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It depends on the genre, Red. If it’s a great story and the appropriate genre, why not?

  49. Emily says:

    I can’t wait to get started after reading this. Thanks guys!!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Emily.

  50. Rene says:

    This site really knows it’s stuff. Well done!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Rene!

  51. Clem says:

    I’m going to follow every step.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Clem.

  52. Jackson says:

    Terrific 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks 🙂

  53. Anna says:

    Where do I find tv scripts to download?

  54. Veronica says:

    Should I write a spec of an existing show or make up my own won if I want to break in?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re better off writing your own original spec.

  55. Jordan says:

    Just started writing TV scripts after years getting nowhere with features. Fingers crossed eh? Thanks for the info Script Writer Pro.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Jordan!

  56. Daz says:

    Yes – thank u script reader this is just what I’ve been looking for!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      No problem, Daz.

  57. Sho Nuff says:

    Is breaking into TV easier than into features?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Not really. That’s something of a myth.

  58. Martina says:

    I’m writing a spec of an existing show. Is this okay or should I make up my own one?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, you can use it as a writing sample but this practice isn’t as popular as it used to be, as described in the post.

  59. Paul says:

    Epic! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’m jumping on my laptop right now to start writing!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great stuff.

  60. Darius says:

    Wow. This website is head and shoulders above anyone else when it comes to screenwriting. Thx.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Darius. Happy writing!

  61. Rich says:

    Smartest step by step plan I’ve ever seen!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Rich!

  62. Reggie says:

    I have a manager but want to fire her but don’t know how lol.

  63. Thomas says:

    I feel so much more positive about bagging a manager now – thanks guys 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      That’s good – thanks, Thomas.

  64. Maverick says:

    I have a spec TV script that is ready to sell.

  65. Nora says:

    Okay, so now I’m pumped to get my script out there. Great post guys.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Then it’s done its job 🙂

  66. Yusef says:

    If I want to write for TV in Hollywood do I have to move there?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      No, but it helps. Especially with TV.

  67. Fredericka says:

    Bookmarked! Will be sending you guys my sci-fi pilot soon. Thx 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Looking forward to it – thanks.

  68. Sig says:

    Still confused about the difference between cable and network script formats.

  69. Chaz says:

    TV sucks . I am sticking to writing movies.

  70. Wihelm says:

    How do I start a career writing for TV in Hollywood when I live in Germany? 🙁

  71. Eduardo says:

    My pilot has major character problem am thinking of submitting to you guys for analyse soon. Great article!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great, looking forward to it, Eduardo!

  72. dakacoms says:

    TV is my passion! I can’t wait to get my foot in the door and get my TV show scripts produced. I’ll definitely try some of the strategies you shared and hope they will bring me one step closer to my dream.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Go for it. We’ll be here to help you along the way too.

  73. Rebekah says:

    Will this work for my novel?

  74. Linda says:

    This is such an incredible article… I don’t know what to say… Tank you!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Linda!

  75. Thomas H says:

    Not started my script yet but this page is bookmarked. Thanks a lot guys.

  76. Snowy says:


  77. Murtuza Ansari says:

    It’s helpful. …. excellent guideline for the aspiring Writers.
    Murtuza Ansari

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Murtuza!

  78. Brett says:

    This TV writing business is TOUGH. Thinking of trying features..

  79. Dani says:

    Can I break into TV from out of state? Illinois. What’s the best way please.

  80. Janice says:

    How much do you charge for a 1 hour drama coverage?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s currently $139 and you can purchase here. Thanks!

  81. Marvin T says:

    This is AWESOME!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Marvin!

  82. Viktor says:

    So how do I get an agent? This is all about managers.

  83. Robert B says:

    Best screenwriting info online right here!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the shoutout, Robert!

  84. Aurelia says:

    I have noticed you don’t mention writing for web series much. Is this a good thing to pursue?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It is, Aurelia.

  85. Draxler says:

    Writing for TV is the way forward now in today’s industry climate.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It’s certainly a great option right now.

  86. Terry says:

    Started new 1 hr drama – this post is so inspiring. Keep at it .

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck with it, Terry!

  87. Marcus says:

    Awesome work Script Reader Pro! Bookmarked!

  88. Liam S says:

    How do I break into TV in LA when I live in Ireland?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      If you can’t move to LA it’ll be hard, but nothing’s impossible as they say.

  89. Mary Ann says:

    Great step by step breakdown, thanks so much guys.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      No problem, Mary Ann. Thanks for the comment!

  90. Sunshine Girl says:

    Writing for TV is just as hard as writing features (as I’m finding out)

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It is just as hard, unfortunately. Good luck with your pilot!

  91. Brandon 89 says:

    How to write for TV: write for the internet THEN write for TV

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, that’s an option.

  92. Eduard says:

    Fantastic post!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:


  93. Ella says:

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Really appreciate it SRP! <3

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Ella.

  94. Leo D says:

    I’ve told my writing group about you guys. Hopefully more work comes your way. Peace.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      That’s great, thanks so much, Leo!

  95. Annette says:

    I’m writing a mini series designed for a prime cable channel. This post is so helpful, thank you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Annette!

  96. Tyrone says:

    Do you guys have a TV specialist who can read my pilot?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, we do. You can read all about our readers here.

  97. Becky says:

    This post is worth it’s weight in gold. Good work Script reader pro.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Becky!

  98. Angela McKenzie says:

    My pilot needed this!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Angela!

  99. Josie W says:

    I’ve bookmarked this and will be back to finish reading.

  100. Francine says:

    Where to download game of thrones season 7?

  101. Veronica says:

    I’m feeling so pumped right now. Can’t wait to get to work on my script. Thanks guys 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it, Veronica!

  102. Bootsy says:

    Start with a great script. Polish it get it ready and then come back read this post.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good advice, thanks, Bootsy!

  103. Edward Criva says:

    How long does it take to start a career in screenwriting?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      There is no set time, Edward. It really depends on a number of different factors.

  104. Evoke says:

    Thanks for sharing it………….:) 🙂

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome!

  105. Nick F. Cise says:

    This article was great. Incredibly informative, and straight to the point. I took a lot away. Thank you!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Nick, glad you found it helpful.

  106. Karen says:

    Terrific post! Very thorough and helpful to me as a TV writer who just moved to LA from NYC.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Karen – glad it helped 🙂

    2. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Karen, good luck with your TV career.

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