Rewrite: Tips from a Screenwriter

Learn to Rewrite Like a Pro: An Interview With Paul Chitlik

Award Winning Screenwriter Paul Chitlik, writer of Small Wonder, Perfect Strangers, and Who’s The Boss discusses his new book “Rewrite”.

Ubwenge: Why did you decided to focus your book on rewriting and not writing, like so many other screenwriting books?

Paul Chitlik: Well, you just answered my question. There are a lot books on how to start a screenplay, but there were’nt any real adequate books on rewriting. There were a couple that danced around the idea, but no specific details on the process.

Mine is a step-by-step guide on how to rewrite. It takes you down the whole process and breaks it down so it’s not an overwhelming chore. Usually people look at a script and say, “I have no idea where to start. How do I know what’s right, what’s wrong, and how do I fix it?” And I reveal all in my book Rewrite.

Ubwenge: Who is this book tailored to, TV screenwriters or Feature Film screenwriters?

Paul Chitlik: It’s tailored mostly to feature screenwriters because I do not have a lot of experience writing 1-hour episodic television. And there were already a lot of books on writing sitcoms. Features are my area of expertise. I aimed my book at two audiences:

1) The student audience in college who develops 4 scripts over 2 years, which are all first drafts, but no rewrites. That means it’s useless because they need extra work and you can’t show them to anybody. But they don’t know how to attack that work of rewriting so Rewrite shows them how.

2) It’s geared for the professional writer (on those who write your essay for you) who constantly has contractual deals for rewriting and gets notes that don’t always make sense coming from people who don’t know the depth of their story, aside from the basic structure. The notes might say the character needs more development or the plot is a little slow. If they don’t know how to fix it, then this book will help sharpen the script before sending it to a studio.

Ubwenge: In your book you mention the 8 Steps that people can follow to improve their rewriting. Can you briefly give an overview?

Paul Chitlik: The 8 Steps are not to improve your rewriting, but to make sure you’re finished. After you’ve completed all the things described in the book, how do you know it’s ready to go out? I suggest you go through the 8 Steps which are to read for:

  1. Structure – Making sure your Seven Points are Fully Realized & Balanced
  2. Conflict in Scenes – Move the Story forward & Cut Scenes that don’t work
  3. Descriptive Paragraphs – Shorten to make it Terse & Tell it Visually
  4. Protagonist’s Dialogue – Make his/her Own Voice Stand Out & Related to the Story
  5. Antagonist’s Dialogue – Same as #4
  6. Supporting Characters Dialogue – Same as #4
  7. Look for Cuts – Delete Non-Essential Scenes & Dialogue
  8. Picture Pretty Pass – Check for final Spelling, Punctuation, & Grammar

Ubwenge: What kind of feedback have you received from your readers?

Paul Chitlik: Oh, it’s been incredible. There hasn’t been any negative feedback because they say it’s an easy read, it’s not too long, and it’s exactly what I needed. There was a glowing review by another screenwriting instructor who said, “All my students who have bought Rewrite said it really encompasses everything that you tell us in class in a succinct way. It really helped.” A professional screenwriter said, “This book really set me up for another rewrite.” And the last one is from one of my students, “I’ve been marking it and putting tabs all over the book so I might need another copy.”