Random thoughts on my review process.
I've been asked to write a few words on my review process, so here goes.
Not sure how much more I can add that hasn't been said. But I'll give it a try.
Before I start a review, I'll usually copy and paste the title, log line, genre, length of the piece into my word processor before I start making notes.
I'll make notes in my word processor as I read.
First thing I look at is the page length of the piece and how that corresponds to the genre. Usually the page count can be an indicator of problems, especially if it's heading past the 120 mark. Not always, but usually.
The process I go through can vary, sometimes I'll read the first five, ten pages and make notes on them first. Personally I think those opening pages are extremely important. As a writer, I really believe that your main hurdle is the reader. They are the gate keepers, if you can crack those first ten, fifteen pages and draw the reader in, then you have a good chance of keeping them glued to their seats and reading your piece all the way to the end.
Other times I'll jump straight in and make page by page notes all the way to the end. Not every page, but as many as possible. I'll try and give examples of things that didn't sit well with me. Perhaps a slugline, action or description could be better written. An action or piece of dialogue that could be better conveyed to the reader. I'll try and show the writer possible ways of doing it. Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong. But at least by doing so, it's been brought to the attention of the writer.
I'll try and point out spelling mistakes if I can and where they are. That's one of the good things about getting feedback. As a writer, you can get extremely close to your work and fail to see the wood for the trees. So having someone else read through it and point out mistakes and problems with it is extremely valuable.
Such as plot holes, underdeveloped characters, too many characters etc.
Sometimes I'll give myself a challenge and review a very long screenplay. I won't however do this all at once. I'll look at the page length and then I'll divide it into blocks. So if I'm short on time, and I have a 120 page screenplay or more. I'll read through blocks of 30 pages and make notes and so on, until I'm finished. That way, you're not rushing through it.
When getting feedback from people, I really appreciate the following:
- Possible ways to improve the story.
- When the reviewer offers up examples of things that aren't working in their opinion and suggest possible ways to improve it. Perhaps the story takes too long to get going.
- Pointing out spelling, grammar mistakes etc.
- Structural problems.
- Perhaps characters haven't been proactive enough.
- Referencing page numbers.
If while reading I come across these types of things and others, I'll make a note of it.
I remember I had a very useful review from someone who suggested I take the last Act of one of my screenplays and use it as the first Act as the first two acts were pretty darn slow. Hopefully I'll get around to rewriting that one at some point.
To sum up.
I make notes as I read, referencing page numbers and then I try and sum up the best I can what worked and what didn't work at the end. The one thing I've noticed, is that I'm quite harsh when it comes to reviewing. I don't do this to be mean as I normally spend a good 3, 4, and on occasions 5 hours reading and writing up my reviews.
I hope the above is useful to some degree.
As someone who writes myself, you have to remember as a writer that you're in charge of the world that you're creating on the page. It's up to you as to what you use and discard. However, if you have several people pointing out the same things, which is something I tend to look for in reviews of my own work. Then there's probably a problem that needs addressing.
I think that reading and doing reviews is one of the best ways to learn about the writing process. As well as the actual writing!
Hope that makes sense.
Write, write, write.
There’s no magic formula for writing a great script.