The process began either by a script being assigned to a staff member, some of whom had a script quota on their contract, or by the story editor contacting a freelance writer. During 1986 and 1987, declining budgets led to a heavier use of staff writing. To the point that most of Inhumanoids and all of Visionaries' scripts were written in-house.
When a freelance writer was contacted to write a script, they would be sent a list of GI Joe and Cobra characters and vehicles to incorporate into a story. As time went on and the same writers were hired back again and again for multiple shows, this process became less rigid.
The writer was then expected to submit three premises, which could run between a paragraph and a full page. The premise gave the basic idea to a story, as demonstrated with this example from the Transformers episode Money Is Everything:
"Money Is Everything" is Free Trader DIRK MANUS self-serving motto; he proves it by selling the Technobots into the Quintesson's tentacles, not once, but TWICE ... or DOES he?
If a premise was approved, the writer would receive half of their script fee in advance to write an outline. This would run between 12 -14 pages roughly and would lay out the story, organised into story beats. Once an outline was submitted, it would be reviewed and any notes or changes passed back to the writer for them to begin the full script.
Once the full script was submitted, it was sent from either Sunbow's Westwood offices in LA or from Marvel Productions' offices (For Transformers season 1 and 2) via commercial email to Sunbow's main offices in New York. Where Hasbro's representative in that office would review the script and send it back to the story editor with notes of any changes required by Hasbro in the story edit.
The timeline for this process is laid out in the G.I Joe Writer's Guide as follows:
- Receipt of character/vehicles list to turning in premises: one week
- Receipt of premises to story approval: one week
- Story approval to completion of outline: one week
- Delivery of outline to approval: one week
- Approval of outline to delivery of script: two weeks
- General Flagg delivers an intelligence briefing at Joe HQ, while the montage of Cobra forces disrupting oil supplies across the globe plays out
- The Joes ruminate on the consequences of the oil supply running out when Cobra Commander interrupts all television broadcasts to deliver his demonstration of Cobra's diamond-powered cloaking device, seemingly making the desperately-needed oil tankers disappear from view.
- The Joes move out from HQ and Duke gives them their orders on the move.
- The episode begins with Cobra Commander making his broadcast, the montage of Cobra in action plays as part of the broadcast with his narration over it.
- The Joes are already on the move as Colonel Sharp (from The Revenge Of Cobra) delivers his briefing from HQ. Duke then gives the orders to the various teams.