It’s another Archive Revive because I just got a new writing gig and am super busy! Currently, I’m sifting through feedback from the clients, so this re-post is appropriate…
Originally posted on Jan. 20, 2014. Updated Nov. 30, 2015
It’s been so long since I was in school that I can’t even remember if the professors taught us anything about handling feedback. Perhaps they just marked up our scripts in red and waited to see who would cry/quit and who would persevere/rewrite. Luckily, I was in the latter category. And over the last 15 years, I’ve had lots of opportunities to learn how to deal with script notes, whether from friends, teachers, screenwriters, broadcasters, producers or directors. In TV, it often feels like everyone, even the office dog, critiques your script.
So, without further ado, here are 6 tips on handling feedback…
#1 Don’t Take It Personally. If your story needs improvement, that doesn’t mean you suck. Notes are not an attack on your character or proof that you’re a bad writer. No story is perfect, and every writer has room to improve. In TV, everyone gets notes on their scripts, from the most junior writer to the top dog showrunner. Knowing that sure helped me deal with feedback at the beginning of my career; it’s easier not to take it personally when you know everyone gets critiqued.
#2 Do Respect the Note Giver. Giving feedback is sometimes as hard as getting it. If you’ve chosen your critique partners wisely, they’re not petty backstabbers out to sabotage your writing career, they’re people who genuinely want to help you. Same with editors, publishers, producers or broadcasters. You may not agree with their notes, but do respect them. They’ve put a lot of time and thought into their feedback.
#3 Don’t Be Defensive. When receiving feedback, don’t argue with the critique giver or defend your writing. Just listen and think about it. Why? Because there’s merit in every note, even the ones that seem way off base.
#4 Do Ask Questions. If you don’t understand a note, just ask for clarification. Heck, even if you understand but don’t agree, ask for clarification because it will help you see where the note is coming from, and once you know that, it might not seem so stupid.
#5 Don’t Ignore Notes. Not even the ones that seem wrong. In TV, we writers receive notes from many people who are not writers, so sometimes those notes are off base, meaning the note giver’s suggestion isn’t something the main character would do, or doesn’t make sense for the world of the show, or could even derail the whole story! BUT, as a wise showrunner I worked for once said, something about the story “bumped” the note giver, which means something isn’t working, so even if the note seems wrong, there’s a reason for that note, and as writers it’s our job to figure out what the problem is and fix it.
#6 Do Embrace Change. The whole point of getting feedback is to change your script/manuscript for the better. So don’t resist it, do it!
That’s what I’ve learned about feedback over the years. If anyone has other tips, please share!
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