Cut to the Chase edited by Linda Venis

cut to the chase

CUT TO THE CHASE is an anthology put together by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Each chapter is written by a different screenwriter. Editor Linda Venis has organized the fifteen chapters so one progresses to another in a logical way, from outline to first draft to rewrites. The advice is surprisingly harmonious, without anyone contradicting anyone else. The result feels like a chorus of experts gently guiding the novice writer and cheering her success.

The chapters are meaty, around twenty pages each. These aren’t little blog posts tossed off the top of the someone’s head. These are well-developed lessons taught by writers who have thought deeply about their chosen topics.

My favorite chapter was called “The Art and Craft of Dialog Writing” by Karl Iglesias. Good dialog is what people want in a book or movie, and it’s the hardest to get right. Iglesias’ tips will help even the most tone-deaf writer improve. Another standout was “Polish Workshop: Making Your Best Even Better” by Michael Weiss. Weiss’ takes the murky, terrifying process of rewriting and makes it clear and easy. He breaks it down step by step into simple but powerful advice that anyone can follow. Even though I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter, I’m going to refer to Weiss’ chapter when putting the final touches on my next manuscript. But it’s not just these two chapters: every bit of CUT TO THE CHASE is bursting with useful advice for both screenwriters and novelists.

CUT TO THE CHASE concludes with a few chapters on the business of selling a screenplay, detailing all the ins and outs of Hollywood. It’s the shortest section of the book since the authors are more focused on the craft of writing. They have separated the Hollywood hype from the real work of creating a great story. And it is work. None of the writers sugarcoat it, but they clearly love what they do and are happy to teach new writers everything they know.


CUT TO THE CHASE can be found here.


rating: 5 stars


This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book.

2 thoughts on “Cut to the Chase edited by Linda Venis

  1. Nice! This would be a great book to pick up at a writers conference. Actually sounds a little like college– where I learned so much about the craft of writing.

    • As I was reading CUT TO THE CHASE, I could tell that the authors are teachers. Not only do they know their subject, they know how to teach it in an effective way. I was highly-impressed.

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