I occasionally am asked, unsolicited, if I am able to provide feedback for writers and their work. The short answer is yes. I have worked as a story analyst on numerous scripts over the years and even a documentary, but it’s something I don’t personally seek out. Rather, the opportunities have found me by people who have read my work, either scripts or via this blog, and liked my insights enough to inquire.
That being said, every writer knows they go through periods of producing a fair amount of material as well as times where focus shifts to re-writing, marketing, learning with breaks here and there in between. In planning my own schedule I have realized there are a few months coming up where I’ll be taking a break in between projects (which explains the lack of articles recently) and thought, why not make the offer and help others with their writing.
I’ve always personally felt the one thing the world needs less of is script consultants, many of which haven’t even put pen (or pencil) to paper with any degree of success whatsoever. I know, firsthand, what it’s like to plop money down – a LOT – having used any number of services over the last twenty-plus years. Most haven’t been anywhere near worthy of the price of admission to a bad matinee let alone what you’re paying them to do: put at least a modicum of effort into reading your script.
That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
I’ve been there. Oh, have I ever. Pay somebody for 3 – 5 pages of notes only to find them written in extremely large font and quadrupled-space lines equating to 1.5 actual pages of notes, most of which were opinions that lacked any objectivity, persuasive examples, and half the enlightenment of Yoda’s walking stick.
Furthermore, feedback shouldn’t be a one-way street. Yet it often is. In fact, every single service I’ve used over the years, which I’m guessing to be 25+, fails from the get-go on one specific front: the writer’s intent. There have been times where I’ve received “feedback,” or more specifically, suggestions for changes that have absolutely no bearing on the story I’M trying to tell.
How does this happen?
Had a reader known what I was trying to do, then they could have tailored their approach and met me half-way. One of the greatest issues for writers is clearly conveying what’s in their head to an audience via the written word, yet there aren’t many readers who actually stop before they read your script and ask “Is there anything in particular you’re trying to say with your script (theme)? Anything in particular you’re trying to convey?”
I do, because I’ve been on the other side of the table.
I know a reader’s testament to providing helpful feedback is helping the writer to fulfill their own vision for their story. This is why I don’t ask for loglines; I want the experience of reading to tell me what the story is about. Coupled with asking several questions up front, I can tailor notes to help bridge the gap between what your trying to do with the story you’re telling, your vision for it and how it’s coming across on the page.
I’ve found this approach to be most effective because it’s your story and a competent reader should be working to bring the best out in your writing, not by telling you how they would write the story themselves. The more readers you use to get feedback, the greater the chances it will land all over the map leading to a creeping sensation your story no longer resembles the one you set out to tell in the first place.
Sometimes that can be a good thing, but from personal experience I can tell you it typically squelches the spark that got you writing it in the first place.
So, for the next few months I have an opportunity to hopefully help you. If you’ve found some of my articles insightful and you’re interested, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss options.