How to Write a Treatment (for Visual Media)

Do you have an idea for the next great novel or Hollywood blockbuster? If you want to sell a story for film, print or television, you will first need to write a treatment. A treatment is a story blueprint that spans 1-10 pages and serves two purposes: to summarize the plot and main characters, as well as to sell your story to the developer or publisher. A treatment should communicate your idea in a concise but compelling manner, like a marketing pitch.


  1. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 1
    Before writing a treatment, outline the entire story. This outline should include a concise plot summary, character descriptions, climax and conclusion. This outline will help you organize your ideas in preparation for writing the treatment.
  2. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 2
    Research your target audience. These are the development executives or publishers for whom you are writing the treatment. As you write and edit your treatment, always keep this audience in mind.
  3. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 3
    Understand the eight structural components necessary to a successful treatment. In general, a successful treatment will include a working title, the writer’s name and contact information, Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Registration number, a short logline, character summary, and three main acts (set-up, conflict, and resolution).
  4. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 4
    Write a first draft of the treatment. Write in present tense and use paragraphs rather than an outline or dialogue.
  5. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 5
    Revise your treatment. Now that you have a formal draft, you may see new ways that the characters connect or the conflict unfolds. Exploring these creative possibilities will keep your story original and interesting.
  6. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 6
    Edit your treatment for brevity. Remove unnecessary words and descriptive language. Keep in mind that the development executive or publisher who reads your treatment has limited time. Unnecessary details distract from the success of your treatment.
  7. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 7
    Take time away from your treatment. Re-reading the treatment with fresh eyes will help you focus on the treatment’s two main goals: summarizing your story and selling your story. Remove any information that does not further these goals.
  8. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 8
    Read the treatment out loud to yourself. Do the paragraphs form a coherent whole or are there awkward sentences? Is the story compelling and original or is it boring and generic? Depending on the story type, does the treatment convey an appropriate sense of action, drama, comedy or suspense?
  9. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 9
    Finalize your treatment and register it with the WGA. This will cost approximately $20 USD. Registering your treatment will protect your work if it is stolen or unlawfully copied. You will also want to include the registry number on the front page of the treatment.
  10. Image titled Write a Treatment (for Visual Media) Step 10
    Mail in your treatment. Keep the treatment from being folded by mailing it flat in a large, letter or A4 sized envelope. Include a brief cover letter with your contact information including address, phone number and email. Include a self-addressed stamp envelope.


  • In order to write a compelling treatment, you must understand your genre. For example, the goal of a television series treatment is to sell the characters and their relationships, as their interactions will generate stories for the series from week to week. The goal of a movie treatment, however, is to sell the conflict and climax by dramatizing the story.
  • When writing your treatment, keep the appearance professional. It should be typed and single-spaced in a standard 12pt font such as Times New Roman or Courier.
  • Find the names and addresses of development executives and publishers online or in industry journals.


  • Do not submit your treatment for review by a development executive or publisher until it is WGA-registered. Submitting your treatment prior to registration will leave you no recourse in the event your ideas or story are copied without your permission.
  • A treatment is not a script. Do not use fancy jargon or include excessive dialogue.

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Categories: Visual & Written Media