JEANNE’S SCREENWRITING TIPS: Screenplay Feedback – Get Real with Your Rewrites

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor of Script, on Stephanie Palmer’s list of “Top 10 Most Influential Screenwriting Bloggers,” and co-founder of #Scriptchat. Her narrative adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, was selected for the Tracking Board’s Top 25 Launch Pad Competition. Follow Jeanne on Twitter @jeannevb

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The other day I was cleaning my office. I know, I know. Who does that, right? Anyway, I stumbled upon some of my old scripts, complete with notes from readers. Handwritten notes. That’s how old they are.

screenplay feedbackWhile most people might toss them into the shredder, I dug in, examining the years-old screenplay feedback, if for no other reason than a good laugh.

But I didn’t laugh. OK, I laughed a little. Maybe a lot, but I also marveled. Some of the notes seriously ripped me a new one, but some others were thought provoking, even today. I could see my growth as a writer. Mistakes I made early on that so many of us make. But everyone needs to trip a few times before they learn.

What was fascinating was reading my reactions to the feedback. In a couple documents, I had jotted my own notes next to theirs, wanting to understand their motivation and intent.

I wasn’t defensive. I wanted to learn.

If you have a file with old screenplay feedback notes, look at them and try to find a pattern, especially if it’s from multiple scripts. Are you consistently protecting your protagonist? Are the themes of your stories always getting lost? Are your readers demanding more conflict? Regardless what the specific notes are, examine if there is a pattern, like you’d examine a crime scene.

Where are your stories going off track and are you a repeat offender of the same notes?

Your old notes could also show you how much you’ve evolved as a writer, giving you validation. But if that’s not the case, you can remedy it now that you’ve made yourself aware of the problems.

Think of it like this, we all know that person who is always a train wreck with romance. They endlessly complain about their horrible partners and that all the good ones are taken.

Have you ever thought it’s a long-shot that this Sad Soul could just happen to date so many horrible people? I mean, what are the odds they never ever found just one good person to fall in love with?

Odds are more likely that they have found a good person. Maybe even a few of them. So why aren’t they dating? Because the problem isn’t the people they’re meeting. The problem is them.

I bet if this Sad Soul analyzed all the partners who have come and gone, s/he would find a pattern and that perhaps they are the one who needs to evolve, not the people their choosing to date.

The Sad Soul is the common denominator.

Take out your notes and find the common denominator. Is it something craft-related you can easily fix or is it in the way you are choosing to analyze the notes?

Sometimes our attitudes need to be rewritten more than our words.

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