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Dealing With Feedback: Losses & Gains

Lots of Bang2writers say they know they should get feedback on their work – but confess that once they have, they’re not always terribly illuminated by it. In fact, sometimes they feel even more confused. It should be noted this can happen whether they have paid for a reader like me or got their feedback via peer review. Surprisingly, this can happen with GOOD notes as much as bad too, so it also doesn’t depend on the quality of the notes, either.

It depends wholly on the writer themselves.

Knowing how to deal with feedback is a skill in itself. In the ye olden days (of about a decade ago!), writers frequently sent out very obvious first drafts and often went BALLISTIC even at constructive criticism. In the past five years in particular, those obvious first drafts have more or less disappeared from the spec pile and writers seem able to better take constructive criticism. But like with anything writing-related, you chop the head off the Hydra and another one appears, because that original problem has been replaced with something else:

Writers often appear to have forgotten THEY are the authority on their own work.

If YOU wrote the work, then YOU know what’s best for it: you conceived it, you know what story you’re trying to tell. You know what first EXCITED you about this story or character (and if you don’t, this is perhaps where you start looking – or abandon the project!). With the former in mind however, WRITER KNOWS BEST. End of.

Note this doesn’t mean discarding feedback, but rather WORKING OUT how it fits with regards to YOUR VISION FOR THE PROJECT. That’s right, YOUR VISION. If it’s a spec, it’s ALL ABOUT YOU and how you see this story working. However good or well-meaning feedback or notes are, you need to keep a hold of what you originally conceived – OR accept that actually, those notes offer an opportunity for that story’s EVOLUTION. In other words, for every note given, it all boils down to these two questions:

What do I LOSE?

What do I GAIN?

Ask yourself these questions when you receive feedback or notes on your spec. Sometimes the gains are obvious: you kick yourself – “Why didn’t I think of that??” Other times, the losses will simply be too high: ie. getting rid of *this character* may well improve the STRUCTURE, but does it kill off the HEART?

Only you can truly know. ‘Cos you’re the writer.


Characterisation: Preferences and Opinions – why readers & feedback-givers HATING your characters may actually be a *good* thing

Ten Things A Writer Should & Shouldn’t Do – when rewriting/getting a script read, according to me

Rewriting & Feedback – various reactions to feedback and how all/none of them are “right”

Focus on Feedback – why readers and feedback-givers cannot be 100% objective and what to do about this

A Tale of Two Readers – should you send to more than one reader?

Power of Three – Adrian Mead’s handout on how to get and use free feedback

Transcript of Scriptchat on using Script Readers (March 28, 2010) – Twitter & me plus Script Angel’s Hayley McKenzie

The Feedback Exchange – a directory of Bang2writers all looking to swap scripts and peer review, add your name

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1 thought on “Dealing With Feedback: Losses & Gains”

  1. Really interesting point, and worth thinking about. I've just put a project away because I realised that I'd been so influenced and distracted by copious notes & feedback that I'd lost sight of what I'd been trying to write in the first place. Hoping that when I unearth it in a few months it will be clearer – but we'll see!

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