From Shonda Rhimes's MasterClass

Editing Your Script

You've written the first draft - now comes the task of editing your script. Shonda reveals her own editing process and provides tips on the best things to cut in a script.

Topics include: Shonda's Editing Process • Reading Scripts Outloud • Feedback


You've written the first draft - now comes the task of editing your script. Shonda reveals her own editing process and provides tips on the best things to cut in a script.

Topics include: Shonda's Editing Process • Reading Scripts Outloud • Feedback

Shonda Rhimes

Teaches Writing for Television

Learn More


I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to move forward until I'm happy with what I already have. So I'll spend a day writing-- say, I'll write 10 or 15 pages and then before I can move on the next morning, I have to make sure that the 15 pages I wrote is perfect for me. And then I move forward. Because I don't ever like to then finish a script and then have to go back. So to me I never even really think about it as editing or rewriting, but clearly it is. You just want those pages that you've done to be perfect. And then you can move forward, and those pages have to be perfect. And then you move forward, and those pages have to be perfect. So that when you get to fade out, you don't have to do anything else. To me, that's always the best feeling. And also because I'm a fast writer, it helps to continuously do that-- go back and hone, and make everything work because it keeps everything fresh in your head. And then you don't end up in some place where you wrote something really fast and by the time you go back, you've already lost the thing that you were doing. It's just helpful for me. When I'm going back and editing, before I can move forward, you want to make sure the scenes resonate. You want to make sure the dialogue is as original as you can possibly make it. I like to go through and hone. I don't like the characters to say too much. The overly verbose dialogue can really be a problem. And while my characters talk a lot, I try to go through and keep it spare for them, even the ones where they have huge monologues-- they're spare, huge monologues. You want to make sure that all of your scenes are set in the right place in terms of how you're describing them. I like to go through. And I like to remove the stage direction that I put in that suggests how the actor should act something, versus where they are in space and what's going on with them. I think you know when the pages that you're writing are right. When you get ready to go forward, there are no more unanswered questions or mistakes left behind. You're going forward and you're not thinking, well, this scene is not going to work. Or these beats aren't going to work. Or how can I tell this part of the story if we haven't discussed blank already. So in the pilot episode of Scandal, you couldn't possibly have gone to act two and had them start investigating if I didn't have Sully come in at the very end of act one. Or if we hadn't introduced Quinn the way we had, we would not have really been able to set up this idea that she was worshipful of Olivia Pope. You would have to come up with a way of really bringing Quinn in and really building up that scene. You want to make sure that the scenes you have really resonate, so that when you move forward they're all falling into place. [MUSIC PLAYING] There are two ways that I hear my scripts. One, when I'm writing a scri...

Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Incredible resource and tools from one of the most talented and productive creatives in the biz! Thank you!

This class is AMAZING, but it's Shonda, so I didn't expect anything less! LOVED EVERY MINUTE, and I feel so inspired to write!

Rare opportunity for informative and frank discussion from one of television's pioneers. Shonda in an entertaining and frank way gives the process of creating a great script and TV series. A 'writers room' is created and the Scandal pilot broken down in serveral lessons. Then she goes into working as an industry professional. Invaluable.

it was amazing- nothing was wrong and everything was perfect. the content was accurate and relevant- she talked about practical things to be done, not abstract ideas. she said things clearly and talked about the subject - not about herself, witch is great.


Heather S.

I am in agreement with that process! I don't like doing things TWICE! It has to be one good brick laid on another... to build it strong from the ground up.

A fellow student

This is the lesson I was looking forward to most because I love learning other peoples editing styles. I’m a write it, let it breathe and live in my head for a day or so, and then go back and edit and tweak.


Being a writer of a television series, it is obviously a must for writers in Ms. Rhimes' position to edit as she writes. If I did that, I would never finish a script. Situations change as I rewrite, and I end up with ideas I didn't know would materialize. Given that writing is rewriting, how could you not go back and make changes?

Ashley D.

The advice about getting feedback with your script is so incredibly helpful!

Jonathan S.

Her discussion about taking notes is so very important! It's really hard to just listen, ask for clarification, and say "Thank you." But it's your only hope to straighten things out. Your early readers will often not know what's wrong or unclear, so you're just looking for places where something needs to be worked on, but it's up to you to figure out the specifics. Show it to more than one person. Over time you'll learn what people you can trust to give helpful feedback. (Don't forget that some people are cruel and want to hurt you. But she also talks about people who won't tell you everything because they *don't* want to hurt you.) There is pain in this process, but if you don't want pain, get out of the business. If you can take it, you'll get better faster.

Michael O.

I gave this lesson 3 stars, and here's why: The previous 5 'writer-room' episodes are brilliant. This one is a mash-up - all that distraction with loud music in the headphones while she speaks the speeches. Sure, different strokes... but Scandal after the first 5 episodes is a mess, all over the map. I get that the show ran for years, and that's how success was measured on TV. (Times are a changin' as internet series overtake the entertainment market.) Seems to me that all that noise in Shonda's ear while she wrote Scandal derailed her genuine and abundant gifts, i.e., genius. Her take on notes is spot on. A fantastic teacher, Shonda is.

Hector V.

When someone gives you notes on your script, it doesn't mean that you need to tell them what you meant. It means that you have to clarify the script so that they get it on their own, as will the audience.

Hector V.

I use an app called; 'ReadAloud' to read my scripts to me. It enables me to catch typos and feel how the story moves and if there's a line or concept that is misused or out of place for editing. I picture the character saying the lines. It's a big help when I don't have a staff to help me.

Steffanie B.

You are amazing. Beautiful. So intelligent. Your words, your passion for what you do and how you want to teach us is so inspiring, there really is no way to fully explain.,what that feels like. Thank you.

Ryan L.

The first draft of my book was completely lean and mean, stripped of everything but the essentials of what you needed to follow the story. Then I figured there should probably be more to flesh it out, and ultimately added around ten thousand words in the draft I sent to the publisher. And the first note from my editor was to take a lot of it out, so I realized I was way overthinking the whole thing. So hearing a pro like Shonda advocate this kind of thing really helps me feel like I'm on the right track.