Chapter 21 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

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

Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television

In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.

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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 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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Shonda teaches you how to write, pitch, and create a hit TV show.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Shonda will also respond to select student questions.


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

She really breaks down the meaning of her statements, which helps me tremendously.

Great combination of inspiration and detailed "how to"

I loved Shonda Rhimes' class! She's engaging and likable. I loved her teaching on writing dialogue and creating interesting characters. Everything, pretty much. I highly recommend this course!

Inspired by Shona's glee and generosity about writing!


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.

Cherise A. W.

Hear what someone is saying and say thank you this is really helpful. Listening is powerful. I enjoyed how Shonda explains not apologizing before you hand in a script. That was a great tip. Feedback is amazing. Having someone to look at your work and to see what you are working on is a great tip. This overall lesson was amazing. Thank you, Cherise

Devin M.

Thanks, Shonda. I've been looking for a writer's group in the Valley in Los Angeles for months now. I've been to Meetups, but the ones I want to be in already have hundreds of members and are closed. The other three were either way too far to go to every week or the quality of writers just wasn't that good. And, unfortunately I don't have time to put my own Meetup together. So if anyone knows of a writer's group near Studio City please let me know. It is invaluable to have your scripts read out loud! And a must for screenwriters, I think..

Phillip B.

This lesson was a great reminder for me and a confirmation of some personal ideas. I kept reading in screenwriting books that you should NEVER edit as you go along, which was frustrating to me because that is always how I have worked in any writing I have ever done, even back in school when writing reports, essays, research papers, etc. Because of what those books said about editing after your first draft, I was trying to do that, trying to force myself to be somebody I wasn't. Hearing Shonda Rhimes say that she writes 10-15 pages and then goes on to review and edit them until she feels they are perfect for her before she can move on to the next pages was HUGE for me. It's not that I think that is the only way it should be done, but it is the way that works for me. It reminded me that in writing and in life, you need to be true to who you are in as many aspects of your life as possible. Don't try to be what other people are or try to be someone you're not; be who you are, do what works for you. It was also very helpful to hear her comments about how to accept notes. They're not meant to be insults, they're a sign that you have not done with clarity what you set out to do; go back and figure out how to clarify what you meant so people do understand. It was also great to hear the piece about her "darlings" that she has cut out of her scripts and keeps in a folder "just in case". This is a perfect reminder that even someone at her professional level can be prone to getting caught up in the art and fun of it all and ego. No matter how much it hurts, how much you love it, if it doesn't advance the plot or build character, let it go!


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...