Monday, September 22, 2008

The Writing Week part 38 - Great (Negative) Feedback

Years ago, when I was still a fresh-faced writing student, getting negative feedback on a script I was proud of would ruin my day. I could have sworn that everyone should and would have liked my dialogue and my scene structure as much as I did. It was a killing blow when my classmates or professor said otherwise. The more people agreed I'd missed the mark, the worse I felt, too. It was like I was a character in Mortal Combat, rooted to the floor, and someone was shouting "FINISH HIM." Down I went.

How far I've come. A few weeks ago, I sent my post-Apocalyptic spec - the very one I'm writing my query letters for - to one of my company's former board members, an agented writer. I got his notes mid-last week. He highlighted what he felt to be BIG problems. The funny thing was, though, that pretty much everything he pointed out were things that Leaguers brought up in past meetings. (I guess that begins to answer the debate I've been having with myself and the group as to the level of feedback we provide. I've often wondered if our critiquing abilities have increased, or if we're still fairly amateurish in what we find needs work in a script. The fact that a seasoned writer said almost the exact same things that my peers did is beyond encouraging; it's one more indicator that we're heading in the right direction.)

I thanked him for his comments quickly, after reading them once, and told him that I'd need time to digest them before being able to fully communicate about them. I was surprised when he called my grateful response "classy" and said that he was impressed by my ability to receive feedback. Having gone to school for screenwriting and being in the League, receiving feedback has become second nature to me. It's like breathing. I do it to live. I guess some people don't, though. So, for any new/emerging writers out there, the lesson (so you don't even have to read between the lines or interpret on your own) is learn how to take criticism. If you can't take it from friends or peers, you won't be able to take it from a producer or manager, who will likely be much more brutal in their delivery of it.

The feedback also came at a great time. With a number of query letters already sent out, I figure I have a solid two weeks, at the very least, to make the necessary improvements to my script. (I say two weeks because a couple of the companies vowed to reply within three weeks, and this was a week ago. For the most part, I figure I have months before I'll hear anything, if I hear anything.) In fact, this is the best I've ever felt about receiving negative feedback (and perhaps positive, too). I feel like something good is going to come out of this, and my script, which I wanted to be done but wasn't sure was, will be much stronger for it.

A great week, for sure.