It's finished, done and dusted. Those precious hours that have accumulated into weeks, months, even years where you've been toiling away in order to reach this joyous and wondrous occasion. You've finally completed the damn script.
Or have you?
This is the thing. As a writer, you probably haven't finished. You're probably not even close to finishing that project that you think is completed. Writing and finishing that first draft of a project is only the start of a long and sometimes, and more often than not, a very long and arduous process and journey. Never be fooled into thinking that this is a sprint and the minute you stop typing, that you've finished. Because, in all honesty, you probably haven't. This is a marathon and not a sprint.
Leaving it on your hard drive or hiding it away in a drawer.
Doing the above is second-nature, you've finished it, now you have to protect it and hide it away from prying eyes. This thing you've written is perfect, and why shouldn't it be? You've given blood, sweat and tears to this thing, quite often found yourself banging your head against a brick wall while trying to make a scene work or make the story flow more smoothly. Trying to figure out the best way to break the story. Will the story be better served if this scene goes here, rather than here? If I remove this character, will it make any real difference to the overall story?
You'll be damned if you're going to show this thing to anyone. So you hide it away.
In fear that people might end up telling you that you haven't quite nailed the story yet and there's plenty more work to be done. Let's be honest, who are these people, what do they know, and how could they possibly help you improve this story that you think you've finished? This story that you think is perfect.
And that's it.
No matter how badly you've convinced yourself that what you've written is a masterpiece, chances are, it probably isn't. There's a good chance that you're going to need several pairs of eyes on it and a fresh perspective and point of view as to what is and what isn't working. This thing is going to need several more drafts.
And getting people to read through your precious baby and give their opinions on it is the best way to do this. No matter what the outcome, there will be those that tell you that what you've written is fantastic, while there will be others that tell you that it still needs work. Lots of work.
Why do you need notes?
A fresh pair of eyes on a project will help point out things that the writer has missed. A writer can get too close to their work and can quite easily fail to see the obvious flaws in it. It's only natural to become overprotective of your own work, but this can also mean failing to see what isn't working. Hopefully, with enough eyes on your project, these areas of concern and problem areas will be pointed out and even possible ways of fixing them might even be suggested.
Once your baby is finished, where should you go for notes & feedback?
There are plenty of places online where writers can go for free feedback and notes. That's right, free feedback and notes. Places like Trigger Street Labs, a peer review site, a community for screenwriters. Here you can give notes on other writers' work while getting feedback on your own. And the only thing it'll cost you is some free time.
Reacting to notes and feedback.
Anger. Frustration. Anger. Frustration.
- They just didn't get it, stupid reader.
- How could they not understand or get this masterpiece that I've written?
- Stupid reader, what do they know?
The above are common reactions that this reader/writer often encounters. Writers get extremely defensive and start calling readers every name under the sun because they just didn't respond to the material the way the writer was hoping for. Well, from someone who has read a lot of screenplays and given notes, not every reader is going to get, understand or respond to your work the way you hoped. It's just not a very realistic way of looking at things, as with everything, it comes down to taste, mood, and subjectivity at the end of the day.
If someone has taken the time to read through your screenplay and give you notes on it, whether for free or paid, this doesn't mean they are going to get or understand what you've written. The way you read, understand and react to your story will not be the same as this person. You need to understand this, people will have their own points of view and opinions.
On receiving any feedback & notes, this writer can only offer up this one piece of advice.
Put them away somewhere, hide them in a drawer and come back to them at a later date. Ideally, three weeks or more, hopefully this will give you enough time to step away from the project and come back to it with a fresh perspective. And while you've stepped away, concentrate on new projects.
Paying for notes.
There was a time when this writer/reader would've told you that you shouldn't be paying anyone for notes, no matter how cheap they are, as they are only giving you their opinion on your work. But that point of view has now changed slightly, this writer believes that there's nothing wrong with paying someone for their time. Reading a screenplay and making notes is very time consuming, especially if the reader puts a lot of time and effort into it. So compensating someone for this work and time seems fair. But, that doesn't mean you should be throwing away your money and paying over the odds just to get someone's opinion, because that's all you're getting. Someone's point of view as to how they perceive your work.
It's neither right or wrong.
As to how much you should be paying, that really comes down to the individual and how much they are willing to pay at the end of the day. There are many people that charge a reasonable sum for this service, while there are others that charge through the roof. It's really up to the writer to do their research and homework, and figure out who is the best fit for their work. Try and get samples of their notes and feedback, find out what genres they specialize in. Are they a good match? And then determine if the benefits will out way the costs of the service. Only you can determine that.
Take a look at their credentials and resume.
- Do they write?
- How long have they been writing?
- How many screenplays have they written?
- What are their motivations for offering this service?
- Are they really doing it to help fellow writers or are they doing it to fill their wallet?
- How long have they been giving notes and feedback?
- Can you see samples of their notes and feedback?
- What genres do they specialize in?
These are the types of questions you should be asking.
And, as already mentioned.
Don't get offended if they don't like your work.
Everyone will have a different perspective and opinion on what is working and what isn't in your precious baby, that masterpiece that you've written.
Good luck & keep writing.