Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Writer knows Best, right?

Feedback. A word that makes writers sweat like an ice cube in a sauna.

I’m rather confident with my writing, by which I mean I usually know what is wrong with my scripts, my reason for seeking feedback from friends and readers is to see if they notice the discrepancies I did. Dare I admit it, I suppose its to see how much I can get away with... Which apparently, isn’t much.
My fellow writer friends call me up on lazy writing the instant they spot it which is great and yet a big pain in the ass (You know who you are and I’m not rewriting that scene!).
Having made our characters, constructed the plot and then crafted the script with determination and commitment, its safe to say writers may not be the most objective critics of their own work. I disagree with this by %80, I think its more a matter of writers knowing what story they want to tell but not nailing how to tell it. The writer always knows what is best for their story as they know the style, the arc and what they want as the end goal, yet sometimes, they just don’t hit the mark.
The best way to see if we’re landing all our punches is to get a fresh pair of eyes. Some writers I know scoff at the idea of this, but I have to admit, I use feedback a lot to make sure the reader reacts to what I intended them to react to, and sometimes they react to things you wouldn’t expect.
There is only thing more important than getting feedback, and that is, who you’re getting feedback from. Friends just don’t cut it, Unless they’re writers too. This leads me onto scriptreaders... love them, hate them, shave their heads while they sleep, either way, at some point in a scriptwriter’s career, you will consider hiring a scriptreader.
These are essentially script technicians. They know the importance of story and execution, sometimes they know it better than the writer themselves. Which, if I’m being honest, came to me as a surprise. I’m the first to say writers know best, but not always. A lesson I learned from the fantastical Lucy Vee Hay/@bang2write (Scriptreader, scriptwriter and all round funny lady). Before using Lucy’s services, I had already hired a few readers for other projects, and frankly, I wasn’t getting much out of it. They would just read me back my concerns and not really be critical, and one of them didn’t bother justifying their advice or backing it up with a ‘why’. Suffice to say, I was starting to agree with the writers who scoffed at the idea of scriptreaders. Twitter, being the wonderful thing it is, got me talking to Lucy. At that point, I was sick of a feature script I adored, the feature I had written was a mess. A direct result of overthinking mixed with lazy writing and a lack of certainty about what the heart of the story was, I’d basically fallen out of love with the script. So, I sent a god-awful draft of my feature script to Lucy. Figured I didn’t have much to lose, I knew it was a mess already and at the very least I’d get a constructive report of where I had messed up, but I wasn’t expecting much.
Lucy got back to me sooner than I expected (a nice surprise), I opened the feedback document and was blown away by what I read. She’d picked up on everything I had picked up on, and much more. It was detailed, refreshingly honest and more than helpful. I found a reader who was as critical about my own work as I was, if not more.
I took Lucy’s feedback onboard, and then ignored my script for a month (as you do). This morning, I discussed ideas with a friend whilst rereading Lucy’s feedback, and oddly enough the new plot ticks every box and tackles every problem she highlighted, problems I didn’t know existed beforehand.
I essentially did a U-turn on my opinion regarding scriptreaders & what they can bring to a project.

There are various ways people deal with feedback, but that’s bloggery for another day...

Link to Lucy’s blog & services, etc:

Monday, 14 February 2011

Role of the Writer

Some of you know me from twitter (@dodgyjammer), and some of you have stumbled across this blog by accident or various other routes, either way, welcome!

I know what you’re thinking, ‘A scriptwriter with a blog, yes, how original.’ I agree. With the ‘how original’ part, of course.

I took up scriptwriting about a year ago, and very quickly found myself reeled into a world of rewriting, extra reading, and coffee-swigging. A lot of friends have been consulting me for advice on their projects, and I realised just how engrossed I’ve become with writing.
This blog is a place to discuss tips, advice, and the ever-contradictory ‘rules’ of scriptwriting.

Now, to the purpose of this post...

Since choosing to write, I’ve met people from the low of the low, to the top of the top in this industry. All of them have interestingly different views on the importance of a writer and his/her script.

A lot of people see writers at the bottom of the pile. Annoying? Yes. But nothing lasts forever.

The industry changes.

The only issue I have with this view, is when a fellow writer (or someone I work with) also believes writers are at the bottom of the pile, per se.

What happened to our pride? Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, William Blake! Melodramatic examples, yes, but they were still writers. These people created entire realities with just a few words on paper. Real magicians.

People refer to scripts as the blueprint of a masterpiece.

I vehemently disagree; a script alone is the masterpiece. The script is the story, we, as writers, share with the world. Directors, actors, crew; all of that comes in later, in my opinion, and is part of several masterpieces that when put together form a mosaic of brilliant entertainment.

The script is a masterpiece. The script is magic. No one will love our work, if we ourselves don’t. I’m aware of all the technical jargon that accompanies scriptwriting, but really though, it is an art. A craft. A few words on paper can move people and I think it is vital that writers don’t forget, or belittle the power of what we are actually doing when we write.

There’s much more competition in scriptwriting and having a brilliant script is only one of the stepping stones to success. Yet it’s the very first stepping stone. Seems obvious, but crafting the script is the most important task a writer can have. Our work must speak for us.
Every role in the production process matters. Directors have a specific affect on the visual aspects of our stories, actors bring their talents to our stories, all along the process people are working to make our story reach the screen in its best form. The key thing here is ‘our stories’. All those films, TV shows, novels, those all exist because someone somewhere took on the challenge of sitting down and writing them.

Writers are storytellers, stories are the oldest form of passing on knowledge throughout human history. We’re a part of that. Film, TV, novels, whatever you’re all writing, it is a part of something bigger that withstands the test of time.  

A dramatic first post, I know. I just think it’s important we don’t fall out of love with who we are and what we do.