THE FIVE PILLARS OF FEEDBACK
Every time I write something, I make the same mistake. “I’ve been a writer for a long time,” I think, “and finally, I know enough to write the final draft first.” I get to work, and produce my masterpiece. As a formality, I give it to a reader for feedback, expecting them to tell me it’s perfect. Instead, I receive an analysis of my work, pinpointing its weaknesses, and suggesting ways to improve it, all of which are suddenly obvious. “Of course!” I think. “Now, why didn’t I see all that?”
The simple answer is that a reader of your work has a big advantage over you. It’s not that they’re smarter than you, or a better writer, it’s simply that they’re not you. No matter how objective we like to think we are about our work, we’re too invested to see it clearly. We need help.
Some people turn to their friends for feedback. Here’s a basic rule: if you want honest feedback on your work from your friends, you must be prepared to change one of two things – your work, or your friends.
Exchanging feedback with a fellow writer may be a better option, and if you can form a mutually beneficial partnership with one, go for it. Writing groups can be better still, and some aspiring writers are surprised by how supportive they can be – but you’re all in the same boat, and what would be the point of trashing another writer’s work?
Best of all, though, is getting feedback from an industry professional, whose only agenda is to help you do the best work you can. Why? Mainly because you’ll be paying them, and it’s in their interest to give you good value and useful feedback.
Don’t take feedback personally. If that seems like a surprising thing to say about your writing, which may feel like the most personal thing you’ve ever done, remember: it’s your work that’s being assessed, not you as a person. A good reader will be trying to help you move your work forward, and the process is a collaboration, not a lecture.
So, be positive. Treat every note you get as an opportunity to improve what you’re writing. If a reader highlights a weakness, don’t think of it as an error you need to correct; see it as a challenge: determine to not only fix what’s wrong, but to make it even better. I call this approach, “I’ll see you, and raise you,” and it can be exhilarating to see just how far you can take a reader’s note, and use it as the catalyst for transformation.
In general, there are two types of feedback: written, or in-person. You may find yourself in a position where the choice isn’t up to you; if, for example, a producer wants written "coverage" of your script in the form of a report that adheres to an industry template. But if you have a choice, think about what’s most useful to you. Written feedback gives you a formal assessment of your work by a reader, and the strengths and weaknesses of the draft you submitted to them. It provides a useful document that you can refer to when you’re writing your next draft. It can also be shown to other people (e.g., a producer, as mentioned).
Verbal feedback in person provides a more relaxed forum in which you can discuss your work and ideas with a script editor or consultant. It can be a very useful development tool, allowing you to think things through as you talk, and get a sense of where you should be going with your next draft. Cleary, both formats have their advantages, and if you have the choice, imagine what would help you most. You may find that you want to follow up a written assessment with a subsequent in-person conversation (with the reader who wrote the report, or a differ editor) or vice-versa.
The best moment to get feedback is before you write anything. But in the absence of a time machine, get feedback when you’ve made your work as good as you can. The exception might be if you’re developing something with someone who’s monitoring your progress, but in general, wait until you’ve written what you think is your best draft. The reader’s job is to help you write a better one.
FOR DETAILS OF EUROSCRIPT'S FEEDBACK SERVICES CLICK HERE
THE ONLY PLACE TO TALK ABOUT THE CRAFT OF SCRIPTWRITING.