A head writer is a person who oversees the team of writers on a television or radio series. The title is common in the soap opera genre, as well as with sketch comedies and talk shows that feature monologues and comedy skits, but in prime time series this function is generally performed by an executive producer.
The head writer conceives and outlines the long-term story of a scripted television or radio series.
In daytime television, the over-arcing story lines are broken out into daily episodes, which are then individually outlined by particular writers, and fleshed out with dialogue by others.
In prime time series, individual staff or freelance writers briefed with any long-term story lines generally pitch their episode ideas to the head writer/executive producer. The writer then develops their ideas into an outline and then a script, which is subsequently edited and revised by the series' entire writing team during the production process.
Sometimes head writers also hold the role of story editor, though other times the roles are separate.
There are several awards for which a head writer can be eligible for. They include:
- Daytime Emmy Awards
- Emmy Award
- WGA Award
- Gemini Award
- Satellite Awards
- Golden Globe Award
- TCA Awards
Head writers may be members of the following groups: WGA, Writers Guild of Canada, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild of America, American Screenwriters Association, Australian Writers' Guild, and International Affiliation of Writers Guilds.