top of page

What It’s Like To Write a TV Pilot Script in 30 Days

A look at the data from our television writing course


People smile on a Zoom call
Write a Pilot in 30 Days participants meet on Zoom to discuss their writing process and network.

This week, our January 2024 cohort of our Write a Pilot in 30 Days course finished the first drafts of their TV pilot scripts! On Jan. 31, we had a celebratory virtual meetup to wrap up the program. It was so inspiring to hear how accomplished our participants felt after getting their stories on paper.


We developed this course because our community expressed a need for support in getting their pilot scripts on the page. To get staffed, you need a polished pilot script that really shows off your skills. Plus, we know many of our community members are looking to create something they can pitch and potentially sell.


But before you can have a finished product — a pilot that’s ready to pitch, submit to contests, send to representation, or use as a sample — you need a messy first draft. And that can often be the hardest part.


Our course helps participants develop a big-picture plan for their series, season, and pilot episode before guiding them through the writing process step by step. We have weekly virtual workshops so that participants can network and get feedback, and our private group discussion board lets the cohort connect throughout the process.


Here’s a look back at our January 2024 course, including some testimonials from participants and data from our post-course survey:


When you sign up for the course, you immediately get a brainstorming workbook, so you don’t even need an idea to register. We just tell participants to bring a concept, no matter how vague, to Day 1 of the course at the beginning of the month.


“As someone who has never written a pilot before, this course was amazing. It takes you step by step through what it takes and gives you the knowledge you need to create a fully fleshed out pilot from a simple idea.” - Cahlia Walton

While some participants brought in a loose concept, many of our participants took the opportunity to draft a script they’ve been meaning to write for years. At our final course meetup, they shared that they were shocked at how much they could achieve in just one month!


“This program was just what I needed to finish my pilot! With an idea I’ve had for years, I was finally given the tools and structure to manage putting it to paper and completing the first draft. Talking with the other participants in the forum made me feel comfortable falling behind and encouraged me to catch up at my own pace. Thankfully the virtual meetups helped me recoup and meet other aspiring writers in other places! An overall productive and helpful program! Thank you so much!” - Katie Brunwasser

The first two weeks of the course focus on building the logline, characters, world, tone, series arc, and season 1 arc. Participants then plot out the pilot with all this background knowledge in mind. Even before putting a single word on the page, they know the storylines they need to set in motion, the relationships and character arcs they need to set up, and the world and tone they must establish.


Multiple participants told us that even though they had been writing professionally for years or had written TV pilot scripts before, the structure helped them stay laser-focused on the creative work.


“The Write a Pilot in 30 Days course enabled me complete a pilot script with the help of daily assignments to keep me focused — within the 30 days. While I was eager to write from day one, it was crucial that I knew more about episode, character, and season arcs FIRST before jumping in with both feet, which the course provided. So, holding back on 'writer's gush' for the first half was elemental in the self-discipline of evolving character development in order for the eventual draft to be better formed and structured. Thank you!” - Nicola Chase

“I loved that there was so much prep before starting to write — I've had ideas swirling around in my head for ages, and this gave me a concrete way to organize them and get them down on the page. And the fact that I can use the course material over and over as I continue to write is a huge plus.” - Hollie Self

The final weeks of the course were all about getting a messy first draft on paper. We provide daily prompts, tips, benchmarks, and examples, because we know how difficult it can be to face the empty page!


“This course showed me another way to go about writing a pilot — namely, a structured way. I loved how Katrina and Tracy responded to the group discussion and facilitated the semi-weekly group meetups — their feedback made me feel like we were in good hands, and got me excited about continuing the work. And now I've got a new pilot!” - Hannah Cabell

Our participants told us that through the daily exercises, they were getting in the habit of being creative. Suddenly, they were experiencing epiphanies about their scripts — even for projects they’d been wanting to write for years — simply because they were putting in the work every single day.


“The Write a Pilot in 30 Days course reignited my love for narrative writing and gave me the guidance and accountability to get the ideas to paper.” - Piper Buckley

The first time we ran this course was in May 2023, with a whopping 206 participants. We were astounded by the outpouring of creativity with our inaugural cohort, and we were so proud to be part of the creation of so many scripts. Many of those participants went on to take our Revise a Pilot in 30 Days and How to Pitch Your Project courses, and we loved watching writers progress their projects through these stages.


After each course, we ask participants to fill out a survey so that we can make it even better for next time. Our survey responses from May 2023 were really helpful; we were able to address hurdles that prevented writers from finishing their scripts, and we were able to restructure certain areas of the course to add more support.


Of our May 2023 cohort, 27.3% completed their entire first draft, while 18.2% wrote about half, and 13.6% wrote the beginning of a script. The rest made great progress with conceptualizing their series.



A pie chart with the info: Of our May 2023 cohort, 27.3% completed their entire first draft, while 18.2% wrote about half, and 13.6% wrote the beginning of a script. The rest made great progress with conceptualizing their series.


We were proud of these numbers, since between a quarter and a third of participants walked away with a complete draft and nearly 60% got words on the page. As a helpful comparison, between 8% and 15% of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, a program we’ve participated in and greatly enjoyed!) typically finish their novels. So 27.3% was pretty good!


But we wanted to make it better. We noticed that 88.2% of those who didn’t finish said that “life got in the way.” We can’t control outside forces, so we looked at the rest of the responses. Many people fell behind and got overwhelmed, while others said there was too much coursework per day or that they didn’t have enough accountability.


For our January course, we streamlined the coursework and shifted things around so that things were more manageable, and we added a button that participants could press to check off each day’s step — something people found very satisfying!


We’re proud to say that our success rate skyrocketed after making these changes!


This time, 53.8% finished their entire first draft. Another 23.1% finished around half and plan to complete their scripts in the next month or two. Meanwhile, 7.7% wrote the beginning. That means that 84.6% now have pages to work with, and the rest made tons of progress on conceptualizing their ideas.



A pie chart with the info: This time, 53.8% finished their entire first draft. Another 23.1% finished around half and plan to complete their scripts in the next month or two. Meanwhile, 7.7% wrote the beginning. That means that 84.6% now have pages to work with, and the rest made tons of progress on conceptualizing their ideas.


No matter how far our participants got, they all put so much work and creativity into their projects. We are so proud of all of our writers! They’re all so much farther along than they were at the beginning of the month, and they really prioritized their goals by setting aside so much dedicated time to writing.


We can’t wait to see what they do next with their pilots and their careers!

Comments


bottom of page