Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 264 - A Little Experiment

Two weeks ago, my writing partner, W.A., and I sent a draft of our sci-fi project to our producer for the first time. We had a call with her a week ago Monday to get her overarching notes, and then sent her the Final Draft file of the script, so that she could mark it up in revision tracking mode and give us more specific page notes. Concurrently, I sent the script to the rest of the League for their feedback, having first prepped them that I was only really interested in larger, gut-reaction notes, rather than having them get mired in the minutia of the scrip. Before I told them what our producer thought, I wanted to hear their feedback. I was really curious to see how my writers group's notes compared with those of a development executive. 

I was very pleased with the results. So, I am sure, were the Leaguers. 

By and large, the notes stacked up pretty perfectly. My producer had notes about where certain bits of act one are set, vis-a-vis where the bulk of Act Two takes place; the League brought up the same issue. The producer touched a lot on the protagonist and his somewhat cold vibe toward the other characters; the League thought he was a bit arrogant and callous. Our producer questioned some of the science in the script and how it relates to the characters' goals; my group members focused pretty intently on the science and where it either didn't track or was way too heady.

All in all, they were pretty much on track with the producer's. Couple that with the fact that W.A.'s manager had very similar notes, and two things become very apparent to me. One) with so many people hitting the same notes, it's quite clear where the script needs to be retooled or bolstered. And two) the quality of feedback that the League presents one another is very strong, on par with the kind of observations coming from industry people. Revelation two is obviously less about this particular script than it is about the strength of the group. And I can't be more happy about that. 

Especially for those of us writers who don't have many (or any) industry contacts and have yet to land our first sales, we have to rely on other writers to help us refine our material and get our screenplays industry-ready. Sure, you can have non-writer friends and family read your scripts, but unless all you want is praise, you should try to set up a group of other writers that you can meet with and be very frank with. Had the League just jumped for joy over the script and not delivered any criticism, then - given the other sets of notes we were getting - I would have to think twice on the caliber of feedback they've given on every project and debate the merit of showing future work to them. But that wasn't the case, which means that I know I can turn to them for help and hard-hitting thoughts on the script. (Of course, I knew this already, having been writing with these guys and gals for a decade now, but I'm quite glad the mini-experiment reinforced what I already knew.)

If you're without other writers that you know, I suggest using the web and social media - Facebook,, or even CraigsList - to get a group of writers that you feel comfortable sharing work with. They will be one of the best resources you have in honing your writing.