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:


  1. Lucy's been priceless on two of my projects so far, bang on the money each time. I just wish she sold rewrite energy too. I WANT to fix the damn screenplays, I really do , and eberything she told me is right and true. I just haven't done it yet. My mistake.

  2. Hi dtrasler,

    re: Lucy seeling rewrite energy: Writers can dream. Also, knowing Lucy it'll probably be damn good rewrite energy. I spend alot more time thinking about rewriting than I spend actually rewriting...but i'm creating a tight schedule to tackle that. She's fab though, really is. I'm not one to toss about compliments for no reason, that woman is damn good!

  3. Friends don't CUT IT as script readers HUH?!
    PPfftt, I'm the BEST you ever had Brotha!!

  4. Haha, okay Jas, I asked for that! My bad!

  5. In the days I was confident about me writing, it was utter rubbish, with a capital B. Now it's better, it's never quite right. Picked up your blog link on Twitter, so I may just follow you for a wee while, if that's ok?

    Good luck and happy writing.

  6. Hi JJ, just saw your tweet, sure. Its better to be confident and wrong, than be uncertain but right. The former way, you learn quicker, but thats only my opinion. I'm often confident with my writing, even if I look back a month later and think 'what the hell was I thinking?!' Confident doesn't mean good, right?:p