Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Working in a Writers’ Room

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:35 min

Shonda discusses what she looks for in writers when staffing her shows and how her own writers' rooms are structured.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: What to Do • How to Prepare • Episode Drafts • Fellow Writers • Culture


at the board. That is always a great way to go, because it makes you seem energetic and like you're doing something. Two, try to talk when you're in that room. Try to say at least one thing a day. Three, make sure you've read the writer's room notes the night before, and be the person who, when somebody asks, what did we say? Remind everybody what you said. Try to be useful. Try to be helpful. Be kind and be nice. And be the first one there and the last one to leave, always. That's what I think will help you. When I'm looking to hire somebody, I like to find people who not only have a real individual voice in their writing, so I don't want to read a spec script, which is just a script written for somebody else's show, meaning you can write in somebody else's voice. I want to read an original piece of writing. Sometimes it's an article, sometimes it's a play, sometimes it's a novel, sometimes it's a script. But I want it to be original, it has to be original. Not only do I want to read that and find out that you have an original voice, but I want people who aren't afraid of me, which I've found is interesting. People come in afraid to sort of express their opinion. They think they're not supposed to have one. But not only are you supposed to be not afraid to express your opinion, you have to be willing to argue. You have to be willing to fight for your opinion. Because to me, a writer's room where everybody is in agreement all the time is not a writer's room. That's just me listening to the sound of my own voice. And that is boring. And I can't possibly be right all the time. So I always want a room in which everybody has different opinions, everyone's from sort of a different background, everybody has different experiences, different ages, different everything, so that people can bring that to the table, and then argue their points of view and their ideas. That always makes for much better television. I think a writer's room can be a very wonderful place to be, but I also think that there are so many mistakes that writers can make in writer's rooms that I've seen over the years that I think can really be detrimental to their career. And I don't know that everybody really knows it or understands it. And you have a responsibility, every evening, to go home and have come in, having read the writer's room notes from the day before, to have some ideas about what you want to talk about the next day, even if it's not your episode that's being placed on the board to be discussed. If it is your episode, you cannot show up in the writer's room the next day with no new ideas or work. You really have to go home and come up with a bunch of new pitches, come up with a bunch of new ideas, having forwarded your story, have things to put on the board to fill it up that can be then discussed or changed or challenged, but you have to have done so...

About the Instructor

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.

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Shonda Rhimes

In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.

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