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A Tale of Two Readers

David has allowed me to indulge my John August fantasy by asking, “Do you think there is any value in sending a script to TWO readers at once? Or… Using a reader, re-write, then use a different reader?”

As with anything in this scriptwriting malarkey, I think it’s principally down to the writer. I frequently use many readers at the same time on the same draft, because I’m a big fan of the Power of Three method. The way I see it, one reader might freak you out with a suggestion or observation (particularly story or structure-wise) two or even three others might NOT make – so what was a concern suddenly pales into insignificance.

A great example of this concerned a thriller spec I was polishing recently: I sent to four readers, all at the same time. One got back to me immediately with a damning report: he thought the story didn’t work, he thought the characters weren’t empathetic enough, the works – and he justified his reasoning well. But THREE other readers gave the story and characters the thumbs up. Suddenly I don’t need to freak anymore: maybe he just DIDN’T LIKE the story or characters. Readers have their own opinions too (and rightly so). We all forget readers might not *like* a script, just like they might not *like* a movie, no matter how good it is and/or whether other people like it.

But there’s also the point it can depend on the draft and where it is on the “rewrite scale”. Personally, I don’t tend to send very early drafts to multiple readers. I tend to send to one, trusted reader who can help me iron out the obvious stuff first – the lost opportunities in the plot, contradictory characterisation, dodgy dialogue, etc. We know, deep down, what our early drafts’ problems are – but we’re too close to the work, so we need someone to gently shove us in the right direction; I’m lucky in that I have several friends who I can rely on to help with this though. After this stage, I then start paying readers (and I DO get paid-for reads) for the more polished drafts, which I then compare and contrast with others’ viewpoints on Po3.

So really: I’m afraid it just depends on your POV. I have Bang2writers who like to send work to me from the very first draft; others like to get Po3 and other peer feedback before paying someone like me to give the draft a going over. Similarly I know others who do the same as I do.

What do you do?

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1 thought on “A Tale of Two Readers”

  1. I tend to do the same as you – I have a pool of friends who give really great, honest feedback so I'll usually send the 1st draft to three or four of them then send the 2nd draft to one or two others. My problem is then trying to convince others involved with the project to take on board the comments from my readers.

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