Quick Start to Writing a TV Spec Script

Here’s 10 basic steps to write a Script for your favorite show.

1. Pick a show you are passionate about and in production.
2. Watch it armed with a pen and pad.
3. Get 3-4 scripts from the show
4. Do Deep Analysis – Figure out the structure.
4a. Determine A,B, C stories with the Story Template
4b. Create a Character Breakdown
4c. Get an idea of scene length with the scene length matrix

5. Brainstorm story ideas into a Premise or Log Line.
6. Create a 3-4 page ‘treatment’ – what happens.
7. Use index cards to write scenes for your A story, then B, then C.
8. Write an outline from your cards
9. Write a draft – fairly quickly
10. Rewrite. Make sure it has the feel, length, style and thematic weight of the show by using the tools above to break down your own script.
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7 responses to “Quick Start to Writing a TV Spec Script

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this awesome blog! Where did you find the Mad Men scripts?! I have been looking for them for awhile and couldn’t find them anywhere! I consider the Mad Men pilot to be the best example of a pilot episode for any program that I’ve seen in years. Being able to see the exact length of scenes, and where certain events fall with respect to the page number is INVALUABLE for an aspiring writer. Your story template and character breakdown sheets are fantastic too! Please, keep up the beyond good work!

    • Thanks for the encouragement Matt!If you (or anyone) finishes their MM script, send us a link to it.

      Colm

  2. I have a question about writing a spec tv script with regards to the overall arc of the series. Okay, you’ve chosen your show, say Mad Men for example. Now when I’m in the brainstorming stage what is my approach to the story arc? Season three will be starting soon so do I write a storyline incorporating the information from the past two seasons into the script? For instance, Betty is pregnant in the last episode of the second season. Can I start a script as if six months have passed and many events have transpired? This is definitely The Sopranos approach. Or do I just create my own storylines loosely based on storyline events (Duck’s alcoholism or Roger’s affair with Joan for example) that have actually transpired on the show? Or some combo of both?

    Sorry if this is confusing.

    Thanks for any help.

    • Hi WillYour Q: Write a storyline incorporating the information from the past two seasons into the script? Yes, but be loose about it. For instance if someone has died in S2, don’t bring ’em back to life. If someone is preggers in S2 you can write way beyond that point. In other words don’t be too linear. Your main objective is to write a compelling, original and fresh script so if you have to bend a few story arcs to do that – then go ahead.

      Colm

  3. Thanks for the quick response Colm!

  4. where do you submit a script for mad men?
    thanks.

  5. Any change you could repost these links since they are offline?

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