GUEST PERSPECTIVE: Lincoln Heights' Tracy Grant on... Your First Time in the Writers Room

Publish date:

Hey, screenwriters--

There's a first time for everything, and for aspiring television writers, few things are more thrilling or memorable than your first job-- that first time in the writers room, that first staff position on an actual TV show.

Of course, that first staff writing gig is often as daunting as it is exciting... the writers room is filled with its own rules of politics and etiquette. Over the next few weeks and months, we'll hear from various TV writers about their experiences in the writers room and their tips for survival.

Today, I'm psyched to bring you a good friend of mine and an amazing writer-- Tracy Grant. Tracy was a member of last year's prestigious Disney Writing Fellowship, then got his first staff writing job on the second season of ABC Family's drama, Lincoln Heights. So, here to talk about his first experience in the TV writers room-- and his advice for succeeding-- is Tracy Grant...


I can’t even describe the feeling. Giddy? Ecstatic? I don’t know, but driving to the writers’ office and seeing my name on my parking space was memorable. I could have floated into the writers’ room that morning, but I pulled myself together—no way was I going in like a wide-eyed rookie. So when they gave me an order form for our catered lunch, no one knew I didn’t know what it was. I just did what everyone else did until I caught on. TIP #1: ACT LIKE YOU BELONG. This thought guided me through brainstorming in the room, pitching through an episode and meeting privately with my EP (or showrunner), all in the first few days.

When you first start, there are two ways to go: sit back and observe, or jump in. I had no time to sit back and observe, and the showrunner gave me the okay to participate. Obviously it helps to know what you’re talking about, so that your comments have some value. You should also know the situation outside of the room, as there’s invariably a problem to be solved or a disagreement that impacts the workplace, if not the show itself. But how can you know when you’re new? You’re not a mind reader! Which brings us to TIP #2: WHEN IN DOUBT, SHUT THE HELL UP. You can always ask a question privately later, but when you say something dumb, there’s no do over.

As you become more acclimated, you’ll get a feel for the room dynamic, which includes not only the work, but the personalities in the room. If you’re lucky, everyone will get along and the ribbing won’t get to you. But there are always, ALWAYS personality clashes, no matter how lovey-dovey everyone behaves. The writers’ room is collaborative, but remember it’s still a competitive situation—whether it’s for the next script, the next promotion or the next gig. Self-preservation is key, and you do this by doing your job and helping the showrunner however you can. Still, the showrunner isn’t always around, and there are politics among the writers. With that in mind, here’s
TIP #3: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES, BUT FIGHT WHEN YOU MUST. If you must argue or defend your point, make sure it’s in service to the problem being addressed in the room, or your showrunner’s direction. It’s okay to establish yourself, but make sure it’s as an asset to the show.

These are all tidbits that helped, but by far, the two most important tips go hand-in-hand: #4, BE PREPARED and #5, DO THE WORK. No shortcuts. Take care of business here and everything else will take care of itself. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.


Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.